item 5 - Harold Koda interview, 2016 June 27

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US NNFIT SC.FITA.3.20.4.9.10.5

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Harold Koda interview, 2016 June 27

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  • 2016 June 27 (Creation)

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(1950 January 3-)

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Harold Koda was the Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art since 2000 until his retirement in 2016. His exhibitions include “Goddess“ (2003), “Dangerous Liaisons” (2004), “Poiret: King of Fashion” (2007), “The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion” (2009), “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” (2012), and “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” (2014). Koda’s tenure is highlighted by the transfer of the Brooklyn Museum’s Costume Collection to the Metropolitan Museum in January 2009 and the reopening of The Costume Institute’s space after a two-year renovation on May 8, 2014, as the Anna Wintour Costume Center.

In his earlier tenure at the Metropolitan Museum as Associate Curator, Koda worked closely with the late Richard Martin, then Curator in Charge, on 12 acclaimed exhibitions, including “Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style” (1993), “Madame Grès” (1994), and “Christian Dior” (1996). Koda has co-authored 20 books, including 12 landmark catalogues for Met exhibitions. He lectures widely and contributes scholarly articles to many publications.

Prior to rejoining the Metropolitan, Koda served as co-curator of “Giorgio Armani” (2000) at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. He worked for 11 years at the Edward C. Blum Design Laboratory of the Fashion Institute of Technology as Associate Curator, and Curator in the costume collection, and then as Director of the Design Laboratory, from 1979 to 1992. He was the curator of “Balenciaga” (1986), and worked on exhibitions including “Jocks and Nerds” (1989), “Splash!” (1990), and “Halston: Absolute Modernism” (1991), with Richard Martin, and occasionally with Laura Sinderbrand. Earlier, he was an Exhibition Assistant to the Costume Institute’s Special Consultant, Diana Vreeland, working on Met exhibitions, including “The Glory of Russian Costume” (1976), and “Vanity Fair” (1977).

Born in Honolulu, he graduated from the University of Hawaii with a B.A., and a B.F.A. in Art History. He also studied at the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU, and received his Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University in 2000. Koda received special awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1986 and 1997, the Costume Society of America Richard Martin Award for “Poiret: King of Fashion” in 2007, and the Fashion Group International Oracle Award in 2009.

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Karen Trivette is the Head of the Special Collections and College Archives at Fashion Institute of Technology.

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In this interview, Karen Trivette interviews fashion curator Harold Koda about his life leading up to his work in New York with fashion collections. Mr. Koda discusses the classes he took at FIT to meet Diana Vreeland, how he submitted some of his designs to Geraldine Stutz at Bendel's, and finally wound up working as an assistant for Diana Vreeland for The Glory of Russian Costume at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. He goes on to discuss his work as a curator at the Fashion Institute of Technology with Robert Riley, Richard Martin, and Laura Sinderbrand. Koda then discusses Vreeland's curatorial style, how fashion is art, and reverse chic. He then recalls fashion exhibitions that stood out to him throughout his career, and describes some of the discourse that took place between himself, Andrew Bolton, Richard Martin, and Laura Sinderbrand for the various exhibitions they brought together at both the Museum at FIT, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, and describes the differences between curating exhibitions at each institute. He then discusses his transition to Boston after 20 years in fashion curation to obtain a graduate degree at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, and how he was called back after three years to New York when Richard Martin became gravely ill. He finally discusses his retirement, a restoration project in the Bahamas, and the passing of Bill Cunningham.

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