What When Fine Artists Turn Into Fashion Designers?

 

 

Artist Nick Cave Chicago-based artist Nick Cave (b.1959) – famous for his elaborately embellished Soundsuits, part sculpture/part costume, uses beadwork, buttons, artificial flowers and found objects as his vehicles of self-expression.  (Images Credit: New York Times 2022)

During a recent trip to the San Diego Art Museum, I had a revelation pertaining to the brouhaha over whether ‘fashion is art’. Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Art is art. Fashion is fashion.” And yet, Madame Grès, a devotee of Greek antiquities, considered herself the sculptress of fashion.

 While some fashion designers see themselves as artists/artisans, others think of fashion as a business, with functionality and commercial purposes at its core.

But isn’t art subjective and isn’t it entirely up to the viewer, same as art forms such as film and literature? One could argue that what one chooses to create, or wear, is considered a form of self-expression. So, whether you believe that fashion is art or not, the truth is, throughout time, artists have used fashion as a means of self-expression in their work.

From Ancient Egypt to the Renaissance, and especially during the 1800s, artists have featured fashion it in their work, some with the precision of a fashion illustrator. By choosing to include fashion in their work, artists have not only immortalized the fashions of that period, but have made their own distinct fashion choices and that of their subjects. Thus, there definitely seems to be a cross over and fashion IS art. Let’s take a look:

Egyptian Dynasty Beaded Dress

Egyptian, Dynasty 4, Reign of Khufu, 2551 – 2528 BCE. Beadnet dress detail. (Image credit: www.worldhistory.org)

Exquisite illustrative textiles & embroidery from Spanish painter Bartolomé de CárdenasExquisite illustrative textiles & embroidery from Spanish painter Bartolomé de Cárdenas (also known as Bartolomé Bermejo) The Arrest of Saint Engracia 1477. (Image Credit: San Diego Museum of Art).

 

Illustrative details of lace, textiles & jewelry by Italian painter Alessandro Allori

Illustrative details of lace, textiles & jewelry by Italian painter Alessandro Allori (1535-1607) Portrait of a Lady 1560. (Image Credit: San Diego Museum of Art)

Belgian artist Alfred Stevens (1823-1906) meticulously paints a paisley and other details like a fashion illustrator in News from Afar 1870. (Image Credit: San Diego Art Museum)

Belgian artist Alfred Stevens (1823-1906) meticulously paints a paisley and other details like a fashion illustrator in News from Afar 1870. (Image Credit: San Diego Museum of Art)

 

The Yellow Robe painted in 1927 by American artist Belle Baranceanu (1902-1988) (Image Credit: San Diego Art Museum)

The Yellow Robe painted in 1927 by American artist Belle Baranceanu (1902-1988) (IImage Credit: San Diego Museum of Art)

American artist Anni Baldaugh (1881-1953) renders a print in her painting Donna 1929 (Image Credit: San Diego Art Museum)

American artist Anni Baldaugh (1881-1953) renders a print in her painting, Donna 1929 (Image Credit: San Diego Museum of Art)

 

American artist Alice Neel (1900-1984) Portrait of Mildred Myers Oldden depicted with broad shoulder pads and a distinctive stiped suit in 1937.

American artist Alice Neel (1900-1984) Portrait of Mildred Myers Oldden depicted with broad shoulder pads and a distinctive striped suit in 1937. (Image Credit: San Diego Museum of Art)

 

Broad shouldered suit by Mexican artist Diego Riviera (1886-1957) in Portrait of Adalgisa Nery 1945 (Image Credit: San Diego Art Museum)

Broad shouldered suit by Mexican artist Diego Riviera (1886-1957) in Portrait of Adalgisa Nery 1945 (Image Credit: San Diego Museum of Art)

 

Japanese artist Tadashi Asoma (1923-2017) depicting a live model fashion illustration Purple Obi 1972 (Image Credit: San Diego Art Museum)

Japanese artist Tadashi Asoma (1923-2017) depicting a live model fashion illustration Purple Obi 1972 (Image Credit: San Diego Museum of Art)

 If artists use fashion in their art, then isn’t fashion art after all? Thoughts?

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Francesca Sterlacci is the CEO of University of Fashion (UoF) which she founded in 2008 as the first on-demand online fashion video library bringing the art and craft of fashion design and business to schools, libraries, organizations and the general public. As owner of her eponymous label for ten years, her collection sold in fine stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Barneys and Nordstrom. As a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology for 11 years, she became Chair of the Fashion Design Department where she initiated the complete revision of their AAS and BFA degree programs, as well as wrote three certificate programs: Leather Fashion Design, Outerwear and Haute Couture. Francesca has also taught graduate level fashion design at the Academy of Art University San Francisco for six years, both on site and online. Her publishing accomplishments include: Leather Apparel Design, the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry (First and Second Editions), the A-Z of the Fashion Industry, Leather Fashion Design and a 3-volume beginner series on Draping, Pattern Making and Sewing designed to complement the UoF lessons. She has also made literary contributions to both the Encyclopedia of Clothing & Fashion and You Can Do It! The Merit Badge Handbook for Women. Francesca holds an AAS, BA and an MSEd (master’s degree in higher education).