Haute couture and the arts have significantly and seamlessly sublimated each other over centuries. The epochal collaboration between Salvador Dalí and Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s comes to mind instantly as we think about the intersection and overlapping of the two disciplines of fashion and art. The duo shared its world canvas to craft seminal pieces like the Lobster Dress. And while we are on the topic, it’s hard not to think of the Vincent van Gogh jackets by Saint Laurent in the Spring/Summer of 1988.
Cut to the present. The Spring/Summer 2023 edition of Paris Haute Couture Week, too, saw French luxury houses exploring the profound impact of art and craft to lend gravitas to their ateliers’ creations. At Chanel, Virginie Viard reached out to artist Xavier Veilhan, who represented France in the 2017 Venice Biennale. The starting point of the Spring-Summer 2023 Haute Couture collection was Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment at 31, rue Cambon. It is the place where Virginie Viard led Xavier Veilhan at the very beginning of their work. It includes a collection of objects, sculptures, and drawings representing lions, stags, birds and camels. “For his third participation, I asked him to reinterpret the apartment’s bestiary and incorporate his own,” she says. “The whole embroidery universe of the collection is turned towards the animal world.” Organic and aligned, these collaborations don’t just add drama and intrigue to haute couture presentations but also create a cultural dialogue and help convey an artist’s viewpoint to a larger audience.
Also worth mentioning is couturier Manish Malhotra’s Diffuse collection of March 2022, which toyed with the modernised and digitised version of the Phulkari art. “Art and couture are both outlets for creative expression. It has historically provided boundless inspiration for fashion makers. The alchemy of mixed cultures and artistic mediums has helped shape collections for many luxury houses. They are bot intrinsically linked, and their impact on each other cannot be defined,” Malhotra believes.
He finds himself most inspired when he encounters art during his travels. “Of late, I launched my Diffuse collection, in a resurgence of wild and vibrant colours and dynamic textures to give an extra edge (to the collection),” he adds.
Designer Gaurav Gupta, who showcased his collection titled ‘Shunya’ at Paris Haute Couture Week last month, doesn’t see a difference between art and couture. “Couture is a form of art; art in its purest form is couture. I feel true couturiers are artists in their own right. And artists from the traditional art world have inspired all of us. For me, it has been surrealists such as Dali and Rene Magritte. Even Antony Gormley who does existential body art sculptures, and Matthew Barney, who has created conceptual videos called The Cremaster Cycle. And a lot of other art which is there in cinema or direction or storytelling or character building, etc. I think where couture and art especially meet in obvious ways is the conceptual thought process. If the thought process is pure and true, and somebody has dived deep in their process, is when true couture and art comes out,” he says.
Designer Shivan Bhatiya of Shivan and Narresh observes that fashion and art have always had a symbiotic connection, often reflecting the socio-cultural sentiments and conversations of the times they prevail and stay inscribed for future generations to refer to and progress in their own ways.
“Art has always been the genesis of our collections over the years, he says. “Often discovered while travelling, the world of art finds us immersed, obsessed deeply, always to come back to the drawing board and abstract, paint, sculpt, sketch our minds with every collection we put out — from couture to prêt. Inspired over the decade by masters like Lucio Fontana, Alexander Calder, Diego Rivera, and Fernand Légèr to artistic styles ranging from Edo, Gond, Pattachitra, and recently the Frescoes of Shekhawati, our label has interpreted artistic aesthetics in its bold and unique manner from prints to textiles. From the painterly quality of our signature prints and the nomenclature of the collections that are always named as series, there is a homage to art in every form.”
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