Recent times have shown many a fashion house re-invigorate their approach to branding – from carting journalists and buyers off to luxuriant hotels to a visible shift in how campaigns are shot. Its newest facet, that of the graphic use of illustration, is perhaps best demonstrated by Prada's Raw Avenue campaign. Today, amidst the frenzy of Paris menswear shows, they have launched a virtual catwalk illustrated by six different artists to showcase their new Raw sunglasses range, uniting an interactive digital platform (you swipe your way through the experience on a touch-screen of your choice) and a brilliant series of artworks from a diverse range of artists to impactful ends.
Fashion has a long-standing intereaction with the arts; from initiatives like Fendi's collaboration with the RCA and their Sophie Taeuber-Arp-inspired collection for A/W15 to Louis Vuitton's partnering with the Chapman Brothers and Cindy Sherman. The two disciplines have clear affiliations with one another and plenty of the best-renowned houses now even have some sort of gallery setup; Cartier, Prada and Louis Vuitton now all have their own artistic foundations and last week even Philip Plein wryly commented that "Maybe one day there will be a Fondazione Plein". During a time where Frieze is becoming a date as important as fashion week on the industry calendar, consolidating the relationship between the two arenas is clearly an astute commercial decision – but here we look at three of our recent favourites that combine the fields for a result more interesting than the impact on their bottom lines.
Prada Raw Avenue
From their recently-renovated Fondazione, including the likes of Damien Hirst and Gerhard Richter, to their distinctly illustrative S/S08 collection and accompanying campaign with artist James Jean, Prada is a brand with a clearly determined relationship with the arts. "Study fashion, study movies, study art and after that study yourself" Miuccia Prada once laughingly told Hans Ulrich Obrist for AnOther Magazine, and her own personal love of the field is clearly reflected throughout the house's consistently considered output.
The Raw Avenue project is part of what the brand terms an "ongoing quest for innovation, research, and exploration to combine different milieus such as fashion, visual design and technology" – and it is this sort of pioneering approach that has come to determine the brand; Mrs Prada always seems to be a few steps (or a few seasons) ahead of the rest of the industry. Using the work of six different illustrators, Prada offers us an abundance of different, interactive visuals to present their Raw Eyewear Collection – to marvellous results that stand alone as artworks in their own right.
Christian Dior's Invitations
In his time, Christian Dior was the director of a Parisian art gallery exhibiting the likes of Salvador Dali and Paul Klee – and since Raf Simons took the creative helm of the brand, he has continued the brand's engagement with the arts. As his right-hand-man Pieter Muller once told us, "his references are a lot of art and architecture" and in this collaboration with Mats Gustafson, Simons shows how he has revitalised the brand's aesthetic while staying true to its origins. When Dior launched their new boutique in the terribly glamorous new location of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the invitation including this work was significantly more chic than an airport might typically demand. Swedish illustrator Gustafon, an artist renowned for his graphic sensibility and fashion collaborations from Comme des Garçons to Nike, created a brilliant interpretation of one of Cruise A/W15's key looks.
A futuristic reimagining of Christian Dior's historic house codes, Raf Simons commented on the collection that, "I tried to imagine a woman who was very much into the language of Dior but she also has her garden, and she has her boyfriend with a motorcycle in the city, or she's with her kids by the sea, or out with her dogs." His understanding of the Dior woman is thoroughly rooted in that of Mr Dior's original customer, as is his understanding of the brand's broader aesthetic, but he has modernised the house to admirable ends.
Objets Hermès A/W15
Another house with a long-standing relationship with the arts is Hermès; Emille Hermès' collection of fine art and strange antiques famously resides in a showroom above the brand's flagship Paris store. Their innovation in their presentation of exhibitions is renowned – their most recent, Flâneur Forever, is held at London's Saatchi Gallery and offers a magical insight into the brand's current theme of the Flâneur through installations and video artistry.
Hermès' A/W15 accessories lookbook uses the illustrations of Serge Bloch – a man whose work for The New York Times' Modern Love column has established him as a contemporary icon – to enliven everything from hats to handbags. It is a joyous exploration of the brand's offerings, presented with a wit that has become a key element of the brand's lexicon; as Artistic Director Pierre-Alexis Dumas once told us, "at Hermès, we are a house making well crafted, unusual objects for professional wanderers!" which seems to be an apt summation of the lookbook itself: well crafted and unusual. Brilliant.