Artists and fashion designers have, over the decades, collaborated in various ways. Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí inspired many of Elsa Schiaparelli’s noted designs and, more recently, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s prints have been emblazoned on Louis Vuitton handbags. Although this concept isn’t new in Berlin, the autumn/winter 2016/17 season has seen a substantial growth in collaborations between artists and designers. Berlin’s fashion brands are linking with artists and vice versa, and designers are making fashion films or using photography to create new experiences in the sector.
Prada x Christophe Chemin
Most notably, Berlin-based artist Christophe Chemin’s ink and pencil illustrations have been turned into prints for Prada’s men’s and women’s collections. Chemin is a self-taught artist, photographer and author of four books, and also has a collaboration with fