Nina Hollein’s Shape-Shifting Fall Collection Is on View in a Frankfurt Museum

Hollein’s collection isn’t just transformative in how it’s worn. She also spent most of 2020 retooling how she creates: Everything you see in the Kunstverein was made with upcycled vintage garments—several pieces are comprised of deconstructed men’s suits—while the rest is comprised of leftover fabric from Hollein’s decade-plus in business. Working from home in New York, she hand-stitched every look from start to finish, often with “new” fabric she patchworked together with scraps and extra yardage. A single dress might take Hollein several weeks to complete, though she rarely feels “done.” It’s an intuitive process guided by Hollein’s curiosity and trial and error: “Sometimes I feel like something is finished, and the next day, I have another idea and spend two days making it completely different,” she says. “That’s the beauty of it—you just get on a roll. You’ll make a dress, and it will inspire another dress, or a similar version with different details.”

The exhibition is on view through the end of July, but Hollein isn’t planning to keep the clothes locked up like museum pieces. Several items have already been reserved by private clients, and the rest are up for grabs. “They’re meant to be worn,” she says. “What I really love is when a client finds her own way to wear the clothes. We might do a fitting and everything is perfect, and the next time we meet, I hear she wore it in a completely different style—she combined it with other things, or wore it with a belt… That’s when I feel successful,” she adds. “Because now this customer has made up her mind about what she really likes.”

In a way, that playful relationship between the wearer and the garment is mirrored in the exhibition, where Hollein described “creating a dialogue” between the clothes and paintings. “You might think the paintings are just acting as a background for the clothes, but maybe the mannequins are the viewers,” she points out, adding that both are best appreciated from multiple vantage points, too: close up for the details, or far away for an expansive view. “You aren’t sure what the foreground or background is,” Hollein adds. “In the end, it really works.”

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