As far back as the 1930s—with collaborations between Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dalí—the relationship between artists and the designers that have been inspired by them have been an important part of fashion’s creative process.
This season, several capsule collection drawing from the art world have been released, including Loewe’s recent offering with the work of William Morris, Louis Vuitton’s bag series by Jeff Koons (an art double-whammy, as it features his favorite paintings), and Supreme’s drop today: two limited-edition skateboard decks designed by Cindy Sherman.
While the projects from the first two fashion houses feature works from men that have long been dead, the skater-favorite’s latest line points to a growing trend of brands choosing to look toward contemporary female artists for insight. In the past year alone, Virgil Abloh tapped Jenny Holzer for Off-White’s Pitti Uomo debut, Marc Jacobs collaborated with Julie Verhoeven for a second time, while Gucci and Marni released capsule collections with Unskilled Worker and Ruth Van Beek, respectively.
Apart from the obvious benefits of having a powerhouse art name offering custom work for a fashion project, working with living artists has allowed designers to form partnerships that compliment their work. Abloh, for example, has long used text and statements in his clothes, so the text-based work of Holzer is not only in line with his oeuvre, but takes it to another level. Meanwhile Alessandro Michele’s Gucci is a unique, intricate blend of references that teeter on being off-kilter, all too perfectly captured by.
This is not to say that fashion hasn’t collaborated with contemporary female artists before. Under Marc Jacobs, Vuitton has previously worked with the British artist Tracey Emin (2011), and enigmatic star Yayoi Kusama (2012) on special items and exhibitions. Givenchy tapped Marina Abramović to create a space for the house’s Spring 2016 show, and Vanessa Beecroft has helped curate presentations for both Yeezy and Tod’s.
Of the artists being approached for collaborations, many are considered “fashion favorites” in the sense that they have continuously worked with, or inspired the industry—especially if their work connects to fashion in some way. Verhoevan, for example, is also a fashion illustrator who has previously worked with Versace, John Galliano, and Mulberry. Sherman, as a photographer whose work involves subverting notions of beauty, has crafted images for the likes of Balenciaga and Comme Des Garçons. Additionally, being championed by celebrities with strong connections to fashion, such as Lady Gaga and Kanye West, have brought the likes of Abramović and Beecroft into the fashion fold, highlighting their skills for live performance. There are even instances of artists having a little fun at the expense of fashion, like Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (The Drop) performance and Volcom pop-up shop, which incidentally pokes fun at Supreme (the logo for which has long drawn comparison’s to Kruger’s work).
Why female artists specifically seem to be in the spotlight is yet undetermined, but we can theorize. Perhaps it’s because in the current political climate that women are being more prominently featured in fashion (Abloh great women artists.END to add a woman’s voice to his show). Perhaps it is because with a consumer base driven by women, brands and the many male designers mentioned here are looking for ways to connect with those who wear their clothes. Or perhaps there is no gender preference, and artists are simply being tapped for their skills—after all, we’ve spent centuries with men at the forefront of the arts, unquestioned. Maybe now it’s finally time to celebrate
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