Art and Fashion: The Ultimate Collaborations

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Merce Cunningham x Rei KawakuboCourtesy of Chronicle Books

What happens when the worlds of high fashion and art join forces? Fashion historian E.P. Cutler charts the most sensational collisions in a brand new book

The worlds of art and fashion are long intertwined; from Elsa Schiaparelli’s collaborations with Salvador Dalí and Jackson Pollock’s with Cecil Beaton, all the way through to Louis Vuitton with The Chapman Brothers and Prada with Elmgreen + Dragset. To celebrate the interaction between the two disciplines, fashion historian E.P. Cutler has compiled 25 of the most influential pairings and published a book, aptly titled Art + Fashion: Collaborations and Connections Between Icons, which explores creative relationships past and present. Here, she explores five of her favourites, exclusively for

Merce Cunningham x Rei Kawakubo
“Rei Kawakubo’s ‘Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body’ collection (Spring/Summer 1997) inherently begs the question: Where does the dress end and the body begin? It’s delicious to contemplate. One should. When Kawakubo’s work became costuming for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the bulbous attire distorted how the dancers navigated space and it complicated their movements. Dancer Jennifer Googans revealed, ‘There was a section of choreography where I had to lay down and then roll onto my stomach. The pillows made this movement quite challenging. I flopped, more than rolled, and it was difficult for me to do so without laughing.’ So,where does the garment end and the dance begin?”

Nick Cave x Raymond Meier for Vogue
“Artist Nick Cave’s Sound Suits, captured by Swiss photographer Raymond Meier for the September 2010 issue of Vogue, may look like posh Muppets. The larger-than-life wearable-sculptures appear joyful, especially when accompanied by Pierre Hardy boots (swoon!) and J. Mendel blue fox mittens (yes, please!). But, Cave’s Sound Suits were born in response to police brutality (namely: Rodney King) and the ugly state of race relations in America, which necessitates armor. As for the sounds they make, he considers them to be akin to a protest cry. As Nick Cave said: ‘In order to be heard, you have to speak louder.’”

Yasumasa Morimura x Issey Miyake
“Designer Issey Miyake became entranced with the ‘rhythm pleats’ featured in Henri ‘Douanier’ Rousseau’s painting The Dream (1910), and began playing with pleating. Miyake perfected the ‘recipe’ by 1993, when he debuted his Pleats Please line. Miyake’s pleats are technically impressive. A garment is made two-and-a-half to three times larger than the end result. It is folded, ironed, sewn-over, and then placed between washi paper before being heat-pressed, where it shrinks down to size. In 1996, Miyake undertook a new challenge with his Guest Artist Series by printing their art on oversize garments, which were then pleated with such precision as to not distort their original work. The first artist to collaborate with Miyake was Osaka-native Yasumasa Morimura. For the collaboration, appropriation artist Morimura intertwined his body with a female nude from Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’s La Source (1856). That’s how three artists, born in three different centuries, and one designer make a dress.”

Louis Vuitton (under Kim Jones) x The Chapman Brothers
“Considering how out there brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman are (Who thinks they can do Goya better than Goya?! Who imagines Hitler as a hippy?!), their collab with Kim Jones for Louis Vuitton menswear in Autumn/Winter 2013-14 was relatively tame, artistically-speaking… for them. Granted, fashion-wise, wearing a jacket with eyeballs on it is pretty ballsy.”

Elmgreen + Dragset x Prada
“Cowboys, lorry drivers, and jumping Beyoncé! The sands of the Texas desert will eventually swallow this 2005 Prada store installation by Michael Elmgreen + Ingar Dragset. And then rabid fashion followers of the future will probably dig it up again. Here’s hoping.” 

Art and Fashion: Collaborations and Connections Between Icons by E.P. Cutler and Julien Tomasello, published by Chronicle Books, is available now.