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Fashion and Art regularly collide. Many questions are raised. Is fashion a form of art? Do fashion and art both share underlying values and concepts?  Are the fashion world and the visual art similar? Are there differences? With these questions in mind, I would like to initiate the development of a critical approach to fashion by bringing up an example of how fashion and art came together.

An artist known as Piet Mondrian (a founder of the De Stijl movement) is best known for his paintings from around the 1920’s. Mondrian works with shapes, lines and rectangles. Abstraction and balance were crucial moving towards the development of modern art.

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Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black,Gray and Blue (1921)

Around the 1920s, Mondrian began to create abstract paintings, the paintings in which he is best known for. For these paintings he limited his palette to white, black, gray, and the three primary colors, with the composition constructed from thick, black horizontal and vertical lines. With assorted blocks of color and lines of differing width within the painting, it creates rhythms that flow across the surface of the canvas, the rhythm of modern life. This style has been quoted by many artists and designers in all aspects of culture since the 1920s.


Designer Yves Saint Laurent came along, and turned the art into fashion. Yves created ‘The Mondrian collection’, known to be one of the most successful collaborations between art & fashion. Yves designed six cocktail dresses based on Mondrian’s work.


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Models wearing ‘The Mondrian Collection’ in front of a Mondrian painting

The dresses are a piece of art. Rather than the dresses being printed onto fabric, each block of primary colours and black geometric lines, were made of individual pieces of fabric. Yves Saint Laurent made sure he addressed the structure of the dress to the design. The weight of the fabric of the dresses meant they hung straight and had no movement like a painting, this enhanced the idea that each dress was a piece of art.

The dress and the way it is constructed makes it more complex than it appears. Precision cutting, stitching techniques and skills were required to construct the dress in order to accommodate to the female body. A simplistic design of the dress and the detailed and complex construction, are one of the many staples of Yves Saint Laurent’s achievements within  fashion.

“Fashion is not quite an art but requires an artist in order to exist”
– Yves Saint Laurent

The Mondrian collection was one of the first collaborations in which a ‘couture powerhouse’ were blended between fashion and art. To this day it is still one of the most important breakthroughs within fashion, as it developed a way for designers and artists to combine – as fashion will be a constant part of our existence.


“Composition With Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray, And Blue, 1921 By Piet Mondrian”. 2016. Piet-Mondrian.Org. accessed 19th August 2016, http://www.piet-mondrian.org/composition-with-large-red-plane-yellow-black-gray-and-blue.jsp.
Corner, Frances. 2014. Why Fashion Matters. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.
Dr. Jess Berry, “Contemporary Fashion: From Heroin Chic to Narrative Glamour: Lecture 4” 2432QCA: Contemporary Fashion (Brisbane, Griffith Queensland College of Art, August 15, 2016) Lecture notes.
Geczy, Adam and Vicki Karamines. 2012. Fashion And Art. Berg.
“Harriet Fisher”. 2016. Yves Saint Laurent & Art – The Mondrian Collection – Blog. Accessed 19th August 2016, https://www.barnebys.co.uk/blog/article/2880/.
Hindman, Leslie. 2016. “Blending The Lines Between Fashion And Art: The Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian Dress”. Bid square. accessed 19th August 2016, http://www.bidsquare.com/blog/blending-lines-between-fashion-and-art-yves-saint-laurent-mondrian-dress.
“Piet Mondrian Biography, Art, And Analysis Of Works”. 2016. The Art Story. accessed 17th August 2016, http://www.theartstory.org/artist-mondrian-piet.htm.
Team We Heart, “With Art And Fashion Collaborating Like Never Before, We Look At Some Of History’s Most Important Crossovers…”. 2015. We Heart. accessed 18th August 2016, https://www.we-heart.com/2015/09/21/history-art-and-fashion/.