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What do art and fashion have in common?

12.01.2019 | Art

Models doing their thing.

Long ago I had a discussion of the importance of fashion with a guy I knew back then. We discussed fashion's impact on music. Recently I found this spring/summer gucci edition webpage. It looks artsy. So let's try to find where art and fashion differ. And where they might intersect.

I must confess before hand: I see fashion as rather pointless. I have a really hard time adding any other attributes than decadence and business to it. But bias be gone, let's analyze.

Fashion is style. It is what is "in" at the moment regarding hairstyle, clothes or even lifestyle. Since we are targeting the Gucci page, let's focus on the subject "clothes". "in" can have two reasons of justification: a practical one, ex. umbrellas can be thought of as a practical mean that can have some fashionable use. And a "follow the crowd" one, this covers the practical as well: what is "in" is so because everyone is conforming to it.

Art on the other hand is a quite diverse subject. Let's just say that art is creating something with some sort of artistic message. This message needs a receiver for whom the message has to deal some kind of artistic impression. I can hang my guitar upside down on the wall and call it art. And nobody else probably agrees. But then some person sees that my guitar depicts society as the song Wonder wall just turned upside down. One thing one needs to posses in order to be artistic, is some form of craftsmanship - a drummer that can't keep time, might have hard time appealing to his audience. As goes with a piano player that do not know any chords. Or a writer that do not know any language. If you as a painter only are capable of drawing red circles, you might have a hard time distribute artistic messages. This is exemplified further down, but the concern is that art is hard to define.

Alas the Gucci page is related to paintings. I haven't studied many of those. But let's analyze anyway. The page consists mostly of people wearing Gucci clothes. The first page is what is presumably two girls wearing a kind of 3d glasses not unlike those found in movie theaters. Though these are covered with some kind of glimmering stones. Next page is a girl floating midst waterlilies under dragonflies. Besides is a picture of a Gucci bag placed like a gem between lotus flowers. Underneath is sitting three girls on a bench wearing a mix of trailer park clothes and oriental dresses. Hopefully these pictures are not stolen from famous drawings. Hopefully since I then fail to recognize them. The page goes on like this. Each section resembles a painting involving people in different situations wearing Gucci clothes.

Is this art? Art needs a message and an accepting receiver. We can start by listing some useful actions for messages:

  • To provoke: This is quite often seen in art. This kind of art typically targets your ignorance, your lifestyle or hypocritically behavior. The work of polish Pawel Kuczynski is a fine example. A lot of his work is geared towards our use of Facebook, exploitation of the poor and so on.
  • To make comment on society: This is a bit like the above. Though provoking seems to target individuals. So society comments can be a lot more complex. Movie wise one of my favorites is A Clockwork Orange - the movie about how difficult violence is to deal with, and how members of the society, as well as the leaders of ditto, do not care for much else than what is self beneficial. The photographer Don McCullin have taken some very haunting war pictures.
  • To exhibit absurdities/to reach places only imaginable: The first painter that comes to mind is Salvador Dali. Readings by Franz Kafka - these are also very critical on society. And from my childhood during elementary school I remember one particular painting of never ending stairs by M. C. Escher.
  • To exhibit beauty: Fellini's film La Dolce Vita is a good example. So is Sorrentino's The Great Beauty. Or The Conformist - this one is very critical (what else can one be) about Franco's totalitarian reign of Spain. But even more so: In high school I did a project on Nabokov's Lolita. The book is full of remarks on society and culture. But the language of the book, on which I did my rapport, is immensely beautiful.

Now does the Gucci webpage provoke in any manner? Hardly. It is not like it puts any of my ignorance or sad human behavior out there on display.

Does the Gucci page make any mark on society? Even more hardly. If anything it tries to focus my interest around a brand. For some people it might make a negative remark on materialism - but I'm sure this is unintended.

Does the Gucci page exhibit absurdities or stimulate my imagination? No. The page itself is quite imaginatively done, but the message of it isn't. It tries to picture you as a Gucci person. And it tries to relate to you with tired (and not very imaginative) slogans like "Lenon - Goodbye". Thus though being imaginative, it doesn't message you any cognitive insight.

So does the page exhibit beauty? And here it gets a bit interesting. You can argue that it does. The rapport I did on Lolita were about stylistics. And the webpage is quite coherent in style: women in sky with omniscient glasses, birds flying around. Oriental kimonos mixed with waterlilies and lotus blossoms. A renaissance intellectual (didn't Newton have that kind of hair and beard?) on a silk chair placed on a moving chess board. Angels and mermaids. Thunder and Pegasuses.

As for the beauty aspect goes: I would certainly argue that the page is artistic. Though the mesmerizing language of Humbert Humbert (Nabokov) in Lolita is there to create some sort of anti hero - an intellectual you both adore and hate - the style of the page is there to sell clothes to you. But this is the beauty of art, it creates some kind of dimension for manipulation. In Lolita nothing is lost by letting Vladimir Nabokov manipulate you through the use of language. In the situation of the Gucci web page you might lose money, I think Gucci is a rather expensive clothing brand. In the situation of Franco, however, manipulation is far more serious business. That is we can see beauty art as setting up a dimension in which you are painted a persona through the language. Quite harmless. Or maybe you are manipulated to buy clothes. For most people somewhat harmless. Or you are manipulated into totalitarianism. Quite scary. Still the art only encompasses the dimension - like the trickery done by a magician (the artist).

Now back to the main question: Is fashion art? What happens if you remove the webpage, take the clothes down from the shelf of an expensive looking store, throw it in a pile on the floor of a cheap ass super market and mark each piece with a 10$ price tag? Even in those catwalks the clothes are accompanied by music, lights and distinct walking people.

Conclusion: In no way can fashion be anything without art. But also in now way can I be made to see haute couture as anything but a way to hide how we on the one end strive to be as anybody else (accepted by the most amount of people possible), and on the other end are obsessed with collecting shiny objects (adored by the most amount of people possible). That is: fashion is our need to showcase our self in the most fashionable way. Where art is to send some sort of message that challenge the receiver on that persons ability to interpret.

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