Art has always inspired humanity, let alone it’s most gifted representatives. We have already started talking about designers that transferred their passion for art into the field of fashion. This time we are going to shift focus to perhaps less marked but still striking art & fashion collaborators of the 20th century.
Cristóbal Balenciaga is a founder of the world-famous Paris couture house with Spanish routes and, indeed, Basque soul. Born in a small fishing town in the North of Spain in 1895, Cristobal learnt to tailor at the tender age of 12 and soon started sewing designs for his own clients. Originally Balenciaga planned to seek fortune in his home country, having made it from a casual designer to a boutique owner in San-Sebastian with successful branches in Madrid and Barcelona. However, the Spanish Civil War made him alter the course — Cristóbal Balenciaga moved to Paris and opened his salon on Avenue George V in August 1937. Well, it certainly made a difference as Balenciaga took the fashion world by storm from the very first of his French collections. Soon he became known and widely accepted as ‘The King of Fashion’. Inventive, both good at arts & crafts, Cristóbal Balenciaga offered a new feminine silhouette (drastically different from the Dior’s ‘new look’) with broadened shoulders and relaxed not accentuated waist-zone. He brought chemise dresses into high fashion, mixed high fabrics with very casual ones, made clothes more voluminous and thus sensible. Most of all, Cristobal remained a very Spanish master even on alien soil. Balenciaga collections usually have references to national costumes of Spain such as peasant and flamenco dresses, fisherman’s and bullfighter’s shirts. But could Cristóbal Balenciaga praising his own ethnic culture forget about the sublime? Presence of religious and artistic motives has made Balenciaga idiom internationally recognizable — take for example, an ivory silk satin “Infanta” evening dress inspired by Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” or a cloud-like evening headdress of black silk gazar as if it just came out of Goya’s portrait of the Duchess of Alba. Not bad for the roaring 20s and 30s, is it? ‘A couturier must be an architect for design, a sculptor for shape, a painter for color, a musician for harmony, and a philosopher for temperance’ — indeed, only the King of Fashion could have said it.
Ottavio (‘Tai’) and Rosita Missoni
Ottavio (‘Tai’) and Rosita Missoni. The internationally recognizable ‘zigzag’ label with more than a semisecular history has evolved from a small knitwear shop. An athletic sprinter Ottavio (Tai) Missoni and a language student Rosita Jelmini first met during the London Olympics in 1948 and after getting married set up their family business in 1953. Originally the brand was called Maglificio Jolly (or Joker Knitwear in English) and was changed for Missoni only after the supply had impressively increased. The founders of Missoni literally started with a stitch — experimenting with stripes and patchworks and ethnic patterns, they remained true to the cosy knitwear style. However, knitwear isn’t always about traditions and Missoni proudly proved it. For the fashion show 1967 Missoni models had to take off their bras as the latter absolutely didn’t match sheer Lurex tops and dresses the collection demonstrated. That’s how the ‘braless flawless’ trend was born, though back then it wasn’t utterly accepted — some journalists called it even ‘Crazy Horse fashion’. Well, through difficulties to the stars, Missoni turned out to be a novator. Another advantage of the fashion house was Ottavio’s sense of colour. Arranging colour palette was a top-priority for Missoni (just like for the artists of the 20th century), which is clearly visible in the brand’s collections. Speaking about the influence of art, Missoni not only seeked inspiration in unfading artworks but also was a second-generation fashion brand that openly referred to paintings and sculptures in its garments (providing that Dior and Schiaparelli belong to the first one). However, Missoni couple were interested in the particular art movements that were in tune with the company’s aesthetics and values. Pieces by futurists, cubists and other modernists were skillfully implemented into runway collections. If you are lucky enough to see Missoni’s art retrospective, don’t miss seeing some of Sonia Delaunay, Gino Severini, Osvaldo Licini, Bruno Munari, Vasilij Kandinskij, Fausto Melotti and Lucio Fontana through the lens of Missoni creativity.
Sonia Delaunay. Cofounder of the Orphism art movement, the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre, painter, stage-and fashion designer — it’s all about Sonia Delaunay. Raised in the respected family of Terks, relatives on her mother’s side, Sonia quickly got acquainted with local museums and galleries and enrolled the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe at the age of 18. Later she studied arts in Paris but preferred to spend time with some painters from Montparnasse rather than at the Académie as she disliked the studying system. Artistically influenced by such post-impressionists as Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau, Sonia began her own career as a painter. Her first marriage with a German art gallery owner Wilhelm Uhde certainly enabled her to make a good start but meeting Robert Delaunay in 1909 really changed her entire life — she divorced and married again. Robert and Sonia spent years experimenting with colour and form in arts, moving all the way further from naturalism. Together they discovered Orphism (the term coined by their friend, poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire). Moreover, Sonia was always good at handicraft — she tried creating fabric designs for sale when Delaunays needed money badly and registered her own trademark soon after. Sonia Delaunay designed costumes and furniture for French films and plays (for example, ‘Le Cœur à Gaz’ by Tristan Tzara) and made clothes for private clients. She had to close her business because of the Great Depression but she went on designing garments for a partner company ‘Metz and co’ and, of course, never gave up painting. ‘For me there is no gap between my painting and my so-called ‘decorative’ work’ — the artist loved to say. ‘I never considered the ‘minor arts’ to be artistically frustrating; on the contrary, it was an extension of my art.’ Thus, Sonia Delaunay not only contributed to the history of fashion but also influenced its new philosophy which is no less important.
Text \\ Julia Kryshevich