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How Is Fashion Related to Art?

Karl Lagerfeld, who worked tirelessly (from the 1950s until his death in 2019), called for the separation of art and fashion because, to him, fashion was a form of self-expression. While it mirrored the artistic and cultural zeitgeist, it also had to look good, feel great, and allow people to do whatever they want. Should we really separate art from the artist? Sure, Lagerfeld was brilliant, sassy, and prolific; there’s no doubt about it. But let’s not forget that he frequently consulted fine and decorative arts for inspiration and designed collections with surprising references to art history. 

Fashion and art have had a long and glorious love affair. Many pieces imagined by brands over the years have been sketched by designers as talented as any fine artist, using cloth and cutting techniques with the same resourceful genius as a painter wielding a brush. To stay relevant, fashion designers are compelled to be reactive in a way that’s never been required before, and to overcome challenges, they must embrace both innovation and inspiration. And, of course, absorb the wealth of ideas around them. Fashion and art might seem different when observed from afar, but on closer inspection, you’ll understand they’re really one and the same. 

Since The Emergence of Haute Couture, They’ve Gravitated Towards Each Other 

Springing up in the late 19th century, haute couture is a land of free expression for designers – that’s to say, fashion at its most refined. In America, couture means quality, yet if this term was used so freely in France, it would, without a shadow of a doubt, result in legal action. Fashion houses enjoy protection! Designers are captivated by shape, form, and colour, and die to know more about social, historical, and cultural events. Would you be surprised to learn they spend a lot of time in art galleries, museums, and archives? Art is often their muse. 

Art has always been a source of inspiration for designers, igniting their imagination and setting the stage for the creation of feel-good fashion. Yves Saint Laurent loved art. During his career, he paid tribute to the artists who inspired him, like Matisse, Piet Mondrian, and Andy Warhol. If your brain is fully empty when trying to come up with ideas, pack your social media feed with artists and liven up your bare walls with paintings or prints. You can find original art for sale online that is worth exploring, so pay attention to anything that catches your eye, even if you can’t immediately see how, you could integrate it into your home. 

Everything From Renaissance to Modern Art Can Be Reimagined with A Needle and Thread 

For the autumn/winter 2008-09 collection, Chanel introduced an angular silhouette inspired by traditional Chinese armour. Soldiers had to protect themselves as best they could and, therefore, wore leather tunics with metal additions, bronze and iron helmets, and shields of lacquered leather. As mentioned earlier, Karl Lagerfeld stepped outside the fashion industry to seek inspiration. Within the archives of Chanel’s older collections, there’s a photocopy of an exceptional soldier’s uniform taken from the catalogue of the 1995 exhibition, Heaven’s Embroidered Cloths: One Thousand Years of Chinese Textiles, at the Hong Kong Museum. 

Let’s take another example: Alexander McQueen acknowledged the Tudor fashion icon, Queen Elizabeth I, with a fall collection marked by fine white broderie anglaise overlapping a tiered white organza dress with gigot sleeves. The exaggerated silhouette is accentuated by the hairstyles and ornaments. You must be able to “read” the subtle cues to Britain’s sensational past. Another example: Christian Dior, who was inspired by the artists of Impressionism like Monet. Dior’s gown for the spring/summer 1949 collection emulates Monet’s The Path Through the Irises, capturing the vital essence of these flowers. 

Do You Have to Be a Good Artist to Be a Fashion Designer? 

Yves Saint Laurent once famously said that, “Fashion isn’t an art, but needs an artist to exist.” The same amount of creativity and imagination goes into clothes as a piece of pottery. Beauty has become part of the bigger picture, and many designers are animated by fine art. One example is Bill Gibb, whose fantastical garments were worn by the rich, famous, and beautiful. From architects and sculptors to installation artists, inspiration comes in all forms; you never know when and from where it might come. Fashion and art will continue to enjoy a rich relationship. 

If you’re a fashion designer in the making, you must be artistic and visionary, with a flair for colour and clothing coordination. After all, fashion is a way to help you deliver your ideas to others. Above all, stop thinking along the lines of “talented” and “not talented” because you have to learn and grow your skills; you can and will succeed. Indeed, passion is an important place to begin with. But fashion design is a multifaceted career. And to succeed in the industry, you need skills in art, like realistic drawing, knowledge of art materials, including where to get them, and an understanding of colour theory. 

Wrapping It Up 

While some think that fashion is nothing but art, others tend to see it as something different. Fashion and art are of the same nature, which then implies that fashion should be engraved in art history and evaluated, judged, and classified using the same criteria. Just like art, fashion is born out of a sense of principles and takes its influence from the world around it. Embroidery is a very good example. Through this art form, designers translate their visions into texture, colour, and shape.

All in all, if you watch any fashion show under the sun, you’ll undoubtedly notice the drama. The catwalks have witnessed everything from the surreal works of Salvador Dali to the breathtaking sculptures of Richard Serra. 

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