Artistry of Fashion

Art has undeniably served as inspiration for designers through the ages but one can forever debate, whether or not fashion can be considered as an art form. Certainly, the Museum at FIT’s Couture Council believes that it is, hence, their Artistry of Fashion Award which celebrated its 10th anniversary last week with an award luncheon honoring Manolo Blahnik, this year’s honoree.

Photos: WWD

Carolina Herrera, who has long cited art as an inspiration for her collections, received this award in 2014 and she took it one step further on Monday morning when she presented her Spring 2016 collection at two back to back shows at the venerable Frick Museum at 70th Street and 5th Avenue (it sure beats Lincoln Center!). Not only was this an inspired and lofty choice for a location (it marks the first time a fashion show was staged there), but I should point out it was a convenient one at that: Carolina’s two Madison Avenue stores are both situated just blocks away (one is between 67th and 68th Streets and the other is at 75th Street), as are the apartments of many of her well- heeled and loyal customers, some of whom were on hand.

And it worked well not only because of the obvious beauty of this important landmark building, but because of the layout: everyone had a front row seat (show attendees, seated on benches which surrounded the lush domed atrium courtyard, watched as the models filed by them). Interestingly, as it turns out, the art connection was rather subtle: there was not one painterly print or pattern and while there was some black, white and gray, in fact, the 45 piece collection was seemingly played out in “50 shades of pink”, from the palest rose to the boldest fuchsia. Though on second thought, Carolina admitted she is in a “Rose Period” (like Picasso?), so I guess there’s the ‘art’ connection after all lol.

It was also hard not to notice that there was not one pant in the line-up. It was an ultra-feminine collection comprised of skirts and dresses (all lengths were represented), many pleated, paneled, feathered, or embroidered, and it looked weightless, light, and floating thanks to the use of organza, gazaar, silk crepe, techno jersey (the use of shine patent was an interesting counterpoint). For the elegant designer, it’s all about the idea of creating sensuality by way of transparency and illusion–the “allure of leaving something to the imagination” is how she put it.

Pamella Roland  ivory liquid organza gown
with asymmetrical cape
Photos: WWD

Another designer who left the main venues in favor of something far more artistic is Pamella Roland. When she showed her 37 piece collection last Friday (fan and customer Mary J. Blige was seated in the front row), she had the distinction of being the first designer to present a collection inside the spectacular new Whitney Museum located in the Meatpacking District. This was made possible by virtue of the fact that Ms. Roland sits on the board of the Whitney. And while the actual show space was alas, not a painting filled gallery (it was actually an educational room), it was still the Whitney nonetheless, and you definitely had a museum experience while heading into the show.

Appropriately, this season, Ms. Roland cited the Post-painterly abstraction of Frank Stella and his “unique vocabulary of line and color”, as inspiration for her collection. To be sure, it was used rather subtly and as a jumping off point, rather than taken literally, as evidenced by the ivory, poppy, blush, citron, mint, and black shift dresses, jumpsuits, rompers, party dresses, bustiers, flared pants, and gowns made of liquid organza, silk faille, silk georgette, and cloque. Though, the finale of the show did feature a Stella inspired backdrop. And coincidentally (or not), there will be a Frank Stella retrospective at the Whitney at the end of October.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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