Fashion month is upon us, and the big four fashion capitals are all awash with their own set of street savvy style icons. It’s almost as if, now more than ever, each city is on a mission to outdo the next. This increased creativity has resulted in some seriously distinct shows, but is curating an outfit the same as curating an exhibition? Is sculpting a silhouette similar to sculpting a bust? Are front row selfies really considered photographs? The debate is endless, and the main question posed is this: is fashion an art form? While the jury’s still out on most of these musings, these five designers are covering their bases by experimenting in both fashion as well as art.
Dabbling in art throughout his fashion career, Helmut Lang – like Kenzo – only seriously turned to it following retirement. Selling his share of his company to Prada, Lang spent years in his New York studio producing work to reinvent himself as a visual artist. Honing his attention to sculpture, the ex-fashion designer often takes inspiration from his previous profession in his new creations. Using remains of his archived garments, which were destroyed in a fire, Lang fashioned a series of textile columns – a nod, he says, to the natural world and the power of human industry. The sculptor’s later pieces also reflect on his time in the fashion world, often echoing his former label’s monochromatic palette and minimalist lines.
Upon his retirement, Kenzo Takada swapped pattern cutting for painting and declared, “Art and fashion are really not that different”. It’s certainly clear to see how Kenzo could claim such a thing – his vibrantly patterned self-portraits featured in his debut exhibition bear a stark resemblance to the aesthetic of the clothes by his namesake brand. The eight large-scale self portraits are a nod to Takada’s Japanese roots, and the floral kimono’s illustrated in the paintings would not look out of place in the H&M X Kenzo collaboration.
Nicknaming himself the “Fashion Pope”, Karl Lagerfeld is quick to applaud his achievements in the world of couture. Best known as the creative director for Chanel, Fendi and his own label, Lagerfeld is also a keen photographer and regularly shoots campaigns for his world-famous brands. In addition to fixing his lens on the likes of Hailey Baldwin and his buddy Kendall Jenner for fashion advertisements, the creative also shoots more abstract portraiture, or “contemporary portraits”, as he calls them. Architectural images of his beloved Paris and snapshots of Italian isles can also be found in his portfolio, proving himself to be a very well rounded artist indeed.
Having spent time manning the houses of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent before venturing solo, Tom Ford – the man behind the eponymous label and avid film buff – has also turned his talents towards directing. Wielding a strong passion for filmmaking, Ford claims this artistic endeavour is actually more important to him than his work as a fashion designer. Such enthusiasm is obvious in his two feature films, both of which he paid for in full out of his own pocket. Under the supervision of Ford’s film production company, 2005’s “A Single Man” received rave reviews, collecting Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. 2016’s “Nocturnal Animals” swept up the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, forcing critics to admit that the designer-cum-director’s distinctive visual and narrative skills as inexplicably tantalising.
Giorgio Armani’s decades of experience has given him a great wealth of information on every aspect of the fashion industry. With such vast knowledge and a driving passion for creativity, it was only a matter of time before Armani expended it to the world. In 2015, the menswear mogul established Armani/Silos, a permanent exhibition space in the heart Italy’s fashion capital: Milan. Having helped design the actual building, it is no surprise that the space is fully curated by the man himself. Armani’s fashion history is played out over four floors, categorised in a meticulous manner and minimally detailed. The gallery’s first photography exhibition took place during Milan’s Fashion Week in September of last year, of which the concept, image selection and layout can all be accredited to Armani.