Oscar Wilde once said “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”
Being a living work of art could prove itself to be quite complicated, so maybe another way of looking at this statement is by using art to fashion oneself.
Some designers take this motto rather seriously (or lazily depending on how you look at it) and look directly at art to lift their references.
Nicholas Kirkwood / Keith Haring
Just recently, shoe wunderkid Nicholas Kirkwood came up with a 12 models one-off couture line of shoes inspired in pop artist Keith Haring‘s work.
You can see a video of Nicholas discussing the line at Nowness, where among other things, he explains how he tried to do much more than just copy Haring’s esthetic, and instead, reinterpret his work by using bold shapes and prints.
Keith’s work had already been taken for a walk in 2010, courtesy of a Tommy Hilfiger sneaker line:
Jean Charles de Casteljabac / Man Ray
Jean Charles de Casteljabac AW11 collection was such an homage to the groundbreaking pioneer photographer’s work that it was entitled Woman/Ray. Two of Man Ray‘s most well known photographs, The Violin of Ingres, 1924 and Glass Tears, 1932, served as prints for some of the dresses and skirts:
You can see Casteljabac’s full collection here.
Casteljabac was also no stranger to Keith Haring’s work, having in 2002, concocted a look clearly inspired by his work:
Alexander McQueen, always a man who looked to the past for grandiose inspiration, created for his AW97 collection It’s a Jungle Out There a jacket printed with an image from 1430’s The Thief to the Left of Christ by Robert Campin.
His last collection, left unfinished at the time of his death featured some pieces with a few flashes of Hieronymus Bosch, sort of a mashup between elements of some of his paintings, The Temptation of St Anthony and The Garden of Earthly Delights. If you look carefully, you can spot some quite unique characters in the mix like the devil in the night chair devouring humans and the fish with the mast,
And of course, there was the whole McQueen/M.C. Escher connection, which I’d looked into before.
While everyone was going ba-na-nas for the Metropolitan Savage Beauty exhibit, over at Moscow’s Pushkin Museum quietly and to much less fanfare opened an exhibit named Inspiration Dior (the site features a 3D view which is worth a look). The exhibit looked at the connection between the work of the Dior house and art, juxtaposing the Dior oeuvre with major works dating back to the nineteenth century. Some of the 60 paintings included (on loan from museums as the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, the Versaille Museum, and other museums) that include artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, and many others are known to have inspired specific Dior designs (or part of).
Elsa Schiaparelli and Dali
No foray into this kind of thing would be complete without talking about the prolific duo of Schiaparelli and Dali. Italian Schiaparelli was a great lover of the dada and surrealist movements and often incorporated the bizarre juxtapositions typical of these movements in her designs. She was a close friend of Salvador Dali and either referenced his work or collaborated with the man himself in several of her pieces.
Tears Dress, 1938
Printed with a Dali design, it was intended to give the illusion of torn animal flesh, with the tears printed to represent fur on the reverse of the fabric and suggest that the dress was made of animal pelts turned inside out.
Shoe Hat, 1937
Nowadays a shoe serving as a hat seems trivial and blase, the idea having been used countless times, like for instances in this Louis Vuitton ad, but this was where it all started. The hat was sketched by Dali, after the idea was planted in his head, by a photo his wife Gala had taken of him with one of her slippers balanced on his head.
Dali and the aforementioned Dior also teamed up in 1950 to create a vision of what women would look lik in 2045. Entitled Costume for 2045, the end result was a fashion statement for future women who would be over civilized and would need a crutch for moral and spiritual support. It’s funny but what was supposed to be a futuristic piece back then, looks rather like a sign of its times, now that we’re actually closer to 2045 then to the date of its inception.
Pepe Jeans and Andy Warhol
Of course, all the examples I’ve mentioned so far, are in the haute couture end of things, which pretty much means, off limits to the likes of us, mere mortals, but Pepe Jeans has a more affordable solution in their Andy Warhol line, which has been going on for a couple of years. Approved by the official Warhol estate, you can get a piece of Campbell soup, Jackie O, Eddie Sedwick and other Warhol staples in print fashion at gentler prices.
I was going to include Yves Saint Laurent in this list, but he was just so prolific in this area that he’s going to get his own post, so stay tuned for more!