Story: MINH NHAT
As lines continue to blur between pop culture, streetwear and haute couture, the question of fashion as art becomes harder to answer.
A HOT DEBATE
On July 14, 2022, the YouTube channel SHOWstudio, an online interactive platform focusing on fashion, broadcast a live discussion around the question: “Is haute couture a dying art form at the hands of entertainment?”
Among the panelists was Kerry Taylor, who stated a traditionalist view: “The thing that worries me is that a lot of the haute couture is beginning to look like ready-to-wear. Certainly Cristóbal Balenciaga would roll over in his grave if he thought that haute couture meant denim jeans … I’m old-fashioned. I like my couture really haute.”
Look 18 of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2022 haute couture collection is a corset made of hundreds of ribbons worn with a heel-length denim skirt. The entire set was sold to an anonymous Chinese patron for VND 22 billion. What would happen if Gaultier decided to simplify the details of Look 18 and make it more accessible to the general market? In addition, many people could emulate the look themselves, which could never have been done with haute couture from the 1990s and early 2000s.
ANSWERS FROM THE PAST
No one has dared to recreate Thierry Mugler’smaster piece from the Fall 1995-1996 season. Thefashion house collaborated with sculptor JeanJacques Urcun to create a catsuit made of glass and metal. The material’s novelty was inspired by insects, circuses, sexual intimacy and combustion engines. In this era, haute couture was a far cry from luxury ready-to-wear even if both carried exorbitant prices. The connection between fashion and art may have been severed as early as 2010 with the influence of the entertainment industry, street culture and changing market conditions.
insects, circuses, sexual intimacy and combustion engines. In this era, haute couture was a far cry from luxury ready-to-wear even if both carried exorbitant prices. The connection between fashion and art may have been severed as early as 2010 with the influence of the entertainment industry, street culture and changing market conditions.
Jean Cocteau was the creator of the blue eyeball, one of Schiaparelli’s most well-known jewelry motifs. Alberto Giacometti left thousands of samples of monolithic jewelry in French classics archives, while Salvador Dalí enhanced Schiaparelli’s fashion with the “Le Roy Soleil” (1947) sun motif and the dress “Skeleton” (1938).
All of these historic creations can be found in Daniel Roseberry’s Schiaparelli Haute Couture collection for Spring 2020. Fashion is also an important factor in creating memorable television and movie highlights. Manolo Blahnik high heels were an inseparable part of the American television phenomenon Sex and the City, for example.
The “sexy stilettos” also played a role in the 1994 Hong Kong film Chungking Express. Brigitte Lin, playing a smuggler, is forced to flee in a pair of Manolo Blahnik heels. The lovelorn Takeshi Kaneshiro quietly cleaning a pair of stilettos with his tie has become a classic scene. Those precariously tall Manolo Blahnik stilettos clearly 3 expressed a desire to be loved more than any dialogue could have.
Ultimately, many fashion houses have demonstrated that their designs are worthy of the term “art.” Sculpture, cinema, literature and, most importantly, photography have all continued to complement fashion. The Spanish brand Loewe is a classic example of how to incorporate sculpture and Surrealism into the combination of fashion and decor art. On the other hand, modern trends have shortened the length of a collection to the point where many fashion houses have been forced to discontinue haute couture lines.
Most ready-to-wear designs are shown on the runway only once, serving as a launching pad for brands to sell T-shirts, sweatpants, bags and lipstick. Despite being part of luxury fashion and having several notable exceptions, ready-to-wear fashion is not considered a branch of art. Haute couture, while still widely regarded as being true art, needs to acclimate itself to oversimplification. Of course, few still want to see the streetwear fashion phenomenon appear alongside haute couture – especially the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, which refused to include Balenciaga on its official haute couture schedule. In the end, the debate over whether fashion is an art form is out of date. Instead, we should ask, “When will the link between fashion and art be completely severed?”