Art and Fashion: Ruthie Davis, Lady Gaga and How the Industry Has Changed
February 8, 2010 by curatorialintern
Ruthie Davis, GRAFFITI: Mondrian Pump with 4.5” nut & bolt heel, 1” forefoot platform, chic fluo patent leather.
With New York Fashion Week right around the corner (February 11-18th) and an upcoming exhibition of Ruthie Davis’ High-Fashion footwear at the NBMAA (Mar. 20 – June 20), one begins to wonder: where does fashion end and art begin? Haute Couture, once a world few dared to enter (its pure and unabashed exclusivity combined with utter impracticality often drives the “average” consumer away) has made its way into both popular culture and art , as a form of art in and of itself.
We’ve all heard of Lady Gaga and her out-of-this-world style. She has exposed average Americans to Haute Couture by modeling them in her popular music videos and wearing them on the red carpet. She recently teamed up with Alexander McQueen–donning his bizarre heels in her video for Bad Romance–and Giorgio Armani–with whom she collaborated on her outfits for the Grammy’s.
Lady Gaga in Alexander McQueen Lobster-Claw heels. Bad Romance music video.
Gaga has a unique view of her fashion, saying: “It is that moment of fashion, that moment of performance, and that moment of music, combined with art and love, that makes what Gaga is all about… the objective is to always be making something that belongs in a museum. Even what I’m wearing right now.” (The New Yorker. Nov. 30, 2009) Gaga clearly sees her fashion as an art form, and has an entire staff dedicated to her design aesthetic. Named the “Haus of Gaga,” these emerging designers reference one of the greatest aesthetic movements in the modern era: Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus.
Also in the headlines for her fashion-forward style, Beyonce Knowles presents herself as a woman of power and energy. She uses fashion to complete her alter-ego Sasha Fierce. As any art historian knows, fashion in art is laden with symbolism. Beyonce frequently wears Ruthie Davis footwear (complete with nuts and bolts) to match her metallic/robotic arm-covering that transforms her into her powerful alter-ego.
Beyonce Knowles in Ruthie Davis Cindy Heels. Grammy Awards 2010.
Beyonce donned a pair of Ruthie Davis footwear (Cindy” Platform Sandals in gold metallic) for her record-breaking 6 Grammy wins last week, proving just how successful and powerful she is. Designer of the footwear, Ruthie Davis, cites art as a major source of inspiration for her designs. GRAFFITTI (above) is an obvious homage to Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) who was a major contributor to the De Stijl art movement and is know for his gridded works of art that only utilize the primary colors. Pure and simple yet powerful, it is easy to see why Ruthie was inspired by his works of art.
Despite the blurring of the lines of the grand hierarchy of fashion, designers nonetheless continue to use their typical justification for their sky-high glass heels or the dress made of palm fronds–that Couture is not just clothing but is also art. It is art that, rather than hanging in galleries, is made to walk the runway. If you have ever seen any footage of the catwalks from a fashion week, it is clear that these clothes could never be done justice on hangers alone. Couture fashion depends on the motion of the human body to truly express its beauty.
Think of couture as you would typical art. The more prestigious and well-known artists garner higher prices and tend to be ground-breaking in some way. Haute Couture works in a similar fashion. Though the extravagant prices tend to drive all but the wealthy buyers away, the devoted think of it as a collection, or an investment similar to purchasing a painting or a sculpture.
Composition 10, 1939-1942. Piet Mondrain, (1872-1944). Oil on canvas. Private collection
Now that it seems designers are willing to branch out to a wider audience, perhaps Haute Couture will become an art for the masses, rather than the elite few. Well, we’ll see if the bizarre world of couture can cut its teeth into a society where Uggs and Leggings seem to be the fashion norm. Perhaps the burgeoning fashion-forward minds can convince us that Couture is more than just over-priced Björkian nonsense, but rather, an art form.