Exploring Fashion’s Love Affair and Inspiration in Art

Art and fashion have a long history of being linked. There have been countless fashion exhibits in major art museums around the world, which has given even the novice a sense of the artistry that goes into a fashion collection. Apparel is another media like paint, sculpture and digital; art often inspires fashion, and art can also reflect the mood of fashion. In many ways, fashion can be considered a living art, or a body art, and acts as a method to express a daily, or even hourly mood.

Some favorite examples include Elsa Schiaparelli, who in 1937 created the hat-shoe which mimics a sculpture and is considered eccentric even by today’s standards. A few years earlier, in 1922, Yves Saint Laurent designed 10 dresses inspired by the abstract art paintings by Piet Mondrian. A more recent favorite is when, in 2018, Dolce & Gabbana designed dresses emblazoned with paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael and other artists for the Alta Moda Show.

Anna Wintour, editor in chief at Vogue, has been one of the strongest voices in bringing together the worlds of fashion and art in recent years. She was a major force in the spearheading of costume design as part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This major act changed the perception of fashion and art — and legitimized it. A fine art museum having a permanent costume collection relays the message that fashion can now be seen as museum-quality art.

In December, art lovers from around the world attended the Art Basel show in Miami, Florida, the quintessential location for those who love art, fashion, to be seen and to see. The worlds of fashion and art descended on the Magic City for non-stop art installations, exhibitions, fashion shows, pop-up shops and more. It is there that art- world cognoscenti were dressed to impress with equal passion for both crafts.

The original Art Basel art fair was established in 1970 and has since expanded past its historical borders of the Swiss city of Basel. Making Miami its second home has turned the serious art event into a high energy, must-attend show for fashion brands as well as artists, galleries and agents. Each year, the event draws approximately 70,000 visitors, and the opportunity to show off the latest collections is not lost on fashion designers.

As a fashion designer and an art lover, I find Art Basel Miami and Art Miami to be unique events, both opportunities to explore and be inspired for my collections. I love any opportunity to be immersed in color and creativity, and these events are especially meaningful experiences because they take place in my hometown. Unlike New York City, Paris, France or Milan, Italy — cities that have a certain seriousness when it comes to art and fashion — Art Basel Miami attracts citizens of the world, from art collectors to models and everyone in between. A lot of the time, their outfits are just as much a part of what’s inspiring as the artwork. Tropical- chic, eclectic ensembles and vintage vibes always make an appearance.

From a brand’s perspective, those precious few days are the perfect opportunity to attract the attention of a crowd from Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa and, of course, North America, that appreciates fashion and an energy that is distinctly Miami. This is the chance to elevate beachy-style and not follow any rules. Creativity is obviously rewarded at Art Basel Miami, which fits in perfectly with many artists’ ethos to dress in what makes them happiest and to communicate a sense of who they are. At these shows, more than any place else in the world, out-of-the-box style is rewarded.

The place where fashion and art meet is symbiotic because it reflects the perceptions of the society that we live in. Just as artists expresses their experiences, so do fashion designers. We can tell as much about a society, era or culture by the art that has been produced as through what people are wearing. It is the job of fashion designers and retailers to bring these experiences to the people. Shopping online has become the norm, yet we still seek something that is immersive. We want to go to a store, see the product, try it on and be drawn into the designer’s world. The way the store is merchandised, the music that is played, the way the collections are displayed and even the art on the walls is carefully chosen to communicate a specific point of view. If we look closely, we can probably pinpoint a piece of art that may have germinated the seed of that fashion collection.

Donna Leah is the founder of Donna Leah Designs, a brand focused on gowns and accessories for women who embrace their individuality. A graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), the American designer is based in Miami, Florida, where the dynamic energy of the city sparks her concepts.