Is Fashion Art?

Few academic questions irritate me as much as the age old cliché: “What is art?” But what about fashion? Is fashion art? It would require answering the first to get to the bottom of the latter. Fashion’s reputability in the art world is gaining more traction internationally with fashion curator Olivier Saillard taking over as director of the Musée de la Mode in Paris and the recurring hype of New York’s Met Galas and newly named Anna Wintour Constume Center. Collaborations between art world and fashion designers are nothing new – most famously occurring between Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dalí, which leads us to the imagined impossible conversation that was subject to Met Gala of two years past, and which deals with this very question of whether fashion holds a place in the umbrella industry that is the art world. I’m with Elsa. Whose side are you on, Prada or Schiaparelli?

Elsa Schiaparelli: You know, Miuccia, I’ve always felt, and after talking to you I’m even more sure: fashion is art. Prada: I always said, for me, fashion is not art. Schiaparelli: Oh, of course it is! That’s why I collaborated with these other artists — the greatest thrill of my career, oh my God, the things I did with Dali! Lobster dresses, skeleton dresses, shoe hats, desk suits… Prada: I was taught, and I agree, that your collaboration with Dali and other artists of your time was the only real relevant experiment that really was meaningful. It was not a joke, it was a serious moment when serious minds were collaborating. Schiaparelli: If I don’t say so myself, it was revolutionary. You should try, Miuccia. Prada: Today everything is so contrived and anything you do is under observation. So in a way, there is not even the same freedom to work with artists because immediately you think about what the comments will be. ‘Ah, yes, art and fashion…’ So I avoid that subject completely. Schiaparelli: For me, if I hadn’t been a designer, I would have liked to have been a sculptor. Coco even said of me that I was that designer who wanted to be an artist… Prada: Fashion is art, fashion is not art. But at the end, who cares? Image via Vogue.com

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