Is Fashion Art Essay

Yes: Zandra Rhodes

I think fashion is an art form - you might call it decorative or applied art as opposed to fine art, but what's the distinction? Because the same amount of artistic expression goes into clothes, a piece of pottery or a painting. I've founded a museum on the basis that I think it's an artistic form that should be remembered. I think fashion galleries - such as the one at the V&A and the one at the Metropolitan in New York - are very relevant.

Fashion can tell you what people wore at a certain period just as pottery can tell you what their tea parties were like. I don't think the fact that these things were designed to be practical distinguishes them from fine art. You could say a painting is designed to go on the wall, but if it were made as a fresco, where it was part of the wall, would you say it was not art because it was practical?

Fine art at the moment is no longer particularly concerned with beauty, so you could say that fashion - which is always about a concept of beauty, whether or not everyone agrees on the concept - is more relevant, more artistic, than the garbage they put out as conceptual. If you look at it that way, fine art may go by the wayside, and fashion, which has a bit more effort put into it, will take over.

Some designers are directly influenced by fine art - a lot of Bill Gibb's things were influenced by the slashed panels in dresses in, say, Flemish paintings. I myself once designed something called the Venus dress which was somewhat influenced by Botticelli, though I haven't really gone too much in that direction. But when I see my clothes in my museum I don't feel any differently from how I felt about them at the time - I see that I believed in what I did with them, that they were the right thing to do.

Ossie Clark would have argued that fashion was art - he definitely thought his contribution was worthwhile, and his clothes were being shown in museums even at the time. He certainly would have expected them to be in museums now.

· The Zandra Rhodes Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London SE1, which contains works by Ossie Clark as well as 3,000 of Rhodes's own designs, is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 5:45pm

No: Alice Rawsthorn

On a trip to Paris, the New York fashion designer Donna Karan was dragged off to the Picasso Museum by her late husband, Stephen Weiss. He hoped that his wife would love it as much as he did. Instead, or so he told American Vogue, she dashed at speed from gallery to gallery barely pausing to look at the works.

Suddenly Weiss heard Donna screaming with glee in another gallery. At last, he thought, she has finally found a Picasso that inspires her. He ran into the gallery only to discover his wife gazing at a bare expanse of green wall. This particular shade of green, she explained breathlessly, would be perfect for next season's lingerie.

Now, this story tells us a great deal about Donna Karan, not least that she is refreshingly free from pretentiousness and pomposity when it comes to her chosen field. You can't help wondering whether, if you asked Donna 'Is fashion art?', her response would be the style slut's equivalent of former Liverpool manager Bill Shankley's proclamation: 'Some say football is a matter of life and death - I'd say it's much more important than that.'

Quibbling over whether fashion is more or less important than art is just as pointless as questioning whether or not it is art. Of course it's not, it's fashion. That is not to say that fashion, at its best, is not a suitable subject for museums or that it cannot share some of the attributes of art. On the contrary, an exquisite haute couture dress - like the ones that Cristóbal Balenciaga created in his 1950s heyday - can look as perfect as a beautiful painting or sculpture.

Yet only an old-fashioned aesthete would argue that the role of the artist is to create beauty. Sometimes artists do, but for most of them beauty tends to be a by-product of their quest to explore the complex, messy, ambiguities of modern life. Think of Wolfgang Tillmans's photographs of areroplane wings and window sills now on display at Tate Britain. Beautifully composed they may be, but with a forlorn beauty too subtle to be replicated in fashion.

Similarly, fashion is adept at fulfilling another traditional function of art by reflecting changes in contemporary culture, but only up to a point. Think of how the Ossie Clark dresses in the V&A's exhibition evoke the desire for escapism at the turn of the 1970s. Yet, unlike art, fashion rarely expresses more than the headlines of history.

And fashion has a practical purpose, whereas art does not. The result may be as gorgeous as a vintage Balenciaga ballgown or an eloquent political metaphor for its time, but it is still an item of clothing intended to be worn. Why pretend that it is anything else?

