The dilemma about whether fashion is art or a craft still is has been a subject for debates since the 50s. The developments in the past four decades suggest that fashion has become a subject for entertainment, commerce, source and a participant in photography art, and at the same time industry. The process of the creation of fashion undergoes through all those levels and the thread that gave birth to the final product gets lost at the end. It is obvious that the question “Is fashion are or craft” is becoming rhetoric.
As a rhetoric question it implies numerous discussions, theories, movements, campaigns, but a unanimous answer is absent. In fact, there is no answer, or the answer should be very narrow and refer to a specific collection of a designer. Whether fashion is art at the very first stage, when it starts getting shape in the mind of the designer, or it is art when is in its final shape and expresses the inner world of the designer has raised numerous questions which will be discussed in this paper. My personal perception of fashion is neither of the listed; for me it is lifestyle.
It is an essence of the routine life. For one group of people it is prioritized more, for the others less. Ready-to-wear lines of different houses accommodate themselves into the industrial mode without leaving the fashion trend aside. The costumers perceive the final product as an item for practical usage which is in trend. The product is offered as an item for practical usage, not as a piece of art. The industrial character of fashion does not seek art critique but mass appreciation and sales.
A lot depends on the perception of the audience about fashion. The masses to whom the marketing and PR is directed to as costumers. Do they perceive fashion as art? Most probably not, instead, fashion is a practical way to wear what they would like to wear, to entertain and add interest in their lives. While discussing the characteristics of fashion, Louise de Caires, Creative Director of Fashion Awareness Direct said in an interview; “If fashion is art, art has its own way of communicating, its own ‘tools’ for communicating.
Art uses pictures not words to communicate, to convey a message. It communicates through symbols and visual shorthand. Read in this language of color, cut, texture, detail, clothing can both be a reflection and a symbol, an arrow pointing from outside to within, from the physical and the concrete form, from the city’s physical material, of glass, building and stone, to its soul, its spirit, its essence. I mean this in the sense that the stones clothe the spirit; the flesh clothes the soul… ultimately clothes express the wearer’s inner core.”
Thus, she confirms that fashion is art. She describes the environment how the fashion is born and how it lives in a very beautiful way. Indeed, the process itself resembles the evolution of the idea and its incarnation in flesh on flesh. It is still art when starts to blossom in the hands of professionals and personalities with top creativeness and taste. But, is fashion always art? The communication of the work, the masterpiece makes it look like a masterly defined PR campaign, another tool to fool minds and promote sales.
Fashion shows, fashion photographers, who in their turn promote themselves as artists in this narrow field, the entire mass media and the entertainment commerce are all turning the fashion, if it is art, into a subject for mass commerce, trying to reach as much audience as possible. I agree that fashion is indeed art in its first stage of birth, when the vision the designer has is still in the head of the designer, and on the paper in from of the designer.
The binding rules of the commerce will never allow fashion have the purity of art, it will always be surrounded by celebrities, again striving to reach as much audience as possible, tabloid media and low cost attitude on the red carpets. True art, serious art can not be part of the described environment.
Boris Moshkovits criticizes the commercialization of art in general with all his might in an article entitled “art is entertainment is art is entertainment is art........... ” He says; “Levi's, Altoids, Gucci, Virgin, Armani, British Airways, Prada and art. What's the connection? Advertisement and sponsorship seem to be the simple answer, but what goes beyond these two parameters. Commercial illustrators, ad professionals, and marketing executives are seeking inspiration in the art world, which leads to campaigns such as the Levi's billboard's copying Gillian Wearing's photo's of people holding up signs with their deepest thoughts. ” The approach of Boris Moshkevits brings forth the contemporary tendencies in the world.
It reveals the destroying character of globalization and binding rules of Public Relations. The boarders between art and non-art have become very flexible. Traditional art starts to lose its quality and become non-art. If music is art, then what is Hip Hop? “Today Hip-Hop musicians like Sean Combs AKA Puffy and Russell Simmons, head of DefJam records and Godfather of hip-hop have more impact on contemporary America than any other artists”, he says. Mass Media, the most powerful tool in communication, dictates the shape and mode for art and culture.
The claim of Moshkevits about fashion is very short and to the point; “Fashion fatale - not all fashion is art. ” The sociologist and anthropologist, Joanne Finkelstein notes; “Fashion now functions as a form of global entertainment reported in the nightly television news broadcast - the romances, wild escapades and indiscretions of the fashion industry's supermodels and the occasional political insensitivities of its flamboyant designers all fuel the gossipy tabloids, and sometimes ignite the mad indignation of the international press”.
It is indisputable that there are close ties between fashion and art, very often they are interfused. Very often the aim of the designer makes fashion art by discussing how to offer the collection to the general public and what to communicate with it and makes it closer to the art. Ian Griffiths brings several examples of fashion exhibitions (the word exhibition itself excludes elements of show and commercial orientation) in the book The Fashion Business: Theory, Practice, Image co-authored with Nicola White. Martin Margiela is introduced first as an artist.
“Martin Margiela has frequently exhibited work in art galleries and museums of modern art, contexts which invite art criticism. ... A “C. V. ” supplied by Maison Margeila showed that the company has shown work at the Florence Biennale on Fashion and Art (1996), the Kyoto Museum of Modern Art (1999), Musee de L'Art Moderne (1993), Musee de l'Art Contemporain de Marseille (1996), Fri-Art Centre d'Art Contemporain, Kunsthalle, Friborg (1998), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1999 and 2000). ” The book opens a new angle for debate. For being a piece of art, the work should lead to art criticism.
Ian Griffiths notices that more and more students of fashion design tend to urge that fashion is art. He highlights the fact that a number of Kingston University students referred certain avantgarde designers should be regarded in a different context, and subjected to a different critique, namely that of art. “I have noticed that some students consider an elite of avant-garde designers such as Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and Martin Margiela as being exempt from, or superior to the commercial considerations to which others are subject.
There is a tendency to look at the word of these designers more as vehicles for self-expression than as products conceived, consciously or unconsciously to appeal to a group of people who are consumers. Like Luigi Maramotti, I believe that a designed garment becomes “fashion” only when it has passed through some kind of system and became a product,” Ian Griffiths says. Another controversial issue that critiques raise; whether disputes over fashion and art do not express the intention of the designers to add more value to their activities and their work, to priorities and add some mystique by referring to fashion as art.
Ian Griffiths recalls his conversation with Maison Margiela when he received the following explanation; We live in a period in which we tend to prefer to over associate and interpret events, issues and movements in culture and taste rather than “under-interpret them. There are, in our opinion, two main ways of forcing a link between the worlds of art and fashion, firstly the artistic references of any one garment or group or group of garments, the second is the artistic quality of any one designer’s approach to their work and their expression as a creator of clothing.”
World of fashion is very compelling, wild and unpredictable. The world history has moved along with the fashion trends. The memories about centuries and cultures have acquired shape also in the images of clothing. Our imagination categorizes historical events and mankind history by automatically attaching the specific garments and peculiar elements to the centuries, social classes and gender. Fashion is not art, it is part of our lives, it is the style of our lives and the image of generations.