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Dutch Treat

The Dutch, who blew a raspberry at the EU's constitution, aren't exactly conformists. So it's no surprise to find a great deal of whimsy and intentional awkwardness at F.I.T.'s show, part of a year-long, citywide celebration of work from the Netherlands. Niels van Eijk's immense lamp of glass fiber, mimicking the Flemish tradition of bobbin lace, hangs like a wayward jellyfish. An evening gown's droopy layers suggest the melting of Dalí's surfaces, pooling on the floor. A scarf folds up into a cube.

Shrugging at industry, the designers embrace animals and nature: furry, poodle-cut chairs; a pair of moleskin shoes complete with paws and pointy snout; a rubber bearskin rug; innovative uses of fake fur and felted wool to create structures resembling tree bark; a diaphanous silk negligee with horsehair brocade circling the breasts, a wood sprite's guise. Ironically, among work that rejects mass production, a dress of hardened nylon links, constructed by a computer-guided laser, is the most elegant. Though the show's humor sometimes falls flat, and a few outfits are amateurish, it's mostly fun. And it's free.


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