ARTWRITE #21: Art & Fashion

From Inspiration to Collaboration

July 21, 2021

The credit for the marriage between fine art and fashion goes to Yves Saint Laurent. By 1965, the sack dress had thankfully evolved into a narrower silhouette. That's when the designer, an artist and art collector, realized that the planes of the shift dress would be an ideal canvas for color blocking. Looking to Piet Mondrian's primary colors and linear arrangements, he chose "Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow" (1929). The iconic Mondrian dress was born, and so was the bond between fashion and art. 

In the decades that followed, art would continue to be a muse for fashion. Typically, designers would mine the work of artists, dead or alive, to catalyze individual looks or whole collections (ModeArte has great examples of pairings). Recently, a few houses have partnered with contemporary artists. But since Saint Laurent, there hasn’t been much significant innovation in how the creative worlds intersect. Until now.  

Last week in Venice, Pierpaolo Piccoli, Creative Director for Valentino, showed 20 pieces in the 2021-22 Autumn/Winter Haute Couture collection that resulted from a collaboration between the atelier and 16 contemporary visual artists.

"Des Ateliers” was designed to create conversation and celebrate teamwork. Piccoli, the gifted craftspeople at Valentino, and the artists went back and forth, speaking, exchanging work, sketches, and video notes (only four artists were in Rome). Vanessa Friedman called it "as powerful an argument for the interconnectedness of time, human connection and creativity as anything fashion has produced.” From videos that captured the process behind the scenes and the spectacular show at the Arsenale in Venice, it’s clear that this "collab" was at a whole other level.

Sadly, none of the press coverage included photos of the art that Piccioli translated into the looks. They give some of the artists' names, but how hard is it to show examples of the art or even link to the artists' websites?

I wasn't planning on doing this issue but threw it together in two days because someone had to pair the artwork with Piccioli's creations. Seeing them side by side is the only way to appreciate how well Valentino's atelier distilled elements of the paintings then imbued them with contour, dimension, and movement.

ArtWrite is about celebrating the creative process. When you see how the house of Valentino does it, it's remarkable.

One more thing that's nagging me: According to Piccioli, fashion isn't art because it "always has a practical scope, while art is an end in itself." I disagree. Haute couture is only "practical" for the 0.0001% of people who get to wear it. For plebeians like the rest of us, the fashion you're about to see is art.

Andrea Respino

Anastasia Bay

Figures from the painting were translated into prints, patchworks, and patterns.

Patricia Treib

Treib is the only artist whose work I was familiar with. I’m a huge fan and love how her brushwork can look like calligraphy, musical notes, or even Hebrew letters. 

Incredible, right? The program for the show in Venice credits the teams behind each look and provides details about the production process.

Benni Bosetto

The fleeting, gestural lines that appear to be printed and painted on the cashmere ensemble are the result of 880 hours of hand-stitched embroidery.

Alessandro Teoldi

Jamie Nares

The finale look in Venice had a fitting papal sensibility. Jamie Nares told ArtNet that she had no idea the robe would serve as the finale look until the day before the show. "It’s a great honor to be given that place,” she said. “And the dress was incredible. The delicacy and intricacy of the stitching and the folds and sculpting of the fabric—it gave me a great respect for the work that they do.”

Custom screens were used to hand-print brushstrokes to white cady silk. 700 hours for this stunning piece.

Guglielmo Castelli

"The fusion of the two paintings is enhanced by the flattening effect obtained by the application of white, pale blue, and pink faille. Scattered islands of micro-prints articulate the animalier areas of the painting. Patches of hand-sewn sequins illuminate the areas of brushwork.”

Joel S. Allen

Katrin Bremermann

Malte Zenses

Wui Rui

Lucas Coser

Francis Offman

Sofia Silva