· Alice Rawsthorn is director of the Design Museum

A controversial debate that has existed for many years, and will probably still be argued for many years to come, is the relatively close relationship that fashion and Art has. People in both the fashion and art industries (or as some artists like to call: ‘art world’) have very mixed opinions and ideas on the collaboration of fashion and art and how one may influence the other in the industry we live in today.

“Art is Art and Fashion is an industry”, as quoted from in Michael Boodro’s ‘Art and Fashion’ (2007), he believes that Fashion is just a ‘man made’ craze that has only been popularised by the many followers in public that are cloned to consume the ideas of fashion. Boodro also believes that “… fashion comes with no illusions attached” He believes that there isn’t a depth to fashion as there is in art, he believes art is an academia with vast depths of knowledge involved as to fashion, which is a shallow and very monochrome in it’s appearance, with no hidden messages.

He goes on to explain that the interest in fashions first started in the late 1800s/early 1900s when only the rich and wealthy could afford artwork, in a form of portraits, then these painters created elaborate fashions in this paintings, learning the art of drapery and how to portray fabrics in the best possible light, For example: “Gustav Klimt, portraits of women, ‘designed’ dresses that were more prominent than his subjects”.

Following on from this, Boodro then goes on to highlight some interesting links between art and fashion in how the artists has always formed the inspiration for the designer, such as: “Valentino has taken black and white geometric motifs from the Viennese artists Josef Hoffman and Koloman Mosen and embroided them in sequins and dresses” Many other examples there to highlight that a key to a designers success is by taking inspiration from previous art work by innovative and creative artists, which supports Boodro’s opinion that fashion is a follower and a form of art.

“Clothes were placed in an extra-artistic sphere- where the most part they have remained”. This is taken from a contrasting piece of writing from ‘Fashion and Art’ by L. Svendsen (2006). As you can see, the Title ‘Fashion and Art’ is a reverse to Boodro’s ‘Art and fashion’, this is because, as quoted above, Clothes (fashion) were placed in an ‘extra-artistic sphere’, meaning that he sees Fashion as a seperate category to Art, and not a branched off form of art itself.

Svendsen has a much more equal opinion for both sides of the opinion, he can pick out where Art and Fashion do merge into one, and also how Fashion has separated itself from art. He stated that in the early 1900’s, Fashion was very limited and boundaries were strict due to “Freedom was rather restricted, as the creations had to appeal to the aesthetic preferences of the customer”.

Even though artists and art critics will strongly disagree that Fashion is a form of Art, even iconic designers such as Paul Poiret, one of the first iconic fashion designers of the early 20th Century stated “I am an artist, not a dressmaker”, designers hated how critics would limit their title to just a ‘dressmaker’, limiting their skills and talents instead of creative s that they dream to be acclaimed for.

Another controversial quote though from a famous designer, Martin Margiela who insists that “fashion is a craft, not art” Moving into the 1920s and 30s with the Cubism perception in artwork replacing realism, Fashion also in turn started to become more abstarct, and this was when Haute Couture was born, designs became more elaborate and the previous boundaries that existed were lifted, giving designers a vast playground in which they could experience with their work and ideas.

“Many Fashion Designers have used strategies normally associated with contemporary art rather than the world of fashion, by creating clothes that are better suited to exhibitions in galleries and museums than for actual wear”This shows a great link between fashion and art, it was evolving to become so abstract and outrageous that the best way for them to be displayed to their best potential was in galleries and museums, the same way as artwork would be, For example now in Museums such as the Victoria and Albert in London, there is now Fashion Archives, and many international designers have homed themselves there for one-off elaborate exhibitions.

To conclude I think that I would categorise Fashion as a form of art, but not a direct result of art, I think many people have similar opinions of the two because they are such broad topics with an almost unlimited amount of space for creativity. I do agree that some of fashions many successful collections and campaigns stemmed from the innovative ideas of previous artists but some of the more successful fashion moments have been solely down to the creative minds of the designer If I had to categorize the fashion industry and the Designers work, I would place it under craftsmanship and creativity, as previously quoted by Martin Margiela. To finalise though I believe that art and fashion shouldn’t be labelled and the two should be able to intertwine to create magical and awe-inspiring pieces.

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