Is Fashion Art?

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The prominence of fashion within the sphere of art has long been subject to debate, with consumers and designers alike conjuring their own opinion on the matter. Prominent figures within the industry have affirmed the proposition, with the legendary Elsa Schiaparelli having declared that her forte was not “a profession, but an art.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, lie a multitude of contemporary designers (such as Miuccia Prada, amongst others) who insist that fashion and art are entirely separate realms, characterised by their own absurdities.

Whilst art, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is classified as, “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form… producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power,” fashion is defined as, “a prevailing style, often embodied in garments that are in the current mode.”

It is perfectly understandable to justify why these explanations would evoke a differing consensus amongst individuals of the fashion and artistic realms; at the end of the day, the matter is entirely subjective. Despite this, however, I would propose that the two are inexplicably linked, as they both rely on the vision conjured by the mind. Fashion, when executed at the will of certain artisans, such as the late Alexander McQueen, can be seen as an expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, just as art can be when manipulated by someone such as Salvador Dali.

With great originality and ingenuity comes artistic innovation, which is essential for success in both fields, as is the skill involved in producing works that encompass them; this idea is ever present in the contemporary world in which we inhabit, whereby we are constantly surrounded by advances in not only the arts, but the media, too.

This can, however, spark another debate, which reinforces the idea that modernisation is fuelled by the rise of global capitalisation and the desire to create products that are purely for the consumer. The most obvious example of this is the Spanish retail chain, Zara, which is noted for its profitable “fast fashion” motive, whereby new styles are unveiled more often than al-Qaeda second-in commands. Admittedly, the company would covet the yielding of a profit more than the want to successfully allow for the outlet of one’s creativity: there was still, however, a certain degree of thought that was concentrated within the product’s design.

Fashion and art are also motivated by cultural development, as exhibited in past decades: in the 1920s, women bared their legs and bobbed their hair; the 1960s revolutionised the Mod sub-culture; and the 1970s gave us punk. The latter embodies the idea greatly, as several strains of modern art anticipated and influenced punk. One of these was futurism, as its interests in speed, conflict, and raw power foreshadowed the radical nature of Vivienne Westwood’s creations, as did the cultural critique and strategies for revolutionary action offered by the Situationist International, an organisation comprised of mainly avant-garde artists and intellectuals.

The intrinsic link between fashion and art thus remains, to a degree that I would argue serves to complement the other. As one who self-identifies as an avid lover of the aesthetics that encompass the appreciation of beauty, however, my argument may be riddled with bias!

  • ‘Lolly’ Hackshaw

    Really enjoyed reading your piece Isabella – I like the parallel you drew between aspects of the surrealist movement and Dali’s art in comparison to McQueen’s art – which I do believe, fashion to be a form of art. Very good read!

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