The Art of Collaboration

As Andy Warhol once said “fashion is more art than art is,” so what happens when fashion and fine art collide?

Key Takeaways

  1. Throughout history, fashion has rarely been considered at the same artistic value as painting, sculpture, or architecture, and yet it’s inevitable that the two go hand-in-hand.
  2. The fashion and artist collaboration is a longstanding tradition that blurs the invisible barriers between what is considered fine art, and what isn’t.
  3. One of the earliest artist and designer collaborations, Organza Dinner Dress with Painted Lobster was worn by Wallis Simpson for a Vogue spread in 1937 and was considered to be one of the most iconic garments of the era

Throughout history, fashion has rarely been considered at the same artistic value as painting, sculpture, or architecture, and yet it’s inevitable that the two go hand-in-hand. After all, Andy Warhol did once say “fashion is more art than art is.” So what happens when fashion and fine art collide? The fashion and artist collaboration is a longstanding tradition that blurs the invisible barriers between what is considered fine art, and what isn’t. Without intention, it can be tiresome and overplayed but when done right, it can bring out the best of the two worlds. We looked back on some of the most iconic fashion-meets-art moments.

Elsa Schapiarelli x Salvador Dalí
One of the earliest artist and designer collaborations, Organza Dinner Dress with Painted Lobster was worn by Wallis Simpson for a Vogue spread in 1937 and was considered to be one of the most iconic garments of the era. Inspiration was drawn from Dali’s lobster telephone series, and (due to lobsters being considered a symbol of sexuality), it caused a stir when worn by the Duchess of Windsor. Anna Wintour herself even gave a nod to this dress in 2012 when she wore a beaded lobster dress to the Met Gala.

Alexander McQueen x Damien Hirst
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of McQueen's skull scarf in 2013, artist Damien Hirst created 30 limited edition designs, putting his touch on the iconic design. Adapted from Hirst’s Entomology series, this collaboration featured butterflies, spiders, and other insects in geometric shapes creating the signature McQueen motif. McQueen's skull scarf collection has always been one of the late-designer's most memorable looks and this pairing was a success because of their shared aesthetic and interest in symmetrical design.

Raf Simons x Sterling Ruby
Bringing geometric shapes to his Fall/Winter 2014 collection, Raf Simons collaborated with American artist Sterling Ruby. Ruby, a multidisciplinary artist, is known for his critique of overt patriotism and exploration of socio-economic topics. Through this colorful collaboration, Ruby brought his politically charged work to the men's runway.

Virgil Abloh x Jenny Holzer
Although this artist-designer partnership didn’t team up on garment-making, it did create a powerful president of the ways art can be used to make a statement. Abloh debuted his Spring/Summer 2018 menswear collection at Pitti Uomo against the backdrop of a Jenny Holzer installation, calling it “the most important show” of his career. The focus of their installation was the international refugee crisis and immigration. Holzer projected lines of poetry from Anna Świrszczyńska, written during the Warsaw Uprising, alongside texts by writers of Middle Eastern origins, including Syrian-American writer Osama Alomar, behind the runway.

Undercover x Cindy Sherman
In 2019, Japanese designer Jun Takahashi showcased Cindy Sherman portraits for his label Undercover. Rendered on tailored black looks, taking shape as blazers, shirts, and bags, the images were from Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills series. Working on the images produced between 1977 and 1980, the collection brought a new relevant spin to her infamous work.

Louis Vuitton x Richard Prince
Louis Vuitton is never shy of partnering with an artist. In fact, the brand has worked with Takashi Murakami, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Yayoi Kusama. In one of their most memorable collaborations, Marc Jacobs was inspired to work with art world "agent provocateur" Richard Prince after his controversial Spiritual America exhibition in 2007. At the Spring/ Summer 2008 runway show, 12 models (including Naomi Campbell) were dressed as nurses, referencing Prince’s famous Nurse paintings. Including LV monogram surgical masks made with lack lace and bags that featured the artist's Jokes series, this collection referenced Prince’s work down to the finer details, making it one of the most famous artist-designer collaborations in fashion history.