Rick Owens’ human backpacks, presented at his SS16 show, was a recent reminder that fashion is the cousin of art, which sometimes needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. The fun of the art/fashion overlap lies within the grey area of functionality, aesthetics and thought provocation; a grey area otherwise known as Haute Couture.
In the new Millenium we have seen a variety of art-fashion collaborations, including the late power-starchitect Zaha Hadid’s NOVA shoe for United Nude in 2013. The shoe design was not only an embodiment of Hadid’s iconic and futuristic aesthetic, but the manufacturing process of the shoe was the first to use rotation moulding, injection moulding and vacuum casting; methods which mark the creation of this shoe as an inventive and progressive undertaking.
The artistic innovation of the design was encouraged by the enterprising creative director and founder of the United Nude brand, Dutch architect Rem D Koolhaas. Koolhaas is quoted on the United Nude shop windows: “We ended breaking the rules of shoes, not for the sake of breaking them, but simply by not knowing them”. The NOVA shoe brought the excitement of new-age engineering, physics and the drama of a Hadid building down to an obtainable, fashionable scale. The NOVA shoe was exhibited at the V&A in London at their 2015 show "Shoes: Pleasure and Pain”.
Sometimes, however, total functionality is lost so that the concept of clothing is mere fuel to the artistic idea. In 2013 Pop Magazine’s special addition issue showed Kate Moss in a glittering plastic bodysuit designed by artist Allen Jones entitled “Mannequin” on the cover. The photograph demonstrated Kate Moss’s abiding status as a fashion icon as well as her ability to not age, donning the epitome of Allen’s famous obsession with the female figure as seen in his large body of controversial Pop Art. The collaboration was a celebration of the frenzy both Kate and Allen have achieved in their respective careers as leaders in the lucrative fashion and art game. Later that year, the photograph of Kate wearing the shiny, plastic suit was exhibited as his most successful portrait to date in his solo show at The Royal Academy, London.
Combining art and fashion allows art to be commercial whilst forming a territory where fashion rises above its commercial status. When the world of fashion reaches out for inspiration it is met by its dysfunctional relative; art. These kinds of collaborations are crucial for blurring the language barrier some might see between the two realms. The result of fashion/art fraternisation might just seem crazy to people who believe in clothing as jeans and a T-shirt, but crazy ideas are the ones that encourage change, so keep an eye out for what more weird and wonderful things emerge from the no-mans land of Fart.
Written by Lucy Henshall for The Public House of Art