With major cultural institutions like the Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art mounting splashy fashion exhibitions, the fashion world decided to return the favor this season. That would explain the many ways that the art world was conjured on the runways of Spring/Summer Fashion Week shows, which came to a close on Wednesday in Paris. For three weeks, designer labels ranging from American sportswear behemoth Calvin Klein to luxury Italian label Marni showcased new spring and summer looks that took their cues directly from museum walls.
And while it’s not unfamiliar territory—fashion designers often look to cinema, travel, and art for inspiration—this season was especially rich with allusions to the art world. Here is a guide to next season’s hottest art-meets-fashion mashups—so that come spring, the next great art you buy may just hang in your closet.
1. Christian Dior Channels Niki de Saint Phalle
Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri has looked to female artists many times during her still-new role at the storied French brand. Recently, she designed a collection inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe, complete with moody southwestern flair. For this season, Grazia Chiuri channeled French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle with a series of whimsical graphics: Breton sailor shirts were emblazoned with fire-breathing dragons, and preppy knits featured a sweet looking spider. Meanwhile, the shattered-mirror motif borrowed from Saint Phalle’s work was used for some sparkling evening gowns.
2. Marni Evokes David Salle
Sometimes a cold call is all it takes to get a good partnership going. Just ask Francesco Risso, who apparently did just that with artist David Salle. The result? A close look at Risso’s plaid, floral, and embellished spring collection revealed Salle prints typical to his oeuvre—nude women by the phone or smoking. The results were evocative and sensual, the perfect touch for an Italian label like Marni.
3. Calvin Klein Mines Andy Warhol
Raf Simons, the art-loving Calvin Klein creative director who has taken the reins at the American powerhouse, presented an ominous collection last month, mining the darker side of classic Americana. In addition to the cowboy gear and painted denim jackets, shift dresses and tank tops featured images from the Pop master’s silkscreen painting Tunafish Disaster (1963). Additionally, the show space was decorated by Ruby Sterling, who helped Simons design the brand’s Madison Avenue store earlier this year.
4. Prada Pays Tribute to Comics
The visionary Miuccia Prada injected some graphic punch into her spring collection by setting it among the dynamic illustrations of cartoonists and manga artists. The most telling move, however, is that all the artists she used to decorate the set were women, a ringing endorsement of female power. “I found it inspiring that with a pencil in your hand, you can tell your life,” she told Vogue. Similar cartoon-style images—appropriations of feminist art cartoons—made their way onto shirts, dresses, and jackets with a military vibe. The whole affair was spirited, empowering, and 100 percent Prada.
5. Cindy Sherman Goes Undercover
Undercover designer Jun Takahashi met artist Cindy Sherman six years ago and they’ve been friends ever since. For next season, he has channeled the artist’s body of work into an elegiac collection, filled with allusions to her career in ways both overt and understated. Each piece is reversible and was modeled eerily by a set of twins (very Diane Arbus), to show the garment worn both ways. Some of Sherman’s images were printed on t-shirt dresses or coats, and her name was used in a decorative cursive on hats. But Takahashi was even more effective when he channeled the feminine archetypes often found in Sherman’s work—the vamp, the ingenue, the aging society dame—and infused them with a sense of sorrow and fragility.
6. Coach Pays Tribute to Keith Haring
It’s fitting that Coach creative director Stuart Vevers tapped into the energy and joy of Keith Haring’s graffiti-style work for his spring collection. Both Coach and Haring have become closely associated with New York, each in their own way. By borrowing the artist’s signature squiggles and his cartoonish creatures, Vevers was able to add a frenetic yet upbeat energy to his rock ’n’ roll aesthetic.
7. Comme des Garçons Plays With Art History
In her typical manner, Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo refused to conform to fashion in the traditional sense, sending out instead exploding, misshapen silhouettes. Many were covered with artistic references, from Manga to the 16th-century artist Arcimboldo—who made surreal portraits comprised of fruits and vegetables—to Dutch Masters paintings. These were mixed with childlike images—plastic toys as necklaces, for instance—and some striking all-white pieces reminiscent of blank canvases. After her blockbuster retrospective at the Met, this show proves the enigmatic designer has no interest in moving away from her avant-garde approach.
8. Oscar de la Renta Goes Pop
Featuring an array of sunny colors, simple shapes, and paint-splatter designs, the new designers at Oscar de la Renta—Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia—evoked the Pop Art movement in their spring/summer collection. De La Renta’s brand is founded on Uptown Lady principles, but the new duo has added an extra dose of optimism by channeling the mid-century art movement. And, these days, a sunny disposition is a much-appreciated commodity.
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