|The Panel: Austin Scarlett, Annika Connor, Bill Indursky, and Patrick McMullan|
Exploring the inexplicable link between fine art and fashion throughout the past and modern day, "The Fusion of Fine Art and Fashion" featured discussion between famous nightlife photographer Patrick McMullan, designer and Project Runway star Austin Scarlett, and co-founder of VandM.com (Vintage and Modern) Bill Indursky. The panel was held at the General Assembly and the colorful conversation was moderated by artist and entrepreneur Annika Connor.
While the conversation was ultimately supposed to be about the newest concepts of the fashion and fine art, it would be impossible not to look back upon history's influence. Who better to look to the golden past than Austin Scarlett, who specialized in couture and evening wear design studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology and has received fine arts training at the Art Students League of New York.For Scarlett, looking at fashion and fine art from a historical perspective began with Spanish painter DiegoVelázquez who was enlisted by King Philip IV to decorate the interior of his palace. Velázquez also designed elegant garb for the royal family and ladies in waiting. During the 17th and 18th centuries, fashion was considered equal to art. "A painting was a display of someone's power and whole lifestyle, and likewise with fashion" said Scarlett "Promoting a lifestyle of privlege and cultivation."
According to Scarlett, Rose Bertin is one of the first fashion designers you read about in history books. Bertin was a French milliner and dressmaker for the court of Marie Antoinette and helped introduce the haute couture to popular culture. It during that time that fashion was at the "peak of frivolity and extravagance." However, when the Industrial Revolution began, fashion was made more accessible to the masses. "It became more of a common-leaf commodity as opposed to a rare kind of art form" Scarlett explained.As fashion rapidly began to spread beyond wealth, so did fine art with the beginning of the Modern Art era. "There was a seperation between the old days of the luxurious lifestyle to the seperation of Modern Art." he said "Painters were coming out with their own work that really had nothing to do with lifestyles of the rich."
The mid-nineteenth century brought the growth of the fashion industry and collaborations began to emerge between fashion designers and the world of theatre, with designer creating elaborate costumery. Proclaiming the 1950's and 60's as the golden age of couture, America's first couturier Charles James worked out of the Chelsea Hotel. Scarlett mentioned his favorite quote about James by Balenciaga, “Charles James is not only the greatest American couturier, but the world’s best and only dressmaker who has raised it from an applied art form to a pure art form,” In our modern day, the idea of artists collaborating with fashions designers or courturiers is very common, and has allowed for larger audiences to be reached.
With talk of modern collaborations, photographer McMullan mentions artist Stephen Sprouse who collaborated with designer Marc Jacobs. "He was a true artist first, and a designer second" explains McMullan. He talks about how one of his photographs from a Stephen Sprouse runway show was placed in museum and how significant that was for his flourishing career back in the 80's.
Throughout his career, McMullan has explored photography as both functional and a fine art. In terms of history, McMullan spoke not for only his love for portraits but also the fashions worn in them "When you think of so many of the wonderful masterpieces, what would they be like without the fashions they're wearing?" he posed. "Fashion is part of the portraiture." He also points out that for a while it was mostly the wealthy who were able to immortalize through painting, and since photography was first invented documenting has become quicker and easier for many more.
When McMullan hits the town to shoot, he looks for the individuals who catch the eye. "I've always been drawn to people who say "Look at me!" He explains. "I really have." In many cases, there fashion plays a large part in what captures his attention. " Fashions adds status, color, flair, and style to each of us" he explained. For McMullan even bad style is fun to photograph.
Following McMullan's commentary, Connor directed the conversation over to Indursky and his innovative approach to fashion and art. As a co-founder of an online retailer who sells carefully curated antiques, he has found the recipe for embracing technology in a relatively old-fashioned business. Indursky asserted that he believes that in fashion "Items have a second life that goes way beyond their original function." Thinking artistically, one can bring new life to a once thought to be useless garment. Not limited just to fashion is the idea of "upcycling" which is not just environmentally friendly, but also encourages creativity and innovation. Taking a vintage item and re-imagining it, "you repaint it, refurbish it, cut it apart, and making it something else."
While Indursky admits there are aspects of fine art and fashion that have been lost in the digital age, there are plenty of benefits. Combined with traditional methods, he uses web analytics to forecast trends in the art and fashion products offered on VandM. Collectively the group agrees that technology holds endless possibilties in the foreseeable future of fine art and fashion.
The Fusion of Fine Art and Fashion was the third in an exciting new educational series of panels entitled Art as Entrepreneurship. Each panel hosts a mix of creators, investors, historians, and innovators in a monthly art discussion.