For decades, fashion scholars have debated whether fashion should be considered an art form or whether it is solely a craft. Some believe that due to the utilitarian aspect of fashion, it should not be considered art. However, much like famous Impressionist artists of the 19th century, such as Claude Monet, Georges Seurat and Vincent van Gogh, fashion designers also use their creativity as a form of self expression. This becomes even more apparent when fashion designers collaborate with artists. A glance back into fashion history reveals many collaborations between artists and fashion designers, beginning in the early 1900s. Paul Poiret, the first couturier to fuse art and fashion, worked with with prominent artists and illustrators including Georges Lepage, Erté, Georges Barbier and Raoul Duffy. In the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli collaborated with surrealist artists Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau and Christian Bérard.
During the 1960s, pop artist Andy Warhol joined with Yves Saint Laurent who used Warhol’s Campbell soup can imagery from his paintings to create a series of A-line paper dresses, one called “The Souper Dress.”
Fast forward to the 21st century. Marc Jacobs, while creative director at Louis Vuitton, collaborated with artists to reinvent the iconic LV logo handbag: Stephen Sprouse’s scrawled silver graffiti (2000), Takashi Murakami’s animated motifs (2004), Richard Prince’s “nurse” prints (2008) and Yayoi Kusama’s polka dots (2012).
In 2016, designer Nicolas Ghesquière channeled California and continued the trend of artistic bags with the LV Petite Malle (small truck) for Cruise ’16.
For the past couple of seasons, the trend of marrying art and fashion has become even stronger. Christopher Kane’s gown with nude figure patterns was amongst the most talked about at Met Gala 2015 when worn by FKA Twigs.
Moschino introduced pop culture and graffiti-inspired art in its Fall Winter 2015 collection. The graffiti gown and matching gloves from this collection was later worn by Katy Perry, also at the MET gala.
For their Spring Summer 2016 collection, Dolce & Gabbana paid tribute to Italy with dresses featuring imagery depicting different cities and their names – Roma, Venezia, Portofino amongst others.
Pierpaolo Piccioli collaborated with Zandra Rhodes for Valentino’s Spring Summer 2017 collection, creating gowns with prints of the Hieronymus Bosch painting, the Garden of Earthly Delights.
A maxi dress from Alice+Olivia’s Spring/Summer 2017 ready-to-wear collection depicts a caricature of CEO/designer Stacey Bendet, sporting red lips and round sunglasses.
Marques’ Almeida added intricate floral art on their dresses, shorts, blouses and trousers.
At Dior, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri introduced feminine gowns and embroidered tulle dresses with tarot cards, cosmic and floral-inspired art with names like “Le Monde”, “La Lune” and “Le Soleil.”
Scholars will continue to debate whether fashion is really art, but we at the University of Fashion believe it is, especially when created in collaboration with artists!
Learn more about fashion history, past and present, with our costume history lessons: 100 Years of Fashion Rebels & Revolutionaries, Parts 1 & 2, Keeping Up With the Jones and Wheels Reels & Automobiles.