How contemporary art influences fashion

A meeting between fashion and art would hardly end with a “match” on the first date. But thanks to the joint efforts of artists and designers, fashion houses and museums, the situation has changed: brands are inspired by works of art, and artists create this art specifically for new collections. Forbes Life shares how two worlds became so close to each other

An artist must be hungry ”- such a romanticized view of the profession is now a thing of the past. In the new world, an artist should be a bit of an analyst, a marketer and, perhaps, a self-coach. Including in order to understand which of the fashion houses and brands can be trusted to carry their good name and creative message to the masses. The designer leading the house is essentially the same artist. But the integration into the corporate system, on the one hand, makes it not so vulnerable to market fluctuations, but on the other hand, it limits the possibilities of expression and the range of expressive means. It is rather difficult to imagine Alexander Wang or Marc Jacobs who, in their creative impulse, forget about deadlines. Schedule fashion weeks, even adjusted for covid reality, leaves no time for reflection and searching for oneself – only those who do not need to demonstrate quarterly figures can afford to go to excavations under the scorching Greek sun or sit in a library with a pile of books and archival materials. In a complex relationship between an artist and a designer, the latter is assigned the role of a caring curator who not only stands behind the creator with a timer, but also helps clients start their collection with blue chips.

Uniqlo collaboration with the Louvre. / DR


Art investment

If you look at art and fashion objects as investment objects, it is obvious that the former have a veneer of uniqueness, and the latter, even if there is a serial number and the name of the artist on the tag, are created primarily for practical purposes. But in recent years, the boundaries have blurred: designers release collections that are asked to visit the MoMA halls, and artists – edition works and collaborations with brands. Everything is mixed up in fashion houses and museums. The giants of the fashion industry lure managers from serious art institutions (you can recall the recent appointment of the former CEO of the Serpentine gallery, Yana Peel, as the global director of art and culture for Chanel), and museums come up with and support projects that bring guides to swoon. However, today the words “collaboration” and “merch” sound in the lips of the latter as naturally as “glaze” and “craquelure”.

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It seems that all the efforts of the fashionable establishment in the last half century have been aimed at equalizing the rights of representatives of the two worlds – art and fashion. While artists contemplated physicality (performance Cut a Piece by Yoko Ono) and criticized consumer society (video work by Martha Rosler Reads Vogue Martha Rosler), designers studied art history books and did everything possible to get not only on the shelves of significant department stores, but and into the museum walls. The #MeeToo movement from the fashion community was led by Anna Wintour, who took over the baton and host of the MET Gala from Diana Vreeland and equated going to the museum and going to the podium. A dinner in support of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Costume Institute was first held in 1948. In order to get on it, those who wished had to pay only $ 30. Today, in response to a question about how to get to the MET Gala, Google gives 10 options – from “becoming a trustee of a museum” (that is, spending a thousand times the starting price) to “being the daughter of Anna Wintour.” If none of them suits you, you have to be content with the exhibition for which everything is being started.

Dinner in support of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Costume Institute in 2018. / Getty Images


Main exhibits

We owe the appearance of fashionable artifacts in museums to an interest in history. First, the ceremonial costumes of past rulers were shown in palaces, then halls in museums began to be allocated for them: museums of decorative and applied arts appeared in the 19th century, followed by the first fashion museums. The last link is art institutions organized by fashion houses for educational purposes. Perhaps the most telling example is the Prada Foundation, which emerged in 1995 when, according to Miuccia Prada, she knew nothing about art. Of course, this is an exaggeration: a girl from a good family who studied the works of radical philosophers at the University of Milan could not stay away from cultural processes. However, good taste never fails, including when choosing a curator. The first exhibition of Anish Kapoor, organized by the foundation, found a response among clients at home, and art critics. And Elmgreen and Dragset’s project – Prada Marfa boutique – still serves as an example of a perfectly aligned collaboration. Although it has been 15 years since the installation was installed in the Texas desert, tired tourists still drop in here in the hope of shopping.

