As a fashionista (yes I am!) I simply adore following all fashion weeks around the world, as well as cruise and pre-fall collections (and yes I’m an addict!).
The one that caught my attention is the Valentino 2016 resort collection. The creative duo of Valentino’s Maison teamed up with celebrated artist Christi Belcourt to adapt one of her paintings into prints for several must-have pieces. Belcourt’s work is featured in the National Gallery of Canada and perhaps her most powerful work is her embroidery of spats as part of the ”Walking With Our Sisters” tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
Again art and fashion are linked in the creation of garments with deep cultural meanings. Not just beautiful outfits to buy or struggle for, but indeed masterpieces of our time.
Not later than a couple of years ago, Raf Simons paid his tribute with his first couture collection for Maison Christian Dior, printing glossy fabrics with the paintings of Sterling Ruby.
So I find myself asking how many artistic collaborations have been made, involving great artists and avant-garde designers?
The answer happens to be a lot!
Throughout 21th century the cafè society, composed by philosophers, musicians, photographers, painters, poets and writers opened to the world of great couturiers and their artistic efforts became immediately memorable.
So let’s discover some of the most iconic collaborations of the last century, plus two ancient extras and some links, which I hope will be helpful to find your next inspiration for your designs!
Isabella D’Este & Leonardo da Vinci
Isabella d’Este was the woman protagonist of the Renaissance. She became marquise of Mantua, getting married to Francesco II of Gonzaga.
Isabella used to spend huge amount of money for her outfits and jewels, so that she became soon an icon for the entire European aristocratic class. They copied her make-up, manners and gorgeous outfits. Even kings were all interested in her style and they asked their ambassadors to report what they saw at her court, copying it slavishly.
Isabella was very close to masters and painters of her time, including Leonardo, who designed some of the patterns of the fabrics of Isabella’s garments.
French Fashion & Antoine Watteau
The sack-back gown or robe à la française was a peculiar dress of the 18th century. At the beginning of the century, the sack-back gown was worn during informal occasions. Due to its unfitted shape it was called a sacque, contouche, or robe battante.
It became very popular after 1770, because of its appearance in Antoine Watteau paintings. In fact the gown is also known as Watteau pleat, Watteau back, Watteau gown. The dress had huge pleats at the back, which fell loose from the shoulder to the floor with a slight train. In front, the gown was open, showing off a decorative stomacher and petticoat. A wide pannier was worn under the petticoat.
Madeleine Vionnet & Thayaht
The illustrations of the painter Thayaht (Ernesto Michahelles) were very popular during the roaring 20′s.
They appeared in the Gazette du Bon Ton and were a clear inspiration for Madeleine Vionnet creations.
The so called monastic style was very popular during that time and Vionnet was deeply influenced by the rigorous and quite severe silhouette of Thayhat sketches.
From 1919 to 1925, Vionnet and Thayaht built a fruitful and intense artistic collaboration. First, the artist created the logo of the house, and later became involved in larger and more complex projects.
His visual art made him the perfect translator and the best interpreter of Vionnet’s creations.
In fact Vionnet thought that Thayahat was the only one, who could represent her style, with a unique sense of movement and color.
The Futurists & Fortunato De Pero
Fortunato Depero was a painter, a sculptor and an advertiser from Trento (a city in the north of Italy).
He designed his famous futurist vests during 1923-1924. He applied a particular technique to his creations.
De Pero painted the subject and later the work was reproduced twice as large as the original. Then the pattern was reproduced on fabric. After that, the vest was assembled and sewn.
The vests were presented in 1924, during the tour of the New Futurist Theatre. Marinetti, Depero and the other militants of the movement proudly showed the colorful, modern and absolutely futurist clothing.
Norine & René Magritte
Some of the most interesting of Magritte’s commercial designs are his fashion illustrations for Norine, a Brussels couture house established in 1916 by Paul-Gustave van Hecke and Honorine ‘Norine’ Deschryver.
Stylistically, these experiments with Cubo-Futurist and Art Deco approaches, suggest the influence of Robert Delauney and reflect the artistic and cultural dynamism of the 1920s.
Also his designs for the furrier Samuel et Cie (1927) have a close affinity to some of his Surrealist painting of the period. Both deploy mannequin-like skittle forms of the female figures, their heads truncated, or replaced with featureless machine-turned orbs as seen on shop-window mannequins.
Coco Chanel & Paul Iribe
Coco Chanel used to be Iribe’s lover, muse and patron.
