From collections inspired by art to collaborations with artists, branded exhibits to installations, fashion houses are on an accelerated quest to connect to the international art scene. In these conspicuous displays of cross-branding, fashion looks to art for gravitas while fashion offers art the cool factor.
At Frieze New York, which kicked off on Friday and runs until Monday, retailer Gap has put its name to a tent, housing shops and a café, overlooking the East River.
Gucci is an associate sponsor of Frieze Masters and a supporter of its talks programme, which this year included a conversation between artist Ed Ruscha and Ian Wardropper, director of the Frick collection in New York. Design house Alexander McQueen will also be taking part once more in Frieze London in October.
“The fairs are the ultimate market because they attract wealthy collectors with a finely tuned aesthetic sense,” says Andrew Renton, a collector and director of Marlborough Contemporary. “Dover Street Market is busiest during Frieze. The same people shopping for art also like luxury fashion ... At their best, the two entities can really elevate each other. Look at Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Richard Prince – it was able to subvert itself, and the meaning of luxury in quite a clever way, and promote itself at the same time. When done well, it can be great.”
Renton says that once upon a time the thinking was to “pick the most boring city” to host art fairs so there were no distractions. “That’s totally been flipped on its head. People are coming for the whole scene: the parties, the lifestyle, the design,” he says.
Frieze follows the brand-celebrity-fashion fest that was Design Miami in December, which featured collaborations including a Swarovski-sponsored installation inspired by mangroves by Brazilian architect Guilherme Torres; a mirrored installation by Maria Pergay for Fendi; and Dom Pérignon champagne bottle holders from Jeff Koons.
W magazine screened a film by Tim Walker to mark the opening of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, designed by Herzog & de Meuron; Louis Vuitton commissioned a replica of a 1930s prefab home designed by Charlotte Perriand, as a backdrop for clothing and accessories from its “Icons” collection; and Colette, the hip Paris boutique, collaborated with Miami concept store Alchemist to stage an “art drive-in” at 1111 Lincoln Road, an open-sided multistorey car park, also by Herzog & de Meuron. Women on roller skates offered drive-in customers books, jewellery, beauty products and accessories by artists, designers and celebrities, including Zaha Hadid, Thom Browne and James Franco.
For Frieze New York, Gap’s riverside pop-up will showcase the retailer’s most cutting-edge items, including a collaboration with the art and fashion publisher Visionaire, in a temporary social space and café. Among the pieces for sale will be 11 T-shirt designs, by Alex Katz, Yoko Ono, Peter Lindbergh and others, that change colour when exposed to direct sunlight.
Away from the art fairs, Commes des Garçons has released a fragrance called Serpentine in partnership with the eponymous London gallery, in a bottle designed by Tracey Emin.
For fashion designers, artists can provide an avenue of creative inspiration. As the number of collections has increased annually from two to four or more, tapping talents from outside the fashion sphere can help to fuel ideas.
Accordingly, there was a strong art theme running through the spring collections. Chanel’s colour chart-like prints were shown in the Grand Palais (made over as a white gallery). Céline daubed graffiti brushstrokes across skirts and tops, and Prada’s spring collection featured women’s faces created by six street artists.
Miuccia Prada, a longtime supporter of contemporary art, is reportedly opening a museum of modern art in Milan in 2015 and the Pradasphere exhibition at Harrods in London opened this month.
Recent collections from Saint Laurent, Thomas Tait, Hugo Boss and Acne have also referenced the Bauhaus movement, with Tory Burch’s collection inspired by Bauhaus photographer Gertrud Arndt.
“Artist collaboration collections can be highly collectable,” says Cameron Silver, founder of Los Angeles vintage store Decades, who is staging an exhibit for Art Basel Miami in December exploring fashion as art. “Original Stephen Sprouse Louis Vuitton bags are still very attractive to my clients.”
However, the boom in cross-branding is also partly the result of fashion’s insatiable social media machine, according to Ilaria Alber-Glanstaetten, founder of luxury consultancy Provenance.
“Brands are hungry for content and things to fuel that content to feed the social media beast. Artist tie-ups give them something to talk about,” she says.
Does it work? “The links to sales are not clear but it’s a brand-building exercise,” says Alber-Glanstaetten. “These collaborations imbue the brands with a sense of heritage and cultural relevance. Art is still seen as quite a pure uncommercial world. It aligns brands with a higher commercial purpose.”
More of this week’s Style stockists