When Fashion and Art Collide: How Designers and Artists Have Inspired Each Other

From clothing designs and prints to elaborately designed catwalk shows, artists have always had a role to play in the fashion industry. The fact that art and fashion go hand in hand so well shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, what is fashion if not wearable art? Some designers have looked to visual artists for inspiration, and the influence works both ways; artists have taken influence from specific brands to create spectacular pieces of their own.

Here, we’ll look at various ways the art and fashion worlds have collided over the years, from wearable art pieces, to dramatic installations.

Designers and artists have created one-off collections together

In the most straightforward example of art/fashion collision, designers work directly with the artists to create one-off pieces or collections. One of the most famous of these projects is Salvador Dali’s collaboration with Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli to create the iconic lobster dress. The lobster was a recurring theme in Dali’s artwork, most notably in his “lobster phone” from 1936. The following spring, he reached out to Schiaparelli to collaborate on a white gown that was later modelled by Wallis Simpson for Vogue.

More recently, Ian Davenport teamed up with Dior to create a collection of accessories for the iconic French fashion house. The contemporary artist chose a sequence of lines from a series of his paintings, titled Colorfall, which he reproduced and created especially for the silvered leather of their iconic Lady Dior bag. The pair also created clutches and phone cases as part of the limited edition collection.

Fashion designers draw inspiration from art

Many fashion designers speak openly about their muses; Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing has famously credited Kim Kardashian West for inspiring him, while Jeremy Scott often looks to model Soo Joo Park to spark his creativity. In 2016, photographer Petra Collins found herself on the other side of the camera, taking to the runway to showcase Gucci’s AW16 collection. Her signature seventies aesthetic perfectly embodies the “Gucci girl” look from creative director Alessandro Michele, providing the inspiration behind many of the Gucci collections.

Back in 1987, Jean-Michel Basquiat collaborated with Rei Kawakubo for her Comme des Garçons SS87 show, after gaining attention from his friendship and collaboration with Andy Warhol. The renowned artist took to the catwalk to showcase designs for the Japanese fashion house. Fast forward a few decades, and Basquiat made another appearance with the label, this time for their AW18 collection; appearing on the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week were eight pieces expertly printed with the late artist’s work. The idea of having artwork printed directly onto accessories was used again at the start of this year, when bootmakers Dr. Martens partnered with Tate Britain, printing classic designs by JMW Turner onto their original 1460 boot design.

Visual artists gain inspiration from the fashion industry

Many fashion brands—such as Gucci, Prada, and Balmain—are so ingrained in society that it makes sense for artists to look to them for inspiration, and to include their logos in their work. In some instances, artists have created dramatic pieces and installations through drawing on the fashion world. For example, in 2005, artist-collaborators Elmgreen and Dragset created the Prada Marfa installation in the northwest of Texas, standing alone on the side of the desert road. The permanent installation mirrors the design of a typical Prada shop, however the doors do not open and there are no entry points to the “store”. The windows display actual Prada items, such as shoes and handbags, picked out and provided by Miuccia Prada herself from the fall/winter 2005 collection. The large sculpture was intended to never be repaired, so it would slowly degrade into the natural landscape, and is described by the artists as a “pop architectural land art project”.

Tom Sachs also created a selection of art pieces with the unofficial branding of many famous fashion houses, including Chanel, Tiffanys, and Hermés. However, his mixed-medium pieces took on more obscure items such as weapons, furniture, and even a fake fast food meal. He created a Chanel branded chainsaw and guillotine, a Tiffany glock, and a Prada black toilet. One creation Sachs returns to is fast food value meals made with the branding of various fashion houses, including Hermés, Prada, and Chanel. All these items are not typically associated with the high value products of the brands. Speaking about the creations, Sachs explained: “The idea of something that’s designed to last a very short amount of time, like a McDonald’s meal being recontextualised to represent something that is the most expensive—an heirloom product, a luxury product—is a surrealist gesture.”

Art and fashion are intrinsically linked, and always have been, so it’s easy to see why a natural collaboration between designers and artists has arisen over the years. As the line between the two forms continues to blur, fans of art and fashion should keep their eyes on catwalks and gallery walls alike.

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