Collaborations between artists and fashion designers is certainly not a new phenomenon. These joint creative works are becoming intrinsically more common in the fashion world. These collaborations are mutually beneficial as they create an external outlet for artists to showcase their works outside of the art world, and it allows for fashion designers to become a part of the art world as more than just clothing. The spectacle that is created within this collaboration is driving fashion designers and artists to seek out different ways in which to present their works. From catwalks to clothing designs, high fashion is consumed by art.
Whimsical fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, famously collaborated with artist Salvador Dali in the 1930’s to produce such pieces as the “Lobster Dress” and the “Shoe Hat”. Like Dali, Schiaparelli is also considered a surrealist artist. They came together not to produce clothing that people would want to wear, but rather to demonstrate the uninhibited nature of surrealism and the diverse ways in which surrealist art can be presented. These pieces are located in museums in the US at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
More recently, the “China Through the Looking Glass” Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City features an array of fashion designers drawing inspiration from traditional Chinese art forms. The exhibition features fashion designers such as John Galliano, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford, Roberto Cavalli and Valentino. The exhibition, consisting mainly of women’s dresses, explores the relationship between Chinese aesthetics and western fashion. Dripping with Chinese imagery, the exhibition embodies the age-old fascination of western institutions with Chinese culture, tradition and art.
Similarly, Alexander McQueen’s “Savage Beauty” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011 challenges typical understandings of fashion and evokes cultural and political expressions through his designs. McQueen was an artist whose vehicle was not a painting or a sculpture, but a runway. McQueen wanted to create an experience for his audience. Fashion for Alexander McQueen was his method of channelling his creativity, and by using his designs, he was able to capture a state of mind and transmit an emotional experience to his audience. He used fashion to challenge the way we think of clothing; to demonstrate how unrestrained and highly unconventional clothing can be.
It is therefore evident that art extends its arms to the realm of fashion, and has done so since the beginning of fashion design. Not only does fashion represent beautiful and desirable articles of clothing, but it evokes an emotional and cultural response from an audience, much in the same way as art. Artists such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Alexander McQueen and other high fashion designers understand that their work is not to produce clothing, but to create art. Both conventional artists and fashion designers use colour, structure, pattern and depth to generate emotional and influential works of art. Fashion and art come together frequently to form something spectacular.