According to the Oxford dictionary art is defined as ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”, and yes, we traditionally consider painting and sculpting and even cinematic accomplishments, photography, and performances as forms of art.
But, what about fashion? Art historians would probably state that fashion doesn’t belong under the wing of art, but the acclaimed designer and the director of the Design Museum Zandra Rhodes begs to differ. In fact, she states that “you might call it decorative or applied art as opposed to fine art, but what’s the distinction? Because the same amount of artistic expression goes into clothes, a piece of pottery or a painting’, not to mention that numerous fashion designers have been heavily influenced by painters and sculptors for decades, and this influence is still going strong today. As the popular saying goes ‘life imitates art, and fashion is a part of life, hence, there is and there always will exist an inextricable bond between traditional art and the art that we know and love as fashion. But, let’s not leave everything to theory, let’s dive in and explore some of the specific examples which show the clear connection between the two.
Examining the Relationship between Fashion and Art
Starting with Mondrian
Even if you’re not a huge art fan or a connoisseur or painters and art in general, there are certain pieces and art movements that are simply common knowledge. One of them is the iconic abstract paintings created by Mondrian that have first influenced the equally iconic Hermès, a brand, which during the life of the artist, created a line of bags and suitcases with Mondrian’s signature pattern.
The Flemish Paintings
One of the examples of this influence is given by Rhodes, who points out that for instance, a great deal of fashion art created by Bill Gibbs was inspired by works of art, the slashed panels in dresses in Flemish Paintings being just one of the obvious influences.
The Direct Love Affair
Even Louis Vuitton wasn’t immune to the impact of art – those who follow designers, and, almost religiously follow every collection released, know that the famous designer created a capsule collection in collaboration with Jeff Koons through which both these artists paid homage to such artists as Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Vincent Van Gogh. Of course, let us not forget the highly colorful and conspicuous collection Vuitton created by Marc Jacobs in collaboration with artist Takeshi Murakami.
Fashion Imitates Art
Raf Simmons, who has always been known for his unapologetically artistic vision, which he clearly conveys through his designs for the incredible Calvin Klein brand, has always been dedicated to creating that perfect amalgamation between art and fashion, and Koonts has been just one of his muses. During his time at Dior, his first couture show ever was a result of hard labor. Namely, the designer spent a great deal of time rendering prints of another beloved contemporary artist – Sterling Ruby. There isn’t even a need to search for the influence as it is clearly visible that debut line that solidified Simmons as a true fashion artist and visionary, although some would argue that this particular collection was highly derivative.
If you’ve ever wondered what the meaning behind the painting that always stood in the living room of the home of one of TV’s most beloved and hated characters Serena Van der Woodsen in Gossip girl was all about, we’re here to shed a little light on the matter and put your mind at ease. Namely, it was all part of an art project called ‘pop architectural land art’ which was designed by artists Elmgreen and Dragset – with the consent of Miuccia Prada herself. The project consists of a building that looks like a storefront, although a completely non-functional one and containing the logo and even Prada products on the inside. The building is set in what seems to be a desert. This work combines three works of art – fashion, architecture and art in the traditional sense of the word. Apparently, Prada Marfa is supposed to represent a juxtaposition between luxury and rusticism of its setting, and if we dare say so, it has most certainly accomplished that. So, as evident, it’s not only art that inspires fashion, it seems that this is a two-way street, a mutual love if you will.
From Coco Chanel who once said “Fashion is architecture. It is a matter of proportion”, to lines created by Alexander McQueen and his collaboration with Damien Hirst and all the way back to the roaring ‘20s and the flapper dresses and their connection to the architecture of the time – it’s all connected. Fashion designers are visionaries who will always look for inspiration in places you would expect the most to the places you would never think of. They are curious creatures that think differently from the rest of us, and their fascination with art isn’t just about colors and shapes; there are times when the connection is far deeper and goes into the social, economic and even political significance and symbolism of the works of art. They dig deep into the past, look for guidelines in both their contemporaries as well as legendary artists who are no longer with us, and in most cases they make them proud, so let’s just hope that the love affair between all forms of art never ends.