“Fashion is generally thought to refer to phenomena that are new but that are rapidly and widely accepted, implying that their acceptance does not require a major shift in world view on the part of the public.” Diana Crane “I don’t think fashion is art, but why is that definition for artistic creativity so narrow that it’s just a painting in a frame?” Ingrid Sischy
Patterns, textures and textiles have fascinated generations of artists as a powerful means of expression of their patrons’ refined tastes and upper class status. Things (don’t) change with the downfall of the ancien régime and the rise of the bourgeoisie: the protagonists of the reformed age crave for French haute couture clothing, and the Impressionist painters immortalise the new style as a glorifying sign of modernity.
England, 1848. Three twenty-something painters reject Raphael as the supreme master of pictorial art and turn to nature as the model for their works. Their aesthetic theory, which also includes clothing, refrains from the crinolines, corsets and black suits in vogue at the time. Jane Morris’ comfortable robes are the new, anti-fashion trend. Pictures of them, taken by John Robert Parson in 1865, inspire the opening of the Artistic and Historic Costume Studio in the famous London department store Liberty.
The slick English alternative to Parisian opulence reaches Europe in the wake of the general renewal of the arts. In Krefeld, Henry van de Velde organises the “Show of modern women’s clothes designed by artists”. In Vienna, Emilie Flöge opens the haute couture house Schwestern Flöge. The close collaboration between the Viennese designer and the Secessionist painter Gustav Klimt, Emilie’s companion, is apparent from the comparison between the two artists’ works.
Paris, 1906. The couturier Paul Poiret officially opens the doors of fashion to artists. Poiret’s designs are created in close collaboration with the artists Edouard Steichen and Man Ray, and are advertised by the political satirist Bernard Naudin. In 1910, Poiret opens an art gallery in his own maison de couture: Galerie Barbazanges hosts commercial initiatives and avant-garde exhibitions, including the 1916 event Arte Moderne en France. Every artist in Paris attends, and Picasso’s Le Demoiselles d’Avignon is on display.
Post-war women emerge from the conflict wearing calf-length dresses. Post-war artists reinvent calf-length dresses. Sonia Delaunay, painter and dressmaker, creates a permanent link between art and fashion, joining the latter with avant-garde artistic research. Textiles are woven with chromatic contrasts, women wear shape and colour. The season of Atelier Simultané is a short one, but it crucially establishes the figure of the artist-designer.