3 Ways Fashion and Art Work Together


There are three important ways that fashion and art work together, creating bold new innovations as a result of their crossover, symbiotic appeal.

#1: Art inspires new fashion trends

One of the hottest trends within the fashion world is the partnership between leading fashion designers and cutting-edge contemporary artists, such as the recent partnership between fashion designer Alexander McQueen and famed artist Damien Hirst. While the phenomenon is currently at its peak – with work from celebrity contemporary artists routinely making their way into popular fashion – it has actually been an important trend for nearly a century.

The partnership between designers and artists dates back to the 1930s, when fashion designers began integrating trends from unconventional artists in order to gain attention for their work. The classic example, of course, is the “Lobster dress” created in 1937 as a partnership between Salvador Dali and Elsa Schiaparelli. The white silk dress featured a giant lobster, which was a reference to Dali’s work “New York Dream – Man Finds Lobster in Place of Phone.”

That was just the beginning. In 1965, Yves Saint Laurent launched its Fall Mondrian Collection, which were dresses inspired by Piet Mondrian’s famous works featuring white backgrounds and grids of black lines and primary colors. In 1991, Gianni Versace’s spring collection famously featured outfits with artwork from Andy Warhol.

#2: Fashion brings artists into the mainstream

As fashion designers turn to artists for inspiration, it’s turning many artists into household names as their work reaches the consumer mainstream. Brands such as Gap, H&M, Uniqlo and Target routinely partner with emerging artists as a way of establishing their brand identity. And pop art from the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol has become a staple of t-shirts and casual clothing lines.

In addition, elite names in the fashion world – think Marc Jacobs – often use inspirations from the art world as part of their product launches. In some cases, performance art can even become the inspiration for how to stage catwalk shows. In turn, artists who may have had only a small following in the art world suddenly have access to a huge, mainstream market.

#3: Fashion and art work together to change the current aesthetic

The crossover appeal between fashion and art works in the opposite way as well, as trends from the fashion world find their way into modern art. One of the most popular contemporary artists making use of this crossover appeal of fashion and art is the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, whose works blur the line between art, fashion and merchandise. His most famous collaboration was with handbag maker Louis Vuitton in the early 2000s.

It’s also the case that certain fashion trends – such as the use of specific materials, colors and motifs – can also inspire new artistic trends. Conceptual art often uses the themes and ideas associated with a specific fabric – think denim – in unique ways to challenge our notions of modern consumer culture.

We are currently at a peak of crossover appeal between fashion and art. It’s an era when world-famous art museums such as the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York stage massive new shows featuring fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen and when iconic artwork from the likes of Keith Haring and Andy Warhol are now staples of casual fashion. One thing is clear - fashion and art will continue to work together, creating compelling new innovations.