Is fashion art? And if not, where is the line dividing the two? For many years the controverse debate, if fashion is frivolous and useless or deeply embedded in the world of art is going on and never-ending. Long have the times passed in which fashion merely was a protection against the elements, made to cover you and keep you warm. Today fashion is a form of self-expression and in that regard similar to art. What we put on our walls or openly admire says something about the person, in the same way, the clothes on ones back speak volumes about the wearer. Both is part of the face we want to show the world rather than reality and will be curated or actively ignored. But one thing is obvious: it is impossible to not communicate with the choices made. Maybe that does make fashion performance art, which requires the active participant, the person who puts on the item and shows it off. But wouldn’t that again question the artistic integrity, as a real-life person rarely wears a full runway look (besides some influencers). Up to us, this is what actually makes the wearer part of the performance and part artist. The creative expression is part of the individual and the new design, based on body, aesthetic and location a garment is worn to. 

Plenty of designers took not only inspiration from nature but likewise from artists and architecture. For some brands that weren’t enough and they collaborated with the artists in a direct manner. Most notably and artistically creative has been the partnership between Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali, who did both, collaborate and inspire one another. Others do it more regularly and commercially, like Louis Vuitton. From the infamous Takashi Murakami collaboration to the bold Jeff Koons creations many designs have been seen from the runway to carefully curated exhibitions.

When it comes to exhibitions many people take special care of what to wear. Like the cliché of architects, many opt for an all-black look. That is because it is the safest bet, the choice you will and cannot get criticized for. Is it to let the art shine and not take attention away from it? Or is it to not clash with the art? Or just a social norm? And what is the difference between a gallery opening and a fashion show or re-see? Don’t some shop windows look exactly like works of art? And taking this point of view, is a H&M dress copying a Chanel design the same as the art-prints at ikea? This parallel might be too easy to draw but oftentimes a high-end design, which is art or art adjacent is created and then copied so often that it is losing its artistic appeal. It could also be, that a mass-produced product is not art, as it is to openly available, which would leave only the highest form of dress as art: Haute Couture.

Haute Couture can be a collector’s piece. Creators like Iris van Herpen craft items that have one thing with many works of art in common: They are actually impractical or even useless. Not to say they aren’t magnificent to look at and of craftsmanship rarely to be found today anymore but the garments are not wearable or useable in the way that they are purposed to be made for. But to attribute uselessness to an object to be considered art would be disappointing. Art should be a form of self-expression and beauty and therefore the definition should not be limited in that manner.

If it is art in general, a frivolous sub-category or a performance piece is something that can impossibly be determined in such a short collection of thoughts and ideas but ultimately it is something, which needs to be decided by the individual. As people have their own opinion about each work of art and what actually is art to begin with, it is impossible to come to an ultimate conclusion. All we have to say to that is: back in the day when fashion wasn’t mass-produced and each item was created to last for a long time, before brands skimped out on linings to save their bottom line and when designers were not forced to create unimaginable amounts of SKUs and garments at the cost of creativity it was easier to say that a piece of clothing is art. But the days of items being carefully crafted, designed and taken care of by the wearer are gone and so is some of the artistry. Just after the MET Gala it is out of the question, that certain pieces of fashion, vintage or contemporary still can be real pieces of art, to be collected kept, loved but also worn and enjoyed.