Fashion and Visual Arts discuss Andy Warhol’s statement that “fashion is more art than art is”
The iconic Pop artist Andy Warhol once said that “fashion is more art than art is.” Durham students Grace Buckley, Jonny Tiplady and Ruo Yu Ow discuss the relationship between art and fashion and the boundaries between these aesthetic practises
When Virgil Abloh’s OFF WHITE stormed the scene nearly a decade ago, streets were suddenly flooded with people sporting Caravaggio works on their clothing. Over the past few decades, art and fashion have become two synonymous outlets for expression. Our bodies to clothing are what canvases are to an artist and their brush. Each garment is like a brushstroke, with different fits conveying certain styles. In any case, we become art itself with our clothing; we are the very message we are trying to demonstrate with our clothing.
Each outfit tells a story just like a song or a portrait would. A student strutting down the Bailey donning stash is an ode of unswerving loyalty. Someone wearing their wavy garm from their ‘gap yah’ captures their former joys of liberation. Whilst art used to be a token of appreciation for Baroque royalty, nowadays it tends to challenge the status quo a lot more. Ai Weiwei is an artist famed for the critiques of the Chinese government in his work. Certain brands like SolidariTee revolve around their intrinsic activism, supporting important causes which have a global influence.
I couldn’t agree more with Warhol’s statement. As a passionate fashion illustrator, I enjoy examining outfits in detail, just like admiring an artwork, before meticulously translating them into my illustrations. To articulate a sense of fashion, one needs to be artistic when selecting materials, imaginative when deciding which patterns or colours to use and as expressive as possible when hurling ideas onto a blank piece of cloth. One needs to start from scratch as they transform inanimate shreds of fabric into a brilliant garment that can deliver pleasurable anticipation to the wearer.
You can see, from a wholesome piece of work, the substantial effort and unquenchable enthusiasm of its designer imprinted on the clothing, hidden within every thread and bead. This is why every fashion designer has their own profound and distinct definition of an impeccable creation of fashion, just like an artist, always aspiring to produce higher standards. It is undeniable that fashion is an art form that exists in our daily life, unconsciously boosting our confidence and expressing our best selves.
The assumption that fashion is not art is partially responsible for the current fast fashion crisis. Fashion is art, visual effect is as important as functionality, and like other art forms, it is highly subjective. Our current approach to clothing devalues the creativity and labour that fuel the fashion industry and a major step in achieving a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry is re-evaluating our relationship with clothes. If this relationship sought to mirror the exchange between fine art and its buyers/viewers, we might be one step closer.
Purchasing fine art is a highly considered process, one which involves much deliberation. Works of fine art remain in galleries and personal collections for decades and often benefit from multiple viewings. The throwaway, seasonal culture surrounding fashion could not be further away from the world of art but making more considered purchases with the intention of keeping them for a long time would help to promote a slower, more moral industry.
Illustrations of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn by Ruo Yu Ow