This Saturday, at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Kiev, I went to hear a lecture by Valerie Steele - Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I've read that she is referred to as one of "fashion's brainiest women", and I must say that she is. One rarely hears so much structure, passion and logic when people talk about fashion.
She talked about the definition of fashion as a form of art and the dispute around this. I never really thought about it, although the question is raised by many people in fashion.
So what is fashion? Is it art?
"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months"
- Oscar Wilde
Dr Steele stressed that it is not only about defining a piece of clothing as a piece of art, but about deciding whether the designer is an artist. A good example is Andy Warhol, whose coke cans were considered art, let alone clothes. The person was perceived as an artist, therefore his works qualified as art.
Yet, Gabrielle Chanel's point of view was different. What she believed was that art was meant to be immortal, while fashion was created to be worn and to die with the following season. Interesting it is, though, that Chanel's creations ended up being perfectly immortal and classic themselves.
Haute couture may be considered art, since we have to see beyond just its wearability - the beautiful dresses are made to be admired just like any painting is.
Dr Steele gave many other examples - and some from her own experience - where the controversial nature of fashion revealed itself. In particular, she mentioned that Hollywood film costumes were not allowed to be displayed as pieces of art in one of NYC's art museums.
Personally, I tend to think that fashion is not art. It is there to be practical, to be a part of our life, to express ourselves. Art is to be pleasant to the eye and soul and to be admired. What do you think?
PS While posting this I came to the conclusion that art is soul searching and fashion, first of all, is intellect. There's something to think about in future posts.