Is Fashion Art? You Bet it is!

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.

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Evening jacket designed by Elsa Schiaparelli in collaboration with Jean Cocteau (Image Credit: metmuseum.org)

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.”

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The Souper Dress featuring Andy Warhol’s soup can graphics (Image Credit: metmuseum.org)

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).

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Louis Vuitton animated motifs bag in collaboration with Takashi Murakami

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Louis Vuitton animated motifs bag in collaboration with Stephen Sprouse

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Yayoi Kusama’s polka dotted Louis Vuitton bag
(Image source: NY Times)

In 2016, designer Nicolas Ghesquière channeled California and continued the trend of artistic bags with the LV Petite Malle (small truck) for Cruise ’16.

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Louis Vuitton Petite Malle clutch

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.

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FKA twigs wearing a Christopher Kane gown at Met gala 2015 (Image source: Daily Mail)

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.

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Katy Perry in Moschino gown at Met gala 2015 (Image Source: US Weekly)

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.

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Featured above: Dolce & Gabbana dress with artwork depicting Roma and Venezia

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.

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Valentino Spring Summer 2017

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.

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Alice+Olivia Spring Summer 2017 (Image Credits: Vogue)

Marques’ Almeida added intricate floral art on their dresses, shorts, blouses and trousers.

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Marques’ Almeida Spring Summer 2017

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.”

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Dior Spring Summer 2017

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Dior Spring Summer 2017

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.

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Shilpa Ahuja is a regular contributor to the University of Fashion. She is also a designer, entrepreneur and fashion blogger. Shilpa Ahuja has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University. She translates runway fashion into understandable style advice for her online fashion and lifestyle magazine, ShilpaAhuja.com. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys writing, travel and art.