Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is Fashion an Art Form?

Garments from Zandra Rhodes Collection of 1986-87 Spanish Impressions Collection,
Photo by Anthony Scoggins 2010

Is fashion an art form? According to acclaimed fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, the answer is yes!

In a conversation with Alice Rawsthorn, a columnist for the NY Times, Zandra said "I think fashion is an art form - you might call it decorative or applied art as opposed to fine art, but what is the distinction? Because the same amount of artistic expression goes into clothes, a piece of pottery or a painting." (pg. 103, Fashion Theory: A Reader, Routledge, London, 2007). Rawsthorn argued otherwise - citing the practical purpose of clothing as the reason fashion is not a true art form.

It's probably no surprise that I agree with Zandra. Her work speaks for itself. Fashion and art are one.

Zandra Rhodes was born in 1940 and her mother was a fitter for the Paris fashion House of Worth. Zandra studied printed textile design at The Royal College of Art in London and was a pioneer in the use of printed textiles as an intrinsic part of the garments she created. She opened her first shop in London in 1967 and was nicknamed the "Princess of Punk" after her 1977 collection which incorporated holes and beaded safety pins.  Zandra is renowned for her use of bold prints, feminine patterns and theatrical use of colour, not to mention her signature pink hairdo. She has created garments for many celebrities including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Isabella Blow, Helen Mirren and Sarah Jessica Parker. In the last few years, she has designed sets and costumes for the opera. Her work is included in many museum collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Royal Ontario Museum.
Installation shot of Punk garments by Zandra Rhodes, 1977-78.
Photo by Anthony Scoggins 2010
The Mingei Museum in San Diego is currently showing a retrospective of Zandra Rhodes work called A Lifelong Affair with Textiles which features garments from the 1960s through the 1980s.  The pieces reveal her process, approach to shape, color, technique and worldwide influences, and are complemented by textiles and objects from the Museum’s collection to emphasize the varied cultural sources of her creations.  The exhibition, which continues through April 3, 2011, has previously been seen in London, Italy, Australia, and Mexico City.
Zandra Rhodes Title Wall, Photo by Anthony Scoggins 2010

Zandra Rhodes will be speaking at the Mingei Museum on Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 7-8 pm in conversation with Nicolas Reveles, The Geisei Director of Education and Outreach for the San Diego Opera.

Mingei Museum
1439 El Prado - on the Plaza de Panama
San Diego CA 92101
P: 619-239-0003
F: 619-239-0605
E: mingei@mingei.org

Photo credits: The photos for this post were provided courtesy of the Mingei Museum and subject to copyright.