Friday, 5 August 2011

Is Fashion Art?

Last night I went to a lecture which was very timely for me, as I consider my own textile art practice and ask questions about where it sits in regards to fashion and art. Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) posed the question “Is Fashion Art?”, and discussed the many issues this question raises. It would appear that the commercialism and mechanisation of fashion is one of the biggest challenges in viewing fashion as art, making it more of an industry. Fashion is also viewed as ephemeral and superficial, whilst fine art is considered to have an element of spirituality and eternal beauty. The fact that fashion is intimately involved with the body is also a stumbling block. I liked the recognition that fashion is seen to be connected with feminine values and vanity, whilst art is viewed as masculine genius. The fact that Charles Worth made sure to present himself as an artist, not a dressmaker, by styling himself after Rembrandt by wearing a beret, and signing his work as artists do (the beginning of the label) was very interesting, as was the fact that Coco Chanel believed fashion designers were not artists, and were a purely commercial industry. Her belief was apparently something like “fashion should thrive and then die, in order that commerce may live”. Fair enough. I guess then it comes down to the idea that “anything can be art, but not everything is art”. Yves St Laurent’s partner believes “Fashion is art if it is made by an artist” – I like this. No, not all fashion is art, but it can be, depending on the intent with which it is made. It would appear that fashion is in the process of legitimisation as an art form, as photography and jazz music once were. Bring it on!!


  1. Further musing.... I guess what's missing even from sublime haute couture is the actual touch of the artist (it's that mechanisation thing again) - but what about totally one-off handcrafted pieces an artist has made? On the other hand, what of modern art installations where an artist has come up with a concept for an installation, and they send instructions to a gallery for staff to actually construct said installation. Touch of the artist where? Hmmmmmm.....

  2. Well said, Miss Svenja. I totally agree with you. You are already aware of my rants about photography being art rather than a money making machine. Yes, art is art when created solely by an artist for reasons not governed by an industry culture. It also is an extention of personal expression an artist painstakingly introduces into thier work that gives them complete satisfaction that no amount of money could ever buy. I do know of some well known photographers who have minions set everything up ready for a shoot and all that has to be done is for the so called artist to press the shutter button then leave... Where's the creativity in that. Okay, had my two cents worth, I'm off to sleepy bo bose;-)