That Gray Space Between Art and Fashion

While I haven't yet been to the Rei Kawakubo and Commes des Garçons exhibition at the Met, all the commotion regarding the first Monday in May has me thinking about the past exhibitions I've been lucky enough to witness in person. For last year's Manus X Machina, sculptural creations from the mind of Gareth Pugh particularly stand out; and from the year before, that gold, artifact-esque dress from Guo Pei takes my breath away even in memory. These annual exhibitions from the Costume Institute at the Met always raise the question: is fashion art? Surely if these creations sit in a museum and bring in curious viewers they count as art, but what about the clothes walking down the runway, on the racks, or even on our own backs? Where is the line drawn between fashion and art? 

The official definition of art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. According to this definition, fashion should count as art because it does, indeed, express "creative skill and imagination" and, generally, is "appreciated for its beauty or emotional power." Like art, clothes have the capacity to be crafted with creativity and invoke feeling based off of the pre-existing memories/thoughts/opinions of the viewer. Now that we've established the closeness between the definitions of art and fashion, this leads to another question: if art and fashion are so similar, why are their worlds so different? 

While there are many instances of overlapping between the art and fashion worlds, the Met Gala itself being one of them, in general, the two communities are quite different. The world of fashion is quite fast paced and changes, seemingly, constantly. It revolves around seasons and newness and sales. The art world also revolves around sales (what doesn't?), but it moves at a slower, more irregular pace; there are no specific months for viewing or creating. Trends stem from both high fashion and art and infiltrate into more diluted versions for the masses. While fashion and art influence society in different ways, both of their presences are constant. It's been proven throughout time that a society cannot function without both art and fashion; without beauty and emotion. 

So, maybe having a gray space between art and fashion is alright. One of the lessons learned from actively existing in today's world is that a lack of label or definition is okay. There doesn't need to be clear distinctions and requirements for what qualifies for art and what for fashion, as long as the two exist. 

Personally, I consider myself a member of both the fashion and art communities, currently more involved in the latter only because it's a tad easier because of the lack of strict, fast paced structure, as I mentioned before. But as an active participant in both these "worlds," I appreciate and seek beauty and emotion in all its strangest forms, whether that be through Rei Kawakubo's unusual masterpieces, Kai Althoff's strange instillation pieces, or my own uncomfortable, rather confusing, short experimental film. Artists, designers, and every type of creator in between, not only move society forward, but they hold society together.