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When Art Meets Fashion

As art month descends upon us, we look at the artsier garments to tout at exhibition openings, dinners and, of course, plethora of parties hitting Hong Kong this March


Fashion has always taken cues from the art world. Through the decades, designers have looked at the great artists of the past and present for inspiration, and even incorporated artworks in their collections – sometimes injecting them with their own creative twists. Art and fashion have also joined hands through unexpected collaborations, often feeding off each other through a synergetic symbiosis of sorts.


Italian legend Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the first designers to explore that symbiosis. In 1937, she worked with Salvador Dali to create the Lobster Dress, an iconic piece of early 20th-century fashion. Her Tears Dress and Shoe Hat also channelled surrealism, and proved that merging the lines between the sartorial world and the painting one could lead to whimsical, cutting-edge results.


Among other notable examples, Yves Saint Laurent‘s 1965 Fall collection drew heavily from the colourful geometric patterns of Piet Mondrian; Alexander McQueen’s 1999 Spring/Summer line had Jackson Pollock‘s motifs splattered – quite literally – all over it.

YSL's art-fashion looks

Christian Louboutin turned to Renaissance art in 2011, and Karl Lagerfeld played with the notion of wearable art for Chanel‘s 2015 Spring show, with models carrying sketchbooks like handbags and donning rainbow paint textured garbs. The designer, who passed away in February, even converted Paris’s Grand Palais – the show‘s venue – into a huge art gallery, featuring pieces from artists including Marcel Duchamp, Wassily Kandinsky and Pollock next to Chanel’s trademark items, such as tweed, pearls and chains.


In more recent years, collaborations have carried on the art-meets-fashion trend: Valentino‘s Pierpaolo Piccioli and artist Jamie Reid for Fall 2017; Gucci and Spanish artist Ignasi Monreal for Spring 2018; Virgil Abloh and Japanese icon Takashi Murakami for both an exhibition and a limited edition of graphic tees last October.


The artistic muse also inspired some of this season‘s collections – which should help you look quite the part during and around Art Basel Hong Kong, when the entire city basically turns into one giant art hub.


Try Celine, whose Spring/Summer 2019 (Hedi Slimane‘s first for the label) show included pieces in collaboration with Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay, with his 70s and 80s paintings and comic book collages reimagined on embroideries, prints and patches.

Celine's art-fashion looks

Or turn to Loewe, for which designer Jonathan Anderson was inspired by sculptural artworks from a handful of contemporary artists. The garbs he presented in Paris – in a venue filled with the artworks he referenced – put all the attention on craft, texture, fabric movement and colour, and spanned marabou feather-trimmed silk trousers and handkerchief dresses, silk patchwork jackets and thatched wicker bags.


The kinetic graphic motifs by New York artist Andrew Brischler for House of Holland would also be perfectly appropriate at any art event, as would Balenciaga‘s fluid shirt-jackets and matching trousers – what the brand’s designer Demna Gvasalia has called ‘neo-tailoring’ – which draw from digital and new-media art as well as 3D moulding techniques (Gvasalia also partnered with digital artist Jon Rafman for his Paris show, to create an immersive visual experience and further the artistic crossover).


Accessories-wise, the multimedia latex pieces by British artist Samara Scott seen on the Mugler runway are the epitome of wearable art, as are the ‘bees’ pop American artist KAWS designed for Dior Spring/Summer 2019 accessory line — a reinterpretation of the house‘s signature bee symbol in his distinctive style across a raft of products, from leather-printed keyrings hanging off weekend bags, backpacks and wallets to a repeating motif on totes and clutches.

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