Iribe’s illustrations were prolific, rendered in dark monotones of black and white punctuated by vivid red.
The drawings, politically polemic, featured the identifiable likeness of Iribe’s lover Coco Chanel re-imagined as the iconic symbol of French liberty, Marianne. The issues were called Le Témoin and were published in 1933.
Paul Iribe also designed jewelry, working with Coco Chanel in 1932 to create a special collection that her couture house produced.
When Chanel was commissioned by the International Guild of Diamond Merchants to design a collection of diamonds set, called Bijoux de Diamants. She asked for Iribe’s help, since she had been designing only costume jewelry. Chanel declared that diamonds were an investment and Iribe helped her to turn her initial ideas into fine jewelry.
They went on to create a collection that inspired several of Chanel’s hallmark symbols.
Elsa Schiaparelli & The Surrealists
Elsa Schiaparelli was more surrealist than surrealists themselves!
Because of her instinct, curiosity and creativity, she was the protagonist of the decades between the two world wars, working with artists such as Salvador Dalì and Jean Cocteau.
Dalì, who designed several covers for Vogue, created for example the iconic Schiaparelli shoe-shaped hat with red heel, taking inspiration from one of his photo, where he appeared with his wife’s slipper on his head.
The ambiguous portrait of Jean Cocteau, representing two profiles of the same sex with their lips closed to each other, was embroidered on a fitted bolero by Schiaparelli.
Also the coat with drawer’s shaped pockets, inspired by Dalì’s Venus, or the lobster dress of 1937 are some examples of Schiaparelli’s ingenious intellectual efforts.
The New York Times used to write about her: “A Schiaparelli garment is like a painting of modern art.”
Yves Saint Laurent & Piet Mondrian
In 1965 the Mondrian dress firstly appeared on the French Vogue cover. It was the perfect representation of abstraction through the reproduction of the modernist paintings created by Piet Mondrian.
The aim of Saint Laurent was to pare-down the sinuosity of the female body, reaching a perfect cut of the silhouette. In fact each section of colored blocks and black stripes are singular panels, assembled together to deliberately alter the curves of the body. The result yelled rigor and simplicity, perfectly matching the abstract concepts of Mondrian’s art.
Souper Dress & Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol was surely an artist interested in fashion.
In 1962, when Warhol held his first exhibition, “32 Soup Cans” was one of the paintings revealed to the world.
The Pop Art was a phenomenon that began to capture the interest of the masses.
The concept of consumerism was transferred into the famous paper dress “Souper Dress”, which aimed to be one of the symbol of that artistic movement. Andy Warhol also designed two dresses, the “Banana Dress” and the “Fragile dress”, to enforce the connection between fashion, Pop-art and consumerism.
Pierre Cardin & René Magritte
In 1986 Pierre Cardin created a pair of men’s shoes, modeling a man’s bare foot.
The painting of Magritte he was inspired by was “The Red Model”, that gave the Italian couturier the chance to play with the message of ambiguity of this masterpiece.
Pierre Cardin, whose genial ideas inspires even nowadays tons of designers, leaved the geometric and abstract world of his iconic creations to create this surprisingly and unconventional pair of shoes, pushing the boundaries between art and fashion.
Issey Miyake & Yasumasa Morimura
In 1971 Issey Miyake debuted in New York with his first collection of skin-tight jumpsuit with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin’s portrait printed on them.
In 1993 he dignified the polyester fabric creating his “Pleats Please” collection.
From 1996 he developed a series of dress, collaborating with some contemporary artists.
One of the most exquisite example, the first one of the series, is called ’Pleats Please Issey Miyake Guest Artist Series No. 1: Yasumasa Morimura for Pleats Please.”
The paintings is called Portrait (La Source 1,2,3) and it’s based on the painting La Source by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres of 1856. The final result created a tricky and marvelous effect on the dress, where the bold colors contrasted the naked and pale skin of the goddess.
My Final Thoughts
These are some of the artistic collaborations I found relevant through the decades of fashion history and I think they can be a starting point for discussions and new ideas.
If you want to explore the subject even more, take a look at the link below, to discover other 50 more recent collaborations between art and fashion. In fact a lot prestigious Fashion Houses teamed up with the rising stars of the art system, producing emblematic fashion items:
And, finally, a gem of a book if you want to explore more of the relation between fashion and one of 20th century most creative art movement, ”Fashion and Surrealism” by Assouline.