Palette pleasers: the fashion designers taking inspiration from the art world

Ellen Millard

24 November 2020

Joining forces with leading artists across the globe, fashion houses such as Dior, Louis Vuitton and BOSS have reinterpreted sculptures, paintings and illustrations as wearable works of art

24 November 2020 | Ellen Millard

In a visual homage, Californian artist Henry Taylor has transposed a portrait of his friend Noah Davis, the late American painter and installation artist, onto a Louis Vuitton bag. Produced using cutting-edge laser printing and traditional marquetry techniques, the artist’s A Young Master comes to life on leather using 2D and 3D printing methods to replicate his original brushstrokes. Interrupted only by an ivory white LV logo, the portrait forms a striking sculptural bas-relief on the taupe Taurillon leather.

Louis Vuitton's Artycapucines collection

It is one of six limited edition totes that make up the Artycapucines collection, a collaboration between Louis Vuitton and a group of international artists, which first launched in 2019. This second iteration sees Taylor, along with fellow creatives Josh Smith, Beatriz Milhazes, Liu Wei, Jean-Michel Othoniel and Zhao Zhao, transform a Capucines bag into a work of art.

Art and fashion have long been intertwined. Salvador Dalí and Elsa Schiaparelli were among the first to bring the two mediums together, his Lobster Telephone inspiring her Lobster dress, a white organza evening gown emblazoned with a scarlet red crustacean. Coco Chanel called Shiaparelli “the Italian artist who makes clothes”, and she didn’t mean it kindly, despite herself partnering with Pablo Picasso on the costumes and backdrops for the Ballet Russes. Yves Saint Laurent, too, would frequently seek inspiration in the art world, producing A-line dresses using reproductions of modernist paintings by Piet Mondrian in the 1960s, and a couture collection inspired by the works of Henri Matisse in the 1980s.

Justin Teodoro for BOSS

In 2020, the art and fashion nexus has been revived. A number of designers have reached out to the art world for collaborative efforts for their AW20 and SS21 collections, producing limited-edition, wearable works of art that use the body as a blank canvas.

At Dior Men's, a single artist has informed the SS21 collection. Ghana-born, Vienna-trained painter Amoako Boafo first met the artistic director of Dior Men's, Kim Jones, in 2019 at the Rubell Museum in Miami. Enamoured with Boafo’s fingerpaint masterpieces, Jones decided to build the entire Dior Men’s collection around his artworks. The artist’s influence can be felt throughout the collection: cashmere turtlenecks feature characters from Boafo’s paintings; a jacquard of paintbrush strokes is inspired by a photograph Jones took in the artist’s studio; and prints are drawn from graphic patterns that characterise his work. Perhaps most prominent of all is Boafo’s favoured colour palette: lemon yellow, blue, coral and green.

Jean-Michel Basquiat x Coach, uk.coach.com

Fashion designer-turned-illustrator Justin Teodoro, meanwhile, has found himself returning to his roots, creating a capsule collection in collaboration with BOSS. The New York-based artist’s sketches of hearts, stars and a reinterpretation of the fashion house’s logo transform classic BOSS basics into whimsical works of art, with hot pink hearts and cobalt blue stars stamped onto T-shirts and pussy-bow blouses, embroidered onto knitwear and hidden within the lining of vibrant two-piece suits. Trainers feature printed soles and leather accessories are adorned with playful motifs.

At Coach, creative director Stuart Vevers took the opportunity to champion a favourite artist of his own, working closely with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s family to produce a ready-to-wear clothing range and a series of complementing accessories that encapsulate the late artist’s vision. For AW20, his iconic primitive graffiti is reimagined as graphic prints and charming motifs.

Stella McCartney SS21 campaign, shot by Mert & Marcus; K is for Kind by Jeff Koons

For her AW20 range, Tory Burch looked to her personal art collection for inspiration. An avid ceramics collector, the designer bought one of artist Francesca DiMattio’s first sculptural pieces in 2012, not long after the artist had decided to move away from painting. Eight years of friendship and mutual admiration has led to a collaborative collection for the new season, a ready-to-wear range adorned with bodacious prints taken directly from DiMattio’s artworks. For Burch’s fashion show in New York in February, models strutted down the runway flanked by the artist’s real sculptures.

Not just a creative outlet, art acts as a vehicle to inspire forces for change. Stella McCartney, a long-term pioneer of sustainability, found lockdown only served to cement her passion for environmentalism. The result is an alphabetised manifesto that acts as a blueprint for her fashion house’s future intentions. Each letter stands for a different objective – A, for example, is for Accountability, while O is for Organic and Z is for Zero waste. To illustrate it, the designer commissioned 26 international artists, including the likes of Jeff Koons, Peter Blake, Cindy Sherman, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Mert and Marcus to produce an artwork for each letter. It’s a mission statement for a brighter future, and a poignant reminder that, even in the darkest of times, creativity prevails.