When the fashion and the art worlds collide
SINGAPORE, April 8 — The art world has always had a reputation for being rarefied, more than a little inaccessible, and somewhat distanced from day-to-day reality. Likewise, high fashion, which, to a great extent, has been seen as a form of art when at its most elevated form: Haute couture is often informed by history and fine art.
It’s only natural that the creative threads that run through luxury fashion and art would become closely intertwined. Chanel’s Metiers d’Art collection, for example, is an annual celebration of the dying art of painstaking hand-work in fashion — and this year’s collection takes inspiration from French actresses and Italian cinema. (The runway show took place at the legendary Cinecitta Studios in Rome, where acclaimed film-makers such as Federico Fellini shot their cinematic masterpieces.)
This year, the fashion-art connection gets a new twist to the ongoing tale, thanks to high-profile collaborations between artists and mass fashion brands. This month, H&M unveils its latest Conscious Exclusive Collection. It was created in collaboration with the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (located at the Palais du Louvre in Paris), a creative first for the brand primarily known for its runway-inspired trends and high-profile collaborations with of-the-moment fashion designers.
The H&M design team worked closely with the museum to trawl through its extensive archives of centuries of fashion for inspiration for the collection’s designs, and incorporated prints of some of the museum’s most famous masterpieces from artists such as Gustave Moreau and Botticelli. The exclusive use of sustainable materials in the Conscious Exclusive line added another dimension to the head-turning line-up of dramatic, well-crafted pieces that included shoes, three wedding dresses and jewellery made of a newly developed sustainable material Denimite (made of recycled worn-out denim). Some of the most coveted pieces in the line-up are the ethereal printed maxi dresses, wide-legged trousers and a high-neck lace blouse that looks like it emerged from the Victorian era.
The collection was launched in H&M stores yesterday to coincide with the opening of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs’ Fashion Forward — Three Centuries of Fashion exhibition in Paris, which will run till August 14.
Parisian style maven and sustainability champion, Julia Restoin Roitfeld — the face of the collection’s advertising campaign — lauded this collaboration. “I think that the idea of creating a collection inspired by the history of art and fashion is brilliant. Especially since it is made with innovative, sustainable materials, which are the future of fashion,” says Roitfeld.
Hot on H&M’s heels is the Uniqlo X KAWS collaboration for the Japanese high-street brand’s UT line of T-shirts. Set to launch in stores and online here from April 25, the renowned Brooklyn-based street artist KAWS (whose real name is Brian Donnelly) was tapped by UT’s creative director Nigo to design a capsule collection of 18 T-shirts and four tote bags that feature his signature Pop Art aesthetics and animated characters such as the Companion.
“KAWS’ artworks themselves are rare — they are practically unobtainable. But he’s told me that he also likes to produce some things that people can get hold of if they want them. I would like to think that we’re offering something genuine as well: UT T-shirts are very affordable, but I have worked to ensure that it is a real product — not a cheap version of something,” Nigo told culture and style e-zine Complex.com.
Meanwhile, next week will see the launch of Marks & Spencer’s limited-edition Archive by Alexa collection. The project involves British tastemaker and designer muse Alexa Chung delving into the company’s deep archives, and working with Marks & Spencer’s design team to rework selected heritage British sartorial pieces into contemporary versions, using modern fabrics and an updated colour palette.
While it seems like the high street is increasingly looking to art, history and heritage as sources of inspiration to fan the flames of desire in its consumers, the collaboration between art and fashion is not a new thing, observed Tan Chee Boon, editor of fashion publications Style: and Style:Men.
“There was Yves Saint Laurent and his iconic Mondrian Collection, Rodarte featured Van Gogh’s work in their 2012 collection, and of course, there’s Louis Vuitton and Takashi Murakami … But what makes the latest H&M Conscious Collection collaboration with the Musee des Arts Decoratifs at the Louvre and the Uniqlo X KAWS creative partnership really exciting is that art-influenced fashion is no longer restricted to those who can only afford high fashion,” he said.
Or high art, for that matter. When it comes to wearable art, you don’t need wall space, an expensive frame, or even a big fat wallet to display the artist’s body of work.
“The street brands are now bringing the arts to the masses and it could be a good thing, as long as the association between the mass retailers and the artists is a good one,” said Tan. — TODAY