Thoughts: Is Fashion Art?


Fashion is fun. Fashion is freedom. Fashion is a statement. But is fashion art?

Normally, polar questions are not meant to be complex at all as they can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. But not in this case it seems. A lot of mixed opinions and controversy have been brought up through this simple question. Is fashion art?

It almost seems like black and white. One side, including Zandra Rhodes (Founder of the Fashion and Textile Museum in London), would definitely say “yes, fashion is art.” It can be a form of self expression and creativity. But the other side, including Alice Rawsthorn (Former Director of the Design Museum in London), thinks “no, fashion is definitely not art.” Fashion simply can not be art as it has a purpose, a function that one needs. And within the past decades, especially with the fast fashion movement, fashion has become too commercial to be an art form. Clothing is nowadays made and bought to a) make money, b) be worn and cover the body up and/or c) to satisfy the shopaholics and give them the opportunity to own something that is a replicate to the piece their favourite TV character has worn in last week’s episode. Mostly, it is all of the above. And therefore, fashion clearly has a purpose and has completely lost its creative factor.

But what about haute couture? What about those crazy, funky and weird but wonderful shapes and beautiful dresses that no one can really wear on a normal day? Haute Couture is french for “high sewing” and is a very exclusive collection that is shown twice a year. It focuses on quality, details and uniqueness and is not meant for the public. Other than showcasing a designer’s creativity and genius it definitely does not have a practical purpose.

Especially as I am currently working on a branding project on Comme des Garçons’ spring/summer 2016 collection, I definitely think that fashion can be true art. The mentioned collection is a wild mix of different materials and fabrics, paired with unexpected combinations, contrasts and asymmetry. Just like painters are using paint on a canvas designers are using fabrics on the human body. This creates a very dynamic and lively display; the fabric flows, the model moves, showcasing the creation in a special way. Does this prove that fashion is an art form? Or does fashion only become art when it is haute couture? Is it just an exception? Either way, you all know what they are saying: exceptions prove the rule.

I guess in the end both sides are true. Our everyday, normal clothing is not necessary art. It is meant for the mass, has the purpose to dress us and is very commercial. The haute couture designs for the catwalk however are unique and show a designer’s genius. There is a fine line between art and commerciality it seems. But either way, fashion is fun. Fashion is freedom. Fashion is a statement. And so is art. Art is a for of expression and communication. Art can be anything and everything and should not be defined.

What do you think? Is fashion art? Is it purely clothing to you? Or do you not really care at all? Let me know in the comments below!

Inspired by my DVC lecture “fashion as art”

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