In his recently published book, The Language of Things, London Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic writes: “The consequences of the transformation of fashion from a craft to an industry are still gathering pace. Because of its ability to co-opt and explore other forms of visual culture, fashion is transforming the way that art and design are understood.” Attempts to define art, fashion and design are thus increasingly difficult—and decreasingly relevant. The borders between these creative disciplines are becoming more and more porous as fashion designers turn their garments into artistic statements and artists produce wearable pieces.
We’ve recently covered several creative talents who are blurring the boundaries between the three forms. This spring, we’ve featured music man Pharrell Williams‘ foray into high-end furniture design with his Eames-inspired Perspective Chair and Dutch furniture guru Bauke Knottnerus‘ giant, knotty couches and material experiments with fashion designer Marga Weimans. Print designer Gerlan Marcel launched her own fashion label, Gerlan Jeans, during New York Fashion Week and while British illustrator Kate Moross, who also runs her own record studio, just kicked off her own t-shirt line.
While the creative disciplines have historically borrowed inspiration from each other (just look at the stylistic similiarities between art, architecture and fashion in any given period), multidisciplinarity has never been so explicit. The resulting visual culture is a mash-up of creative disciplines, materials and self-definitions as designers are increasingly reluctant to categorize themselves.
Dutch product design group Droog, for instance, has no qualms about jumping onto the catwalk. They’ve recently opened a new “corner of wearables” in their Amsterdam studio, featuring mannequins outfitted with limited edition pieces such as Gluejeans. The “Glue Couture” project explores new forms of a traditional garment. Gerrit Uittenbogaard and Natasja Martens created a pair of jeans that is held entirely together by washable glue—not a stich in sight!
The work of Swedish designer Fredrik Färg, a recent graduate of the School of Design and Crafts at the University of Gothenburg, is an example of fashion-meets-furniture. He showcased the idea of “slow fashion furniture” at the Stockholm Furniture Fair last month. In his RE:cover collection, inspired by classic menswear, Färg uses old chairs and replaces the backrests with moldable polyester felt that becomes a supporting structure when baked in a big oven. The foldable backrest on his “Coat” chair, for instance, resembles the collar on a men’s jacket.
On the other side of the fence, no fashion designer is perhaps as well known for his cross-overs between architecture, design, philosophy, anthropology, science and technology as Hussein Chalayan. A retrospective of his work from the last 15 years is currently on display at the Design Museum in London (until April 24). The exhibition includes “Afterwords,” which explores the notion of “wearable, portable architecture,” in which furniture transforms itself into garments—”Airborne,” is a dress made of Swarovski crystals and more than 15,000 flickering LED lights, while “Readings” is a dress comprising more than 200 moving lasers.
Moross sums up the phenomenon of creative convergence when she says disciplinary boundaries don’t pose any limits to her work. “Ultimately, if you’re creative, once you’ve built your craft, you should be able to try out another. I see (fashion) as an extension of what I already do,” she explains.
But Knottnerus makes a good point when he adds that sometimes there is good reason to stay with what you’re good at: “I think that if you are a good designer you’re never stuck in a box of one single discipline, but quality comes by doing the same thing over and over again. For instance, do we really want furniture designers doing dresses?”