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Art-inspired fashion on the comeback

An age-old trend of using artists’ work as inspiration is returning at home and on international runways.

fashion and trends Updated: Jun 11, 2014 19:59 IST
Shweta Mehta Sen

In 1965, Yves Saint Laurent designed a shift dress so iconic that after a 2002 retrospective of the designer, it’s now housed in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. What’s so special about, it? It’s based on one of Mondrian’s most memorable works, titled Composition.

Fashion is considered art by itself, but it draws influence from other forms too — painting, sculpture, etc. “Art and architecture have always been a source of inspiration for me,” says designer Narendra Kumar, whose most recent collection draws from late American abstract artist Franz Kline. He adds, “His thought process was what I implemented. The story of my show was about a musician who performed live for us, while Kline was present in the colours.”

A growing tribe
Designer Aartivijay Gupta’s latest range — a celebrity favourite — has an array of Indian miniature paintings on her creations. Then there are designers like Nisha Sainani, who have artwork specially created for them. Artist Vineeta Nair came up with vintage prints for her summer 2014 collection.

Even internationally, designers can’t get enough of artwork — old and new. Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall 2013 range featured mosaics from Sicily’s Cathedral of Monreale. More recently, Jonathan Saunders revealed that the vivid colours of his spring/summer 2014 range were inspired by English abstract sculptor Anthony Caro; and Rodarte recently had a Vincent van Gogh line.

Permissions involved?
Kumar says that since he didn’t really lift Kline’s work directly, there were no legalities involved. Sainani, on the other hand, says that the art in question was created only for the collection, and hence, it’s a property of the label. “Vineeta was involved in conceptualising the range, but from fabric printing to garment construction, that was all my domain,” she says.

Here to stay
A buyer from a prominent multi-designer store, on the condition of anonymity, tells us that while the idea of using popular artwork on clothes might seem gimmicky, sales figures prove that the customer is more than willing to wear their art on their sleeves, literally. “All these recent ranges, including the ones we don’t stock ourselves, have done noteworthy business, especially Gupta’s easy-to-wear range,” says the buyer.