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The Relationship Between Fashion and Art

While most of us think of fashion as living art, what we often fail to realise is how the two are interlinked.

More often than not, designers take their inspiration from the world of art. Whether it’s a motif or colour palette, fashion houses are synonymous with paying tribute to other artisans and craftsman. The two are undeniably interlinked, inspiring one around in a circle, feeding into each other’s development. We’re taking a look at the relationship between fashion and art, including how it influenced some of the most famous fashion brands.

Cara Taylor for Moschino. Photo: Pietro D'aprano/Getty image

The Relationship Between Art and Fashion

One thing that unites art and fashion is the fact that they are born out of a sense of principles, instead of a concept of a fixed style. Both industries take their influence from the world around them, inviting commentary on the social development of society at the time. In the words of Coco Chanel, “fashion is architecture. It is a matter of proportion”.

Embroidery is a perfect example of this relationship. It’s evolved in time from the lace that was famous in the 19th and early 20th century. This art form took its inspiration from tapestries and has evolved with time, becoming a common form of design for everything from t-shirts to couture gowns.

20th Century Art and Fashion

Some of the most well-known and innovative designers have dabbled in both industries. Elsa Schiaparelli took inspiration from Salvador Sali, the Spanish surrealist artist who focused on precision and technical work. The 1937 lobster dress takes its literal inspiration from Dali, featuring a lobster painted on the front panel.

One painter whose work has inspired some of the world’s most famous designers is Piet Mondrian, whose neoplasticism work took its inspiration from the cubism movement. Hermes’ Lola Prusac took inspiration from his work, incorporating primary colours and black line grids. Mondrian’s work influenced a collection of bags and luggage that features squares imprinted on the bold leather.

After Mondrian died in 1944, his work continued to influence the world of fashion. Yves Saint Laurent dedicated his Fall 1965 collection to Mondrian’s work, with six A-line cocktail dresses. This collection was one of Saint Laurent’s most successful and marked a new era for the brand and its focus on art as its primary influence.

Paco Rabanne was one designer who took his inspiration from architecture, infusing the concept into his runway dresses. His 1966 collection was based on the concept of ’12 Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials’, using metal and rubber. While we are used to seeing these materials in modern fashion, it was considered innovative at the time, with each material moulded to the silhouettes of the models.

Credit: Paco Rabanne "12 Unwearables dresses in contemporary materials"

Direct Collaboration Between Art and Fashion

Today, it’s becoming more common to see contemporary artists working directly with fashion houses on special collections. In 2013, the British brand Alexander McQueen collaborated with Damien Hirst to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the brand’s iconic skull scarf. They created 30 exclusive designs that took their inspiration from Hirst’s ‘Entomology’ series, which was originally inspired by Dante’s ‘Inferno’. This collaboration is the perfect example of the evolution of art and fashion, building on each other over time. McQueen and Hirst were a well-matched partnership, with both brands having an aesthetic focused on symmetrical designs and the natural world.

Christian Dior

One fashion house that takes its artistic inspiration to the full is Christian Dior. Almost every campaign pays homage to an artist. Dior’s Spring/Sumer 2021 collection had a Caravaggesque theme to it, inspired by the work of Italian painter Caravaggio. His work is synonymous with its use of naturalistic realism with a focus on lighting against darker shading. The campaign also draws on the colour red, which Christian Dior once described as “the colour of life”. The images show the perfect intersection between the aesthetic and philosophy of Dior with the heritage of European art and the influence of Caravaggio.

Everywhere that you look with Dior, you’ll see symbolism and subtle nods to the work of some of history’s most significant artisans.  

Credit: DIOR "the color of life"

Louis Vuitton

Art lovers everywhere rejoiced when French fashion house Louis Vuitton embarked on an ambitious collaboration with Jeff Koons. The ‘Masters’ collection is the perfect representation of the bridge between art and fashion. The New York-based Jeff Koons took inspiration from his ‘Gazing Ball’ series, which focused on giving the audience a new perspective on art.

The collection incorporated the work of some of the most significant designers in history, including Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent Van Gogh. For these handbags, the artwork features on the canvas, with a metallic nameplate taking the role of the ‘gazing ball’.

The ‘Masters’ collection was more than just a collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Jeff Koons, but rather a collaboration with the art industry as a whole. It celebrated what Louis Vuitton described as “art, life, humanity, and beauty”.

Louis Vuitton x Jeff Koons "Master"

This collaboration wasn’t the first of its kind for Louis Vuitton. During Marc Jacobs tenure as Creative Director, Louis Vuitton embarked on several collaborations with contemporary artists. One of the most famous collections releases by Louis Vuitton was with Takashi Murakami, reimagining the brand’s signature LV emblem. His work became a mainstay in the brand for several years and was described by Vogue as “the defining fashion collaboration of the noughties”.

Unlike other art collaborations, this partnership stretched across the Louis Vuitton brand – from handbags to luggage and accessories. The ‘multicolour’ monogram, as it became known, became one of the most popular canvas prints.

From the moment it was unveiled in 2003, the collaboration became an instant hit amongst celebrities and fashion editors. Although the collaboration came to an end after Marc Jacobs departed from the brand, the Takashi Murakami collaboration remains one of the most significant for the fashion house. You’ll still regularly see celebrities like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner wearing these infamous multicolour pieces.

Credit: Instagram @mminniearaya

This article has only explored a few examples of the collaboration that exists between the worlds of art and fashion. The next time you see a collection from your favourite designer, you can be certain there’s the influence of at least one artist on their work. What artistic collaboration is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.