Lifestyle Fashion and Beauty 13 Nov 2016 Life’s imitation g ...

Life’s imitation game

Published Nov 13, 2016, 12:26 am IST
Updated Nov 13, 2016, 12:30 am IST
Art imitates life, which imitates art. Fashion has evolved with some great artists and their works.
The Andy Warhol-inspired Gianni Versace dress.
 The Andy Warhol-inspired Gianni Versace dress.

You can either be a work of art or you can wear one. – Oscar Wilde. And mulling over this, here is a look at some of the most flamboyant, daring and inspired pieces of art that have gone about town calling themselves fashion (or is it the other way around?)

Wilde holds that anti-mimesis, “Results not merely from life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of life is to find expression, and that art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realise that energy.”
With the lines between fashion and art drawing thin, the community of artists constantly inspiring designers across the globe and designers getting more daring, whimsical and expressive with every new season, is art imitating life or the other way round? The collaboration between art and fashion is an osmosis that has permeated through time. Let’s have a look at the most noteworthy examples of this cross over.


The lobster dress: Label: Elsa Schiaparelli
Year: 1937

Around 1937, and between the two World Wars, the boundaries of what is called art and the artists’ perception were being pushed by the likes of Salvador Dali. Around the same time Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the most imaginative and prominent fashion figures. Dali’s refreshingly indulgent perspective lent itself to her whimsical approach to fashion. It was the meeting of these minds that gave us the Lobster dress in 1937. The simple white silk piece featured a giant lobster painted by Dalí and was a playful homage to his 1934 creation New York Dream-Man Finds Lobster in Place of Phone. Equally celebrated in Schiaparelli’s impressive catalogue is the wonderfully surreal Shoe Hat, made by Schiaparelli and designed by Dalí. The hat, fashioned into a woman’s high-heeled shoe, was modelled by Dalí’s wife Gala, and featured in Schiaparelli’s Fall-Winter 1937-38 collection.


“Neoplasticism” and colour blocking – who would have thought it!
Label: Yves Saint Laurent
Year: 1965

No art and fashion collaboration list would be complete without the classic and iconic Yves Saint Laurent dress inspired by artist Piet Mondrian. Saint Laurent released the 1965 dress for the Autumn season; its simple A-line, and tidy shift silhouette was typical of the mid-sixties. What was perhaps less typical was the clear allusion Saint Laurent was making to Mondrian in his uses of graphic black lines (running both horizontally and vertically) and white and primary colour blocks. Its seamlessness is deceiving — the dress is made up of many individual pieces of wool jersey and was hand-assembled to hide obvious seaming. This dress is not only an icon for Western fashion but also records the importance of Mondrian’s work during the period of the 1960s.


On my last tryst with the TATE Modern, while I was contemplating cubism, little did I know that fashion took a page from this art form. The fashionable cubism became just about as iconic on the runways as Piet Mondrian was in the art gallery.

More than just Campbell soup!
Label: Gianni Versace
Year: 1991

Finally, we wind the clock back to the ever-innovative master of multi-displinary art, Andy Warhol. The Pop Art genius had a long-standing fascination with fashion dating back long before the days of fame and The Factory.
His interest in fashion and the famous is clearly represented in his body of work. Andy Warhol’s imprint into fashion history was cemented by the 1991 pop art collection by Gianni Versace. Versace, the label has since made this approach to fashion with bold, abstract and art inspired prints a signature across their collections.


With the line between art and fashion dwindling, what is given in life is expression that celebrates the human form. Whether art crosses over to fashion or fashion crosses over to art, the minds behind these collaborations meld into one vision. A vision that’s refreshing, a vision that inspires a vision that bold and not necessarily for the pragmatic. While I continue to contemplate art and embrace the best of fashion, until next time,  keep it sharp!

— A fashion aficionado, film maker, script writer, stylist and marketing junkie, the writer indulges in the latest fashion and drives fashion marketing  for brands like Breakbounce Streetwear and the youth brands under FLF.