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The Art Of Fashion

Is Fashion Art? Karl Lagerfeld Puts the Debate Back Into the Spotlight by Dismissing the Notion

Is fashion art? The age-old question returned to the spotlight last week when designer Karl Lagerfeld told the Telegraph, “I am against museums and exhibitions in fashion. One woman said to me — ‘In my world, the world of art’ — so I said: ‘Oh, don’t you make dresses anymore?’ A thin smile and then: ‘If you call yourself an artist, then you are second-rate.’”

With fashion becoming the focus of an increasing number of museum exhibitions and a multitude of artists now collaborating with luxury labels, the distinct line that once separated fashion and art is more blurred. A handful of notable designers throughout history have stated unequivocally that fashion is art, but the topic continues to be debated and designers, as well as art and fashion historians, remain divided. The question is even the focus of an imaginary dialogue between Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli in the current Met exhibition

“Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations.”

Schiaparelli: You know, Miuccia, I’ve always felt, and after talking to you I’m even more sure: fashion is art.

Prada: I always said, for me, fashion is not art.

ES: Oh, of course it is! That’s why I collaborated with these other artists — the greatest thrill of my career, oh my God, the things I did with Dali! Lobster dresses, skeleton dresses, shoe hats, desk suits…

MP: I was taught, and I agree, that your collaboration with Dali and other artists of your time was the only real relevant experiment that really was meaningful. It was not a joke, it was a serious moment when serious minds were collaborating.

ES: If I don’t say so myself, it was revolutionary. You should try, Miuccia.

MP: Today everything is so contrived and anything you do is under observation. So in a way, there is not even the same freedom to work with artists because immediately you think about what the comments will be. ‘Ah, yes, art and fashion…’ So I avoid that subject completely.

ES: For me, if I hadn’t been a designer, I would have liked to have been a sculptor. Coco even said of me that I was that designer who wanted to be an artist…

MP: Fashion is art, fashion is not art. But at the end, who cares?