Karen Van Godtsenhoven from Met is charting a new career path – WWD

Like millions of other creatives, Karen Van Godsenhoven not only imagined a different way of life during the pandemic, but created it.

After joining the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in May 2019 as an associate curator, she has since changed her role there. While expecting a baby in mid-2020, Van Godtsenhoven returned to Europe, expecting that travel restrictions due to COVID-19 would prevent her family and her husband’s family from visiting the United States after the birth of a child.

Initially working remotely for The Met, she and museum officials later agreed on a free curator. After working on the recently opened “Kimono style: Edo of tradition to modern design”, Van Godtsenhoven is involved in another Met project planned for next year, which she could not talk about now. The exhibition of the Costume Institute is planned for the fall of 2023, she said.

She is also working on a PhD in fashion and feminists, especially in relation to feminist theory of the 1960s and 1970s and bridging that with fashion theory and fashion designers. The curator also teaches at the University of Ghent, where a course in fashion theory and history is set. While Belgium is known for its school of design, so far there are no more historical or theoretical fashion courses. “There’s still a new field here so there’s a lot of enthusiasm among the students.”

In addition, Van Godtsenhoven is involved in various exhibition projects in Europe that mainly focus on topics such as female designers, sustainability and virtual fashion which is a hybrid of digital and physical fashion. Referring to the latter, she is eager to see where this is taking us not only for the museum world but for the industry in general.

After returning from maternity leave after the birth of her daughter in July 2020, she realized that returning to New York on The Met would be logistically difficult. “It was a really great way The Met offered a way to stay active as free and less institutionalized,” Van Godtsenhoven said.

As for the current state of fashion, she said she expects the pandemic to be “a great wake-up call and a catalyst for change.” But she was a little disappointed with how quickly fashion returned to its calendar and old ways of working. However, through his lecture, he encourages her as new generations accept new and hybrid ways of working.

“They are very distributed. They don’t fly around the world to watch shows and to see each other. The way new students and young designers are working will lead us forward in the coming years, ”said Van Godtsenhoven.

Noticing that young mother’s colleagues are also inclined to buy used or antique clothes, she said that younger consumers, like some of her relatives, like to buy fast fashion online, “because it’s easy and cheap.” While this type of commercial spending will continue to thrive, she is curious about the evolution of new technologies such as on-demand orders, 3D printing or avatar creation, even if they are dressed in digital fast fashion.

Favorite American-born designer Shayli Harrison from Antwerp. Her company Mutani creates for brands that want virtual fashion, as well as its own digital or virtual fashion. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp also works with collectives of young designers. “It’s interesting because it’s very disruptive and experimental,” said Van Godtsenhoven.

Another upcoming company is Rebirth Garments, which specializes in non-gender-based wearables and accessories that target “non-binary, trans and people with disabilities and crazy fagots of all sizes and ages,” according to its website. In addition to the creativity the brand incorporates, Van Godtsenhoven is interested in how technology and medical science can connect for new creations.

As for the impact of an unstable economy on fashion, Van Godtsenhoven noted that European consumers are worried about the significant rise in energy prices and the war in Ukraine. These factors make them less experimental and more conservative.

Asked what the general public is unprepared for in terms of how fashion is changing, she said: “Fashion always takes care to have enough markets. But if you don’t like online shopping or virtual reality environments, it might be harder to go to the store in five to 10 years. That way of shopping could change. That could create a big gap between people who are more digitally literate and those who are not. ”

Still, overall, she is happy with her career despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, especially as a new mother. “Working as a freelancer for various institutions gives me a lot of freedom and enriches my life. I’m also very pleased with how things worked with The Met. It is crucial for employers to be creative and think of ways to keep people in different ways. ”

Asked if anyone had taken over her responsibilities or her former function, Meta spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday.

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