The worlds of art and fashion have simultaneously co-existed and collided for centuries. Their unique relationship – which over the years has seen the disciplines continuously overlap and the distinction between the two become increasingly blurred – has not been without controversy. Fashion has often been regarded the lesser of the two – art’s “frivolous other” (Geczy and Karaminas 2012, 1) – with the question of superiority always at the forefront of discussion. Yet this long-standing tension over who influences who is missing the point entirely. It is obvious that they both inform each other. Let us move on. What is more interesting, particularly within a contemporary context, is how they inform each other in a way that has come to be immensely beneficial for both parties.
The concept of fashion and art mixing is by no means a twenty-first century idea; one only needs to take a glance back over history to see that creative partnerships between the two disciplines have been ongoing for decades. Perhaps the earliest example of this is the iconic Lobster dress of 1937; the result of a collaboration between fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and artist Salvador Dali. The dress, referencing the lobsters within Dali’s work, represented an amalgamation of both art and fashion and was regarded as a success for both disciplines. Since then, the prevalence of collaborations between artists and fashion designers has expanded rapidly, with other notable examples including Takashi Murakami for Louis Vuitton, Juergen Teller for Marc Jacobs, and Damien Hirst for Alexander McQueen.
Above left: Lobster Dress 1937, Elsa Schiaparelli & Salvador Dali
Above right: Lobster Telephone 1936, Salvador Dali
Closer to home, they occur on a more humble – yet just as innovative – level. In 2012, five emerging fashion designers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) paired up with five Indigenous artists to create the AKIN Collection – a creative initiative which aimed to “ignite an ongoing platform for Indigenous artists and the Australian design community to work together” (King and Buick 2013). The project, which required an equal exchange between both artists and designers, involved translating Indigenous artworks into contemporary fashion pieces. “While many collaborations see a designer simply applying an artwork as a print at a later stage, AKIN deliberately brought the artists and designers together at each stage of the creative process” (King and Buick 2013). In working together, they produced garments which not only act as a celebration of the two disciplines, but also represent how art and fashion can harmoniously inform one another.
Above left: Napolean Oui & Georgia Granger for AKIN, 2012
Above right: Napolean Oui’s artwork ‘Cassowary’ as a textile print, 2012 http://thefashionarchives.org/?pieced_together=akin
So what is it about these collaborations that make them so enticing and beneficial to both artists and fashion designers alike? In the modern environment, where art and fashion have evolved into huge global entities, collaborations have become a “vehicle for delivering a brand story, increasing prestige, and producing visually exciting content and products” (Williams n.d). For artists wanting to expand their profiles on a global level, fashion provides the perfect opportunity. Similarly, fashion brands seeking an aura of credibility and authenticity can turn to the art world for help (Oakley-Smith 2013).
It seems, then, that both disciplines have something to offer the other, and that the collaboration and cross-over between the two will continue to be mutually beneficial for quite some time to come.
Geczy, Adam, and Vicki Karaminas, ed. 2012. Fashion and Art. Sydney: Bloomsbury.
King, Madeleine, and Nadia Buick. 2013. “Pieced Together: the AKIN Collection.” The Fashion Archives, 22 October. http://thefashionarchives.org/?pieced_together=akin
Oakley-Smith, Mitchell. 2013. “The Art of Fashion.” The Australian, 4 October.
Williams, Nikki. N.D. “Creative Design and Fashion Collaborations.” Truly Deeply. http://www.trulydeeply.com.au/brand-design/creative-design-and-fashion-collaborations/