Going… Going… Gogh. Renaissance to runway

The realms of Fine Art and Fashion are both boundless forms of creative expression, of which have a vast impact on consumer culture worldwide.

It is far from revolutionary that on many occasions the lines of these two cultural phenomena have become blurred. This is because much of what we wear in our day to day lives has in some form or another, been subjected to influence from a particular artistic movement.

Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with American artist Jeff Koons caused these two worlds to collide producing its 2017 Masters collection. The collection encompasses some of the most influential artists in history, inspired by works such as Claude Monet’s Waterlilies (1906) and Leonardo Di Vinci’s always smiling, The Mona Lisa (1503) to simply name a few. Individually every artist in this exquisite collection has captivated audiences across the globe with the way in which they see the world. This artistic influence stretched across the hemisphere into numerous collections including many AW16 runways. Subsequently collections, from Marc Jacobs to Dior, were heavily influenced by Expressionism, a modernist movement which began in early twentieth century Germany. Prior to this movement a little Dutch Post-Impressionist artist named Vincent Van Gogh was cooking up a storm with his raw expressive brush work. I mean, who would have thought that you could uncover Gogh’s infamous The Starry Night (1889) on a bucket hat? In 2020 anything seems possible.

Equally, the movements of Realism and Renaissance art have had a huge impact on the world of fashion because of their particular vision of the world. On one hand, audiences are drawn into the rawness of the Realist’s depiction of the everyday, without the pretence of Renaissance. The movement of nineteenth century Realism, brought about a concentration on factors such as accuracy and point of view which have become a focus in design. On the other hand, the Renaissance possesses an eccentric view on beauty and divinity coinciding with great social change in its attempt to break away from the Medieval Ages. The works of Titian and Michelangelo created an immense transcendence from the human to the metaphysical realms of the Gods. So, it is no wonder why the public fall in love with images such as these. They. Are. Divine.

I believe that designers have chosen to pursue these movements as an inspiration for modern fashion trends because of the impact that both movements had, not only in the period they were created but up until now as well as the generations to come. I, myself have actually just ordered a Renaissance print cowl neck mini dress from fashion house Pretty Little Thing. The statement paragraph prior to this, was my initial reaction to the exquisiteness of the print and from that point I knew I had to have it! It is this immediacy or desperation to have something which drives consumerism to boom in the world of retail and high fashion. As a species, humans are driven by our desires, thus consumerism works just like magnetism. If you truly fall head over heels for a Renaissance print dress, the chances are that others will be drawn in because of the way you are bringing the dress to life. Such a description as this makes you feel so empowered that you are dripping in divinity.

Here at York Fashion Week our innovative designers also challenge the blurred boundaries between Fashion and Art. One of these designers is Warren Reilly, whom featured in York Fashion Week 2019 with his anticipated collection inspired by Medieval figures. A focal point of Medieval art is its concentration on biblical imagery, portraying the beliefs of the time. What makes Reilly’s creations so contemporary is how he gains inspiration from questioning modern-day issues seen in society, whilst combining an element of medieval belief into his prints. Using a variety of bold prints and solid block colour, Reilly’s work almost forces its audience to pay attention to statements of Justice and Innocence. Words which are carelessly thrown about by society but rarely or truly understood, some may say. Art and Fashion create a platform to force individuals to pay attention to specific topics including political movements or injustices. This is exactly what Warren Reilly does, by exposing issues in our society through the clothes we wear. Everything we wear is in some form a statement to the society in which we live in. Thus, it is up to us to decide what that message must be.

Another designer here at YFW who dissolves the boundaries between art and fashion is Shoni, who was due to debut her inspiring collection ‘The Art of Queening’ at YFW 2020. Shoni’s unique collection uses her forward thinking to look upon powerful women throughout history, igniting a ferocity of passion within her audience. Her unique interpretation of history included garments inspired by the likes of Anne Boleyn, and Joan of Arc just to name a few. Heads will roll when you see her costumes because who wouldn’t want to dress like a queen? What makes Shoni’s designs unique is how she defines herself as a costume designer, being able to parade her eccentric pieces of wearable art across the stage she deserves. Fashion is meant to challenge the boundaries of its society; this is conveyed in Shoni’s Renaissance inspired collection. Intertwining fabrics with layers of silk and dripping with beading causes her models to radiate an almost divine regal presence. Elegance created by excess, and such excess, creating the finesse of a true Queen.

Similarly, both Reilly and Shoni are designers whom have incorporated elements of history into their wonderous creations to produce inspirational forms of wearable art. Warren Reilly’s latest collection focuses much more on clothing of the everyday, in comparison to Shoni’s designs which focus much more on the art of costume. Although they appear to target different audiences, both designers and their collections have been influenced by an artistic movement. Shoni has been influenced by the Renaissance’s extravagance in comparison to the gothic influence of the Medieval period in the work of Reilly.

From this piece I have discovered that art has had, and continues to have, a phenomenal impact on the fashion industry. So you, the consumer, can be the storyteller of the art, history and movements behind the clothes you wear.

Lauren Rayner

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