Fashion and Art: Legendary Love Matches (Part 1)

Fashion and Art: Legendary Love Matches (Part 1)

What if not art can be the source of everlasting energy that nurtures our imagination and
gifts us a fresh spirit? This is especially true for creative community, take for example
couturiers. Currently there are plenty of successful cases in fashion & art collaboration —
brands tend to cooperate with artists and it’s a mutual desire. However, today it seems to
have become a mainstream with a sharp commercial smack while several dozen years ago
it was more of a voice of the heart (at least, we would like to see it that way). Meet the
pioneers below who welcomed art into the world of fashion and learn more about their

Elsa Schiaparelli

A girl from the respectable Italian family with scientific and cultural interests, Elsa had every
chance for a bright and respectable future but she made it even brighter. Instead of finishing
a boarding school and marrying a Russian suitor as her parents wanted her to do, Elsa
Luisa Maria Schiaparelli decided to write a life novel on her own. Schiaparelli fled to
London, afterwards she moved to New York with her new sweetheart Count William de
Wendt de Kerlor.
Her marriage to the Count didn’t last for a long time but it gave her a daughter Maria Luisa
Yvonne Radha, simply known as Gogo and a right society to start a career in fashion.
Through collaboration with Gabi Picabia who owned a fashion boutique at that time, Elsa got
acquainted with Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and a few other dadaists. After
the divorce with William, Schiaparelli followed advice of couturier Paul Poiret whom she had
already befriended to start her own business. Her knitwear collection (1927) is believed to
have been inspired by a knit sweater that she saw on one of her friends. Moreover,
Schiaparelli’s dresses and sweaters were decorated with some surrealistic elements that
astonished public but caused a positive response. Probably, the most effective artistic
collaboration that Elsa Schiaparelli initiated was the one with Salvador Dali. The designer
and the surrealist had been on good terms since youth — voilas, one day the world
discovered mad but wonderful Schiaparelli garments such as a black ‘skeleton’ dress, a
dress with a lobster painted on the skirt, an upturned-shoe-hat, all inspired by surrealist Dali
masterpieces. Schiap (as Elsa’s friends usually called her) achieved world-recognition for
her avant-garde outfits that were both easy-to-wear and elegant such as divided skirts and
bathsuits. “Dress designing is to me not a profession but an art” — Elsa used to say proudly.

Christian Dior

Christian Dior, generally known as a founder of the world-famous couture house and
fashion brand, could hardly predict his success in future as a little boy. Born in the big
wealthy family of a manufacturer, he was expected to become a diplomat by his parents, but
Christian rejected the idea of studying political science in favor of creating. Dior unwillingly
attended lessons at school, preferring to sell his sketches on the streets meanwhile. At the
age of 23, the young man overwhelmed with ambitions and artistic spirit got to know
Jacques Bonjean, his future business partner. Together with Bonjean, Christian Dior took
over an art gallery in 1928, named after the former — Dior’s parents hated the idea of          disgracing the family name by that dubious start up though supported the son’s endeavor
financially. Gallery Jacques Bonjean represented the upper crust of the artistic and
bohemian society — cubists and futurists who were gaining popularity headily and refined
fashion artists. Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, Jean Cocteau, André Breton
— Dior knew them all personally, admired their talents and fed on the creative energy
running in the artistic circles. The fairytale came to an end in 1931 with the Wall Street Crash
and death of Dior’s mother — deprived of the family financial support, heartbroken
Christian closed the lossmaking gallery and tried his hand at drawing and design on advice
of his friends. Having experienced working for couturiers Robert Piguet and Lucien Long, he
became a successful fashion designer himself. Christian Dior founded his own house in
September, 1946. His New Look collection (1947) is believed to have been inspired by
Picasso paintings. More than that, dresses from his 1949 series bear the artists’ names —
Henri Matisse, George Braque and, yes, Pablo Picasso. “Without foundation, there can be
no fashion” — Dior used to day. Well, we probably guess what he meant.

Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent was born to French family in Algeria in 1936.
Spending his childhood on the beautiful Mediterranean coast, Yves early took up drawing
and sketching. At the age of 17 the young designer
moved to Paris where he was enrolled at the Trade Association of High Fashion and met the
editor of French Vogue, Michel De Brunhoff. De Brunhoff was so impressed by Saint
Laurent’s talent that he immediately published a few of his sketches and introduced Yves to
Christian Dior. That’s how Yves Saint Laurent’s career in fashion was launched. Yves
spent a few years of successful working for Dior and was the one to become the head
designer of the House after the death of Christian Dior in 1958. Yves was only 21. Before
joining the French Army in 1960, the newly minted art director modified the Dior New Look,
creating trapeze and bubble dresses and hobble skirts. Yves didn’t pass through the military
service as he got to the hospital. Having recovered, he came back to Paris and together with
his new business (and later life) partner Pierre Bergé set up his own brand Yves Saint
Laurent YSL. Thanks to Yves, today we have comfortable yet trendy clothes items for both
men and women such as unisex suits, tight trousers, thigh-high boots — the designer
created his first full pret-a-porter line in 1967 and that was a success. Back to his relations
with art, Yves Saint Laurent didn’t belong to the first generation of couturiers who seeked
inspiration in artistic works, among which are Dior and Schiaparelli but he dared to dive
deeper. Some of Saint Laurent dresses represent paintings through needlework, prints and
patterns — literally, having this outfit on, you wear a masterpiece! Probably, the most
famous ‘art garment’ by Saint Laurent is ‘Tribute to Piet Mondrian’ (1975) that features
Mondrian’s white-and-red-and-yellow-and-blue neoplastic structures. Another legend is the
designer’s Pop Art collection (say hello to Andy Warhol) and Iris and Sunflowers by Vincent
Van Gogh (1988). Yves Saint Laurent confessed that he strived for the Matisse purity of
lines in his works but was no less inspired by the art of Diego Velasquez and Edouard


Text \\ Julia Kryshevich

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