Review: The First Monday in May delivers insight into fashion for stars


Rhianna on the red carpet in The First Monday in May.
Rhianna on the red carpet in The First Monday in May.

The First Monday in May (PG)

Directed by: Andrew Rossi

Starring: Andrew Bolton, John Galliano, Jean-Paul Gaultier

Four stars

Review by Julian Wright

In cinemas May 12

I DON’T know anything about fashion, art or Chinese culture.

My wardrobe consists of t-shirts and jeans, I have only stepped into a handful of art galleries and have never been to China, nor studied its history (ok, maybe I need to get out more).

All three and the idea they can converge and intertwine is the thrust of documentary The First Monday in May and so you would think I would be as lost watching it as I would be wandering the labyrinthine halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Despite not knowing the difference between a Welt seam and a French seam, I was nevertheless deeply fascinated by this examination of art, design, fashion, culture, celebrity and how they can complement each other.

Chronicling the preparation and lead-up to ambitious exhibition China: Through The Looking Glass, an exploration of Chinese-inspired Western fashions by Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton, with the assistance of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, this doco is a rollercoaster of logistical nightmares, hiccups, and delays.

Suspense is derived from agonising discussions over lighting designs before exhibits are even installed, with the deadline day looming and a superstar’s demands threatening to derail the opening night attraction.

But more than just about Rhinanna’s diva-like demands and the sweat-inducing task of a celeb seating plan, the exhibition that slowly forms begins to blur the lines between art and politics, and questions whether the two can remain mutually exclusive when art touches on culture.

While a 1960s-looking dress housed in a vault described as a “tour de force” is not something I can relate to, the appreciation for it by fashionistas is infectious.

There is plenty of food for thought (the commerce side of this endeavour and the fashion and art industries also get a look-in), but even on the most superficial level, the celebrity spotting is fun.

Model Cara Delevingne rocking out next to Justin Bieber at the MET to an intimate Rhianna concert is strangely thrilling.

I won’t be jetting off to Paris in a hurry to try my luck in the fashion industry but I will think twice the next time I dismiss a red carpet event and those pesky reporters that ask “who are you wearing?”