Prada Foundation in Milan. / Bas Princen / Courtesy of Fondazione Prada


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The recently opened Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris with an impressive collection and exhibition program is in tune with the brand and its rich history. It turned out that talking about art with your clients can be done not only with the works of Rubens and Van Gogh on bags (for this ironic statement about haute couture and high art, let’s say thanks to the artist Jeff Koons), but also classical exhibitions “with the participation” of the same artists. Another important platform for interaction is contemporary art fairs, for which fashion houses traditionally prepare the release of thematic collections and art projects. The pandemic made adjustments to their schedule, but even in the absence of international flights and the usual Art Basel Miami Beach program, Fendi did not change plans and presented a new design for a boutique in the Design District, as well as a collection, created in collaboration with artist Sarah Coleman. In addition to the bags glowing in the dark with a recognizable, but as if passed through a psychedelic experience, print (it seems that the bag has transported from Woodstock immediately to the high-tech future), it includes chairs and armchairs from old Fendi things.

Fendi’s glow-in-the-dark bags are designed in collaboration with artist Sarah Coleman. / DR


Longtime friendship

No conversation about friendship between art and fashion is complete without mentioning Elsa Schiaparelli’s dress with a giant lobster painted by Salvador Dali and Yves Saint Laurent’s collection based on Mondrian’s works. Often they are placed in one row, dividing only by chronological frames. But there is one key difference between them: if Dalí collaborated directly with the designer, then Saint Laurent used the work of the Dutch abstractionist to realize his creative ideas. Therefore, the word “collaboration” in the latter case is not entirely correct, but its charm is so great that today the degree of the artist’s involvement is no longer important. The collaboration is both a Leonardo da Vinci print on a T-shirt and a complex Dior men’s fall-winter 2021 collection featuring artist Peter Doig. Christian Dior himself came into fashion from art: before founding his own house, he owned a gallery. Doig saw a sign in the invitation of Dior creative director Kim Jones: a few years ago he himself curated an exhibition in Berlin, for which he selected a couple of portraits by the artist Christian Berard, on the back of them was the signature “Collection of Christian Dior.”

Dior Fall / Winter 2021 Men’s Collection featuring artist Peter Doig. / DR


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The artist Rita Ackerman also knows firsthand about the close interweaving of the world of fashion and art: “My peers, graduates of art schools, in the 1990s were more passionate about fashion than art. They could be understood: at that time, really strong and loud voices were heard in fashion circles … But then the situation changed, brands and labels came to the fore, and fashion turned into a clumsy corporate machine. It seems that now people have started to use clothes again as a way to talk about important things, and this makes us look for new points of contact. ” Her participation in the work on the Chloe fall-winter 2020 collection together with the creative director of the house Natasha Ramsay-Levy serves as a clear illustration: delicate dresses with prints are not so much about female fragility, but about strength, including the power of joint expression.

Chloe Fall-Winter 2020 with the creative director of the house Natasha Ramsay-Levy. / DR


Visual material

You don’t have to go to a museum or take art history courses to start understanding art. You can study the works of contemporary artists using Lady Dior bags: last year, as part of the Dior Lady Art project, the Russian art group Recycle presented its version of the iconic model. Louis Vuitton set the bar high, starting with the Spring / Summer 2008 collection, when Marc Jacobs invited Richard Prince to participate (along with the collection, the show with models-nurses, designed by Prince, entered the fashion history textbooks).

Lady Dior bag in the version of the Russian art group Recycle. / DR


This year’s art history lesson theme is The Art of Urs Fischer, and the demo is Artycapucines monogrammed handbags, dresses, scarves and digital content. Yves Saint Laurent’s approach has spawned just as many followers. Recent examples include Jean-Michel Basquiat’s designs on Coach bags and Ken Price’s tropical prints, which Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson has appropriated, not only on bags, wallets, hoodies and shirts, but also on ceramic plates. It was not possible to fully present the capsule collection either at Design Week in Milan or during Design Miami, but while waiting for the opening of borders and travel, customers had enough online shopping.

Drawings by Jean-Michel Basquiat on Coach bags. / Prints by Ken Price in the Loewe collection. / DR


The forced transition to the network and the search for new formats of communication with the audience have become a catalyst for much more intensive cooperation between designers and artists. First of all, we are talking about shows, which have become the main platform for creative experiments. For example, to work on the show for the men’s spring-summer 2021 collection, Hermès has teamed up with French artist and director Cyril Test, who will take us on a backstage tour of the fashion show. Now, in order to get into the front row, it is not at all necessary to be the chief editor of American Vogue. Artists deprive the world of fashion of elitism and illusion, and designers help artists to become fashionable in an amicable way. Drawing demarcations and labeling is as pointless today as arguing about whether the Mona Lisa is smiling at us. From a T-shirt that costs the same


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The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and TTSWTRS 

В России с приходом нового поколения музейщиков проекты на стыке моды и искусства стали встречаться с завидной регулярностью. Пожалуй, самые интересные и актуальные проекты у Пушкинского музея, который успел поработать с Гошей Рубчинским и дуэтом Nina&Donis, а этим летом создал коллаборацию с украинским брендом TTSWTRS, выпустив специальную коллекцию одежды к выставке «Tату». Ее тема показалась руководителю отдела маркетинга Дарье Филимоновой созвучной концепции бренда, за которым она давно наблюдала (а судя по Инстаграму вместе с ней и добрая половина значимых инфлюенсеров от Кортни Кардашьян до Лены Перминовой). Основательница бренда TTSWTRS Анна Осмехина придумала переносить рисунки известных татуировщиков на одежду телесного цвета, буквально имитирующую кожу, — вау-эффект был обеспечен, и уже первая коллекция приземлилась на полках культового универмага Colette. От которого до сувенирного магазина Галереи искусства стран Европы и Америки XIX-XX веков оказалось рукой подать. По словам Дарьи Филимоновой, музей добился всех поставленных целей — коллекция отлично воспринята, а некоторые вещи были распроданы еще до конца выставки.

“In the case of Tatu, we had no doubts about the choice of a partner: this nonsense has an authenticity and a social message that is very close to us. We are always determined to make art a part of everyday life, and designers of fashion brands are ready to hear our ideas, work with them and interpret them in a modern way, ”says Daria Filimonova.

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Prada and Thomas Demand

The name Miuccia Prada is strongly associated with the world of contemporary art. To be included in art history textbooks, a project by the duo Elmgrin and Dragset, a fictional Prada boutique in the Texas desert built in 2005, where naive tourists still mistakenly come to buy moccasins, would have been enough (Miuccia Prada allowed artists to use the logo and provided the shoes herself for the showcase). The opening of the Fondazione Prada in Milan in 2015 and the Prada Rong Zhai in Shanghai in 2017 reflected a change in the corporate values ​​of fashion houses: supporting contemporary art has become as important as caring for production conditions.

Following an exhibition at the Fondazione Prada last spring, the brand invited German photographer Thomas Demand to design Prada boutiques around the world. Demand takes photographs of objects he designed out of paper, imitating familiar things, and destroys them immediately after filming. On the contrary, especially for the Prada project, he decided to turn to the surrounding reality. So, in the windows there were photographs of a cherry tree, which he usually watches from the window of his studio. The absence of a signature and explication made the works anonymous, but this is exactly what the author wanted to achieve. “It was important for me to see how people interpret the images themselves, without giving them any clues. After all, they are not talking about cherry blossoms, but about our expectations. It is a recognizable, universal image based on the hope that the future will be better. Fashion, just like photography is a temporary phenomenon: the moment you capture something on the camera, it ceases to exist in reality. This is very close to my approach, which is probably why I agreed to participate in this project, ”explains Demand.

by Abdullah Sam
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