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titleMary McFadden: American Fashion Designer

Mary McFadden: American Fashion Designer

SYRACUSE — A new exhibit at Syracuse University’s Sue and Leon Genet Gallery at the School of Design features distinctive garments that reflect an avid study of ancient and ethnic cultures.

‘Mary McFadden: American Fashion Designer’ showcases the work of a ‘design archeologist’ as she gathers inspiration from diverse cultures and ancient civilizations. From African tribes to the Egyptian pharaohs, ancient Greece and Rome to Byzantium, they all act to inform her collections. McFadden realizes these design elements through the use of hand painting, quilting, beading and embroidery.

McFadden proclaims “I’ve done 60 collections, each based on an ancient civilization, and I went to all those places,”

Born in 1938 into a textile family, McFadden studied in Paris, earned a degree in fashion design from the Traphagen School of Design in NYC and a degree in sociology from Columbia University. She began a freelance design business in 1973 and in 1975 she patented a new process to pleat synthetic charmeuse into irregular pleats reminiscent of those created at the turn of the 19th century by Italian designer Mariano Fortuny. In 1976 she formed Mary McFadden Inc. and continued her business until closing in 2002.

Her patented fabric, called ‘Marii’, is created of synthetic charmeuse woven in Australia, dyed in Japan and machine pleated in NYC. Her concept was to create fabric that ‘falls like liquid gold on the body’.

Mary McFadden first spoke at Syracuse University as part of the Genet Lecture Series in 1992, and then returned in 2010 to the School of Design to again lecture about her as well as to host a fashion show of her original designs.

‘Mary McFadden; American Fashion Designer’ was curated by fashion design professor Jeffrey Mayer and features 17 original designs by McFadden dating from the late 1970s through the 1990s.The exhibition is on view from August 30- October 15, 2021 and is located in the Sue and Leon Genet Gallery which is on the first floor of the Nancy Cantor Warehouse. All garments are from the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection housed within the Fashion Design Program in the School of Design, College of Visual and Performing Arts.


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titleMore Than a Toy

More Than A Toy

April 26 – May 22, 2021

More Than A Toy is the first exhibition to highlight designer art toys as a medium for engaging with today’s most difficult conversations. This two-part exhibition places new focus on the innovators working in this cutting-edge art form and the topics they are tackling including mental health, climate change, the drug epidemic, COVID-19, racial injustice, environmental degradation and more.

More Than A Toy offers an overview of the history, design processes and mass market appeal that elevated designer art toys from niche collectibles to a recognized contemporary art form.

Curated by Ethan Clearfield (MUS ’21).

Support for this exhibition from the VPA Graduate Memorial Scholarship and Fellowship. See video profile of exhibit.

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