Is fashion art? An answer to that eternal question was once offered by Pierre Bergé, who said: “fashion is not art, but it needs an artist to create it”. But that didn’t stop Miuccia Prada from collaborating with no less than eight illustrators to take inspiration from comics, nor Rei Kawakubo from applying paintings by Guiseppe Arcimboldo and multidimensional graffiti to her sculptural volumes. And as for Donatella Versace, she reprinted Andy Warhol works and pop art Vogue covers all over her outfits to give the 90s look a fantasy twist. In this article, I want to talk about pop art fashion influence on modern collections, you are about to see stunning prints and colors that can be worn in real life. Get inspired and see what's trending right now!
Just as Pop Art challenged traditional fine art values after World War II, newly mass-produced fashions fueled by consumerism emerged to usurp fashion as a pastime for only the elite. In the mid-1950s, Pop Art had sacked the prevailing hierarchy of culture by celebrating commonplace objects and everyday life. A painting of a can of Campbell’s soup suddenly had the appeal of a Henri Matisse. At the same time, inexpensive retailers like Marks & Spencer began taking over from Parisian designers who had dominated the markets with expensive haute couture. It only made sense then that fashion designers eagerly began adopting the bold expressionism chief to the Pop Art aesthetic and using its irony to democratize fashion for the masses. Goodbye dull black and navy tailored suits, hello punchy bright print miniskirts.
We often see fashion designers referencing eras of art or taking elements of design from art to create clothing or even directly sampling prints and paintings in their textiles (here’s looking at you, Raf Simons). Commercial partnerships are also commonly formed these days where designers collaborate directly with artists on their collections. This synergistic fusing of creative talent wasn’t always the norm, however. Rather it was during the Pop Art era that fashion designers and artists began socializing in the same circles, influencing one another and sharing a culture.
Andy Warhol was one of these mingling artists who developed tight-knit friendships with designers. Long before Taylor Swift was forming famous friendships and building a squad, Warhol was hosting celebrity-packed hangouts at his studio The Factory. Warhol began his career as a fashion illustrator for magazines like Vogue, so it made sense then that he was one of the first Pop Art icons to make a mark on the fashion world by turning his art into paper dresses. As a disposable garment, the paper dresses were the ultimate statement on consumerist lifestyles with his Campbell’s The Souper Dress becoming the most recognizable and popular.
Later on, fashion designers began incorporating his prints on their garments, like Gianni Versace for his Spring 1991 collection and thereafter Christian Dior as well. Long before those collections, however, Warhol’s good friend Yves Saint Laurent produced a show in 1966 titled the Pop Art collection that openly referenced this art revolution. His lively, everyday accessible collection was a big success, proving that fashion is best enjoyed when you can have a little fun with it.
Since Saint Laurent’s collection, fashion continued to evolve more toward a format to be enjoyed by everyone in a more wearable and affordable manner. Some designers have even emerged that base their overall design philosophy on this democratizing of fashion — a direct salute to the values underlying the contemporary Pop Art movement. This includes fashion designer Jeremy Scott, whose Fall 2014 Moschino collection heavily referenced Pop Art by saluting heavyweight commercial deities Frito-Lay and McDonald’s in his designs.
Even today, decades after its revolution, there are no signs of Pop Art’s self-referencing streak ending, with massive brands like Nike and Vans incorporating sketches from Roy Lichtenstein in their sneakers and runners. Due to its immense popularity rooted in the universal language of consumerism and its happy-go-lucky, eye-grabbing designs, Pop Art continues to be the most referenced art movement in fashion.
The Impact of Pop Art on the World of Fashion - From Art to Industry and Back
Ever since pop art emerged in the fifties, it has been going hand in hand with the fashion industry. Rebelling against elitist values and self-reflexive expressionist movement, pop art embraced mundane living experiences, introducing aspects of mass culture and bringing art closer to the new generation of Americans who were starting to experience all benefits of the consumer paradise in the welfare state of post-war America. Pop art employed familiar mass culture imagery from advertisements to other banal objects, wrapping it into sensational and bold color combinations. Richard Hamilton, one of the pop art pioneers used to describe pop art as “popular, transient, expandable, low cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, big business”. All these qualities pop art shared with the consumerist culture and fashion industry as one of its main features. It wasn’t long before pop art and fashion merged. Pop artist introduced a bright palette of colors and print definition form, which were used as the inspiration by many designers of that time and onwards.
Marriage between Pop Art and Fashion Design
The commercial partnership between art and fashion design is nothing new to us, as every single year, we see art-inspired collections on the catwalks worldwide. However, because of its nature rooted in celebration of consumerist goods, vibrant and catchy patterns and the ability to speak the universal language, free of fine art elitism, pop art was destined to become the most referred art movement in the fashion industry. This marriage between pop art and fashion industry started to develop in the sixties not to be disturbed ever since. Once again, the social context of the decade decided the future of this particular connection. During the war and the time of austerity, clothes were more practical and unified in their design. Post-war prosperity changed that and new fashion items became more diverse. At the same time, pop art was gaining popularity among the mainstream audiences and designers saw this new movement as a potential source of inspiration. Furthermore, during the sixties, fashion designers and artists were moving in the same circles influencing each other’s work and being part of the same, shared culture. For example, Yves Saint Laurent was among the first designers to turn a work of art into a dress design and to fully explore pop art in his collections. Not by chance, Andy Warhol also portrayed him in one of his four-panel silkscreens.
Pop Art Fashion – Here to Stay
Today’s fashion trends are probably one of the best indicators to tell that pop art is still popular today as it was in the past century. In the world of mass consumption, pop art still thrives on those cultural values that have led to its origin. There are even those who now believe that pop art fashion should be proclaimed a movement in its own right. More than half a century has passed from the first Campbell’s Soup Dress to Jeremy Scott’s celebrations of consumerism in 2014 Moschino collection and yet pop art stands stronger than ever in the fashion world. Whether they rely on the pop art ideas or borrow inspiration directly from pop art imagery, contemporary designers continue to return to this art movement. In recent years, we also saw an emergence of graffiti-inspired garments, but will street art become the new pop art and beat the organic connection this art movement has built with the fashion industry is yet to be seen in the upcoming years.
What's your opinion on pop art fashion? Would be nice to read your thoughts in the comments below.