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Art in Fashion

Is fashion an art form?

As much artistic expression goes into designing an item of clothing as into a piece of pottery or a painting and fashion designers have been directly and indirectly influenced by fine art for better or worse for centuries. The form, colours, patterns and even materials used to create some of the world’s most desirable clothing fashions imitated the trends and movements prevalent in the art world at the time. Corset design that created the S-curved silhouettes of the Art Nouveau movement; the loose, un-corseted, simpler silhouette of the 1920s, creating a perfect canvas for surface design; the body hugging dresses of the 1930s – the fashions reflected the culture of the era and were hand in hand with the artists of the day.

The Changing Times of Fashionable Art

At the turn of the twentieth century artists did not see the difference between creating a painting, and designing a textile pattern that would be reproduced many times over. Each was a valid creative act in their eyes and fashion design tended to track and echo trends in modern art. Although this has changed somewhat over the years there is still a lot that a fashion designer can learn from artists and sculptors.

Yves Saint Laurent produced the Mondrian Collection of iconic cocktail dresses in 1965 after being inspired by Piet Mondrian’s abstract, cubist paintings. Salvador Dali, famous for his meticulously painted dream-like scenes, created bright, loud and whimsical outfits, with Schiaparelli, one of the most famous fashion designers between the two world wars. Who will forget the lobster dress or the shoe hat? Gianni Versace’s Spring 1991 collection featured outfits printed with Andy Warhol’s brightly coloured, silk-screened portraits of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and other famous icons. Louis Vuitton’s multi-coloured monogrammed bags covered in cherries or flowers lightened up a once-stuffy label to appeal to a whole new generation with a little help from artist Takashi Murakami’s whimsical, adorable designs. They followed that up with the mesmerising polka dot prints of artist Yayoi Kusama and then Rodarte’s Spring 2012 collection was full of the blues, yellows, painted flowers and pretty chiffons, indicative of the famed post-impressionist painter Van Gogh.

Still Continues To This Day

In today’s fashion world Erdem tips his hat to Jackson Pollocks British art and watercolour. The comic artist Roy Liechtenstein’s colourful paintings inspired Lisa Perry’s collection of dresses, entirely devoted to his designs. This in turn inspired Karla Spetic and Markus Lupfer to release a series of cashmere sweaters with sequin embroidered pictures of his work. Keith Harings bold graffiti work grabbed the attention of Vivienne Westwood who created an entire collection with his art printed on each piece and shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood also created a unique collection of shoes based on his work.

The examples are countless, but there is no denying that art plays a special role in fashion design and each garment has a particular relationship to the art that was part and parcel of its time.

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