Coco Chanel once said “I am neither of the past nor of the avant-grade, my style follows life”. What stronger connection than that of designers and artist that share a similar context and time ?. As innovators, they both cant help but be influenced by their zeitgeist, and if the same, the connections between their respective creations are endless.
For this reason, even though many of Cristobal Balenciaga’s most celebrated looks (infanta dresses of 1939 or his 1967 wrap gown ) were strongly inspired by the great works of Spanish 17th and 18th century painters such Velázquez or Goya, it’s the influence drawn from his contemporary artists that fascinates me.
Both the works of Pablo Picasso and Miró were crucial in shaping Balenciaga’s fashion. His iconic four-point bazar dress and green bazar trapeze dress of 1967 mirror the geometric shapes and vivid colours found in Joan Miró’s abstract Blue series of 1927.
On the other hand, The ruffles and shapes seen in the garment of Picasso’s “Seated Harlequin” of 1901 can also be identified on this photograph of Balenciaga’s ruffled gown. We can also find a links between the abstraction of Balenciaga's 1950's experimentations with his fabric pattern's and Picasso’s cubism.
In the Late 50’s and into the 60’s, there was a new rebellious sense of breaking with the established, of futurism triggered by the space race, there was a second wave of feminism, women started to wear mini skirts.. This innovative atmosphere was perceived by the world of contemporary art, as the abstract and deconstructed was now cherished and admired. This paralleled Balenciaga’s experimentations with form and dynamic prints as shown in the patterns of this white silk taffeta dress of 1961, for example.
As seen with Balenciaga and Miró or Picasso, another famous example of contemporary art influencing the fashion industry is Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress of 1965. It’s pattern is a clear replicate of Mondrian’s composition of 1937.
Schiaparelli’s Lobster Dress of 1937 inspired by his surrealist contemporaneous Dali’s ‘Lobster Telephone’ of 1936 is again, another known example of artists and designers of a same zeitgeist reacting by feeding off one another to their shared environment.
Over time, it has become apparent that both fashion and art are tied with one another. Fashion designers and artists of a specific period, propel and feed off each other as commentators of the cultural spirit of their time, exploring their political, economic, social, technical, ethical or even legal concerns throughout their works, which inevitably means that the fashion industry has and will always be immensely inspired by it’s respective contemporary artists.