The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Fashion could be called art…

…but it’s not…


“I make clothes and bags and shoes for people to use, not to put up on a wall and look at.” Marc Jacobs is just one of many designers who claim that Fashion is not art. But why not? If film, music and photography can all be considered art, then why not fashion? Is there really that much of a difference?

Fashion makes you feel something. When you see the most beautiful dress, the layers of fabric, the lustre of colours, you feel something. It evokes an emotion that sometimes cannot be explained. Just like a painting by Picasso or Dali, you can take what you want from the opus, if you think it’s beautiful then it’s beautiful, if it moves you, then it’s moving, if you feel it’s tragic, then it is.

So how wide is the gulf between fashion and art really? Fashion appears in exhibitions all the time and even has its own dedicated museums; such as the The Fashion and Textile Museum in London, The Musée Galliera in Paris and The Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. This makes the whole distinction between Fashion and Art even more vague – if fashion is not art then why is it in museums? It’s not unknown for artists and designers to collaborate, take for example Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama who formed a psychedelic collaboration (see featured image) earlier this year and what about Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali? In 1937 he painted a giant lobster onto one of her dresses and they collaborated on her Skeleton Dress.

Photo: Tea Collection Blog

Karl Lagerfeld and Coco Chanel are two more designers that claim that fashion is not art – they are two separate entities. Fashion has a functional purpose – we need to wear clothes, coats, shoes and hats, they protect us from the environment, clothes are made to be sold; the industry makes a profit. Clothes can be manufactured in bulk and are available to the masses but art is different. Art is more personal. An artist can paint all of his life and not sell anything; only after his death does his work become noticed and priceless. Art lasts forever, whereas fashion changes from season to season.

But, just like paintings, pottery and tapestry, fashion can tell you about the past. What women used to wear, what garments indicated social status and can maybe even tell us about political affairs – just think about what women wore during the war until Dior blessed us with his Corolle Collection. We can look back on previous fashion and reflect, become inspired, it can encourage us to do things.

Yet, is more of a distinction required? Can Haute Couture be described as art and high street just business?  Designers are sometimes directly influenced by art and they can communicate through their garments. There is no answer to this prolonged debate and there probably never will be. But just as Karl Lagerfeld once said: “Art is art. Fashion is fashion. However, Andy Warhol proved that they can exist together.”