For a long time, Art and Fashion have sought each other to complement their creative processes. We discuss some instances, the by-product of their fusions in culture, the role of subculture fashion to mainstream fashion culture, and elements of African fashion culture.
• Fashion designers and artists collaborate outside their comfort zones to create mediums for rich conversation.
• Subculture fashion staples tend to influence mainstream fashion culture over time.
• African fashion culture varies according to region, and maintains a few consistencies.
Fashion, literally means something that is popular among a group of people, culture, is the way of life of a group of people. Culture and Fashion naturally overlap. African fashion culture represents a diverse mix of textiles, and elements deeply connected to heritage. People who rebel against popular culture, use subculture fashion to express ideals, and belonging to a group of similar thinkers.
Fashion Culture: The Connection
Clothes are expressions of who we are, and fashion culture is how a group of people express who they are through the clothes they wear. Art and fashion often connect, and amplify their powers of influence over culture. Art is a product of many societal activities, coupled with the emotions of the artist depicting them. Fashion is a tool we use to express our inner feelings through the clothes we wear.
When art and fashion combine, they become a medium for rich conversation, and a special occasion. Art urges fashion designers to engage with unusual forms and techniques, and incorporate them into their design process for the human body.
Fashion designers decompose art into elements and reimagine them into clothes on the human body, displaying art to an audience that may not normally have been confronted with it. Whether an outcry of a societal ill, or an awe-inspiring aesthetic, its juxtaposition against an unfamiliar space generates a peculiar astonishment.
Art and Fashion: The Pioneers
From Elsa Schiaparelli’s Lobster Dress inspired by Salvador Dali in 1937, to Marc Jacobs and Daniel Buren’s collaboration for Louis Vuitton in 2013, designers have sought out artists to derive elements from their art that inspire them, which they believe can be a source of inspiration to the consumer, or enhance the fashion experience.
When Yves Saint Laurent used Piet Mondrian’s colorful geometric abstractions to create a dress, their fusion was described a ‘The dress of the future’. This claim materialized in the influence the collection had on Ready-to-Wear; Yves Saint Laurent eventually opened a store in Paris for a Ready-to-Wear line—the first time a couturier had done so—to address the great desire for the dress. This set a tone for the growth of Ready-to-Wear as we know it today: a concept included in our fashion shop as well.
The 2002 collaboration of Louis Vuitton with Takashi Murakami to create bags, shoes, and accessories, was typified by cartoon cherries, and rainbow monograms on contrasting backgrounds. The light-heartedness of the collaboration, promoted a more carefree approach to high fashion. Today’s thriving collaboration culture in high fashion can be said to be a derivative of Murakami’s carefree elements.
African Fashion Culture: Its Role
There isn’t a singular African fashion culture, rather, there’s a variation of culture and fashion across Africa’s regions. There’s a diversity of traditional textiles eg Kente (Ghana), Kikoi (Kenya), Adire (Nigeria), Boubou (Senegal), Akwete (Nigeria), that employ decorative motifs woven into the fabric.The Kente garment traditionally is a display of its wearer’s wealth and royalty.
It is an interwoven cloth made from silk and cotton fabric. Adire—adi (to tie) and re (to dye)— is an indigo-dyed cloth, decorated with resist patterns. Modern Adire accommodates an array of dye shades and hues, and is generally casual wear.
Diversities considered, one consistency in the fashion culture of different countries is western attire in urban areas. Western attire has been the dress code in official settings since colonial times. As a result, contemporary designers often incorporate traditional textiles in western styles. It is important to note that fashion culture in Africa is more couture than ready-to-wear, almost everyone seems to have a tailor. Bespoke clothing made from traditional textiles for occasions, or regular use, is a unique element of African fashion culture.
Subculture Fashion and Society
Subcultures are groups that have beliefs different from the larger culture around them. Their identities are often avenues of rebellion, reinforced through specific fashion and music tastes. Examples of subcultures and their fashion staples are; Punk and distressed jeans, Hip-hop and sneakers/tracksuits, skateboarders and vans/all-stars, Grunge and flannel shirts, etc.
When a subculture’s ideals creep into the general consciousness, society often becomes infatuated by it. The mainstream culture adopts these fashion staples, typically out of a liking of aesthetic, and less as a symbol of rebellion. Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent championed subcultures like Rock, Goth, Punk, and Ska, incorporating their staple items on Parisian runways.
U.Mi-1 Is Art and Culture
At U.Mi-1, art and fashion have a strong relationship in our collections: our design lines are heavily influenced by cubism, made of basic, but not ordinary, geometric shapes and images. We don’t forget our origins: our collections tell stories about our Nigerian heritage.
We employ fabrics such as Adire and Aso-oke, which is prominent in the Mood Indigo and Revellers collections. These fabrics are designed by Nigerian artists and made by local artisans, Art and culture is in U.Mi-1’s DNA.
Culture and Fashion: What’s Next?
Culture and fashion are like two sides of the same coin, there isn’t any culture that doesn’t clothe themselves in some way. And fashion continues to be influenced by changes in culture.
Even groups who rebel against culture or fashion, inevitably express themselves through some sort of subculture fashion. Fashion plays a big role in fostering freedom of expression, because habitually, before we speak, we dress.