A topic for debate: Is fashion art?
While many of us agree that an exquisite haute couture dress can be as thought provoking as a Monet, some of the most prominent names in the fashion industry like Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs and Miuccia Prada detest this idea, stating that fashion is not art. The subject is up for debate as designers, art and fashion connoisseurs remain divided.
The primary difference between fashion and art lies in their utility. One may argue that while fashion fulfills a functional need, art is merely decorative. But if fashion’s sole purpose is to be practical, variety and personal style would be obsolete.
To showcase fashion’s on-going relationship with art, an increasing number of fashion exhibits are becoming a focus of museums worldwide. The V&A is currently hosting their Club to Catwalk exhibit, tracing the creative explosion of London fashion in the 80’s and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk exhibition is touring worldwide. Let’s not forget Alexander McQueen’s highly acclaimed Savage Beauty retrospective at the Met, which forced the museum to stay open after-hours due to its colossal success. Yet, showcasing designs of influential fashion designers in the same context as Picasso and Michelangelo anger critics as they fail to see the intrinsic connection.
With styles from romantic to minimalist, both fashion and art are inspired by similar themes of nature, cultural movement and human emotion. Designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel have been known for pushing the same boundaries, exploring the same ideas and representing the same history as say, Pollock or Warhol. World renown artist Yayoi Kusama’s work with Louis Vuitton and Elsa Schiaparelli’s memorable Salvador Dali collaboration only further blur the line of separation between the two crafts.
Fashion exists prominently within both spheres of applied and decorative art, perhaps making it a superpower between the two. However, the debate defies a purpose and lack of an easy answer, simply because like beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder. Our world turns colourless once we start defining what is and isn’t art, so can we just put this debate to rest?
Lagerfeld told the New York Times in 2008: “Art is art. Fashion is fashion. However, Andy Warhol proved that they can exist together.”
Photos: Courtesy of Moschino and Alexander McQueen