After graduating from the Courtauld in 2017, I began working in a “street art” gallery located down the heavily graffitied Brick Lane. The gallery is a hub for alternative sub-cultures that often engage with pop-culture so it seems natural that fashion designers would also clock on to the world of street art. My first exhibition was for Australian artist Ben Frost, just after this show, his commercial, satirical pop-art style was picked up by designer Jeremy Scott for Moschino’s autumn/winter 2018 capsule collection. His designs were printed onto handbags, dresses, hats and coats, the modern advert designs a notable contrast with 1960’s styling of the models. Ben Frost’s work subverts mainstream iconography from the worlds of advertising, entertainment and politics. Combining these elements with the ‘Jackie Kennedy’ styling of Moschino’s looks calls to mind Walter Benjamin’s idea of tigersprung. The show illustrated how the digital world can leap into the past, referencing the 1960’s right down to the pillbox hats.
Frost’s kitschy style seemed well suited to the ‘camp’ aesthetic of Jeremy Scott’s Moschino. Similarly, more traditional designers have collaborated with street artists to meet the continued demand for relaxed, sports-luxe fashions. The following year, I worked an exhibition with New York street artist Dan Witz. As we were setting up his large scale, photo-realistic paintings of mosh pits, I came to learn that he had also worked alongside a fashion brand the year before. Dior had incorporated his mosh pit paintings into their prints for Kris Van Assche’s Dior Homme, autumn/winter 2017 collection. Whilst initially wary about working with such an iconic house, Witz later agreed eventually agreed to collaborate once he understood the artistic vision behind the collection. His paintings explore the climatic tension of mosh pits and how they create ‘beautiful moments of chaos’. The prints then exploded over the runway, in suits, denim, capes and outfits worn by artists such as Liam Gallagher and ASAP Rocky. As popular culture and street-style becomes increasingly important to high fashion brands, street artists provide perhaps the most effortless intersection between ‘street’ and high style.
While fashion brands have taken a significant interest in street artists within the past few years, – see Kaws’ involvement with Vogue and Comme Des Garçons or Shepard Fairey’s own clothing brand, Obey- this cross over between designer and artist is not new. Keith Harring’s art and activist designs has been a cosntant influence to designers and brands hoping to reach the masses. On display at Tate Modern’s ‘Keith Harring’ exhibition was a Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren knitted jumper and skirt ensemble originally designed by Haring for their ‘Witches’ winter 1983 collection. Fittingly, the outfit was lent from the personal collection of Dior’s Kim Jones. This further connects fashion to the influence of street art. From the past to the present, both worlds intersect, forming an interesting and refreshing relationship that is bound to continue.
Evans, Caroline, Fashion at the Edge (Cambridge, Mass: Yale University Press, 2003), p.34