Connections between the art & fashion world is an increasingly closer thread. Cherry Irvine Investigates…

Art and fashion, though distinct disciplines, are both seen as mirrors to society. They share common characteristics where styles come in and out of fashion and the big names dominant.

Think Dior and Degas. Perhaps more tellingly they are areas of the creative industry in which the price tag can skyrocket. But what happens when art crosses over into the realms of fashion? Does the gain in price mean something is lost?

In the past century living artists have often sought to collaborate with fashion houses for a variety of reasons: to expose themselves to a new audience, to experiment, or simply for the money. Even the famous Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí collaborated with the Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli in 1937 with the so-called Lobster Dress, which was famously worn by Wallis Simpson a few months after her scandalous marriage to the abdicated Edward VIII.

Artist collaborations with fashion brands nowadays is big business. The shared skull motif of British artist Damien Hirst and fashion designer Alexander McQueen prompted their collaboration in 2013. Hirst produced thirty limited-edition designs for the brand which were made into scarfs. Their rarity only increased their desirability and led Vogue to describe such collections as ‘cult collectibles’.

Collaborations are becoming more and more common. Last week Dior’s Fall/Winter 2021 menswear collection was unveiled as a creation in collaboration with Scottish artist Peter Doig. Doig is one of the world’s most expensive living artists specialising in figurative painting. His artwork is not simply printed onto Dior’s clothes, instead the outfits seem to be lifted from the figures in his paintings. Full of skiers, ice-hockey players and fishers, these characters have come to life on Dior’s runway.

But what does it mean when a collaboration extends beyond the grave? Doc Martens recently released its limited-edition boots inspired by the Pop Art of Keith Haring who died over 30 years ago in 1990. Labelled ‘Doc Martens X Keith Haring’, it is technically a collaboration with the artist’s estate, but this might not look as good on the label. Though Haring’s colourful and quirky illustrations marry well with the iconic boots, it raises certain ethical questions. Did Haring ever intend to make a collection with Doc Martens? We will never know, but we must ask whether his descendants have the right to make this decision.

By Cherry Irvine: Arts Columnist

We must ask similar questions about artists who died long ago as well. Vincent Van Gogh died 100 years before Haring in 1890, yet his art is perhaps more worn than any other artist. You can currently buy a t-shirt on Topshop with Van Gogh’s infamous Sunflowers on it. Due to the fact that Van Gogh’s images are copyright free, ‘Sunflowers’ like many of his works, are not only plastered on clothes, but also mugs, tea-towels and laptops – practically anything you can think of.

‘where does art stop, and fashion begin?’

When an artwork becomes as recognisable as Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ it goes beyond what the physical object is itself and becomes something more. It reaches an iconic status. It is no longer just a painting of sunflowers, but it is instead Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’. Is something significant lost when an artwork reaches this point?

Perhaps this is why Damien Hirst and Alexander McQueen decided to collaborate. Their shared skull motif challenges us to question the iconic nature of art and fashion. The scarfs blur the boundaries of consumerism: where does art stop, and fashion begin? Under this light the skull takes on another significance too. Acting as a Memento Mori, it reminds us of the morality of Hirst and McQueen as opposed to the eternal nature of the image and of art itself.

Collaborations between fashion houses and contemporary artists can be an exciting place where the two fields meet to create something new and beautiful. Art and fashion lovers both rejoice when such joining of creative minds is announced. When brands replicate works from artists now dead, we must remind ourselves about the living artist behind the image. How our own form of self-expression though wearing clothes, may take away from the purest form of expression we can reach, Art itself.

MACKAYAN: art x fashion. the true cost of wearing art

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Cover Photo: Yuri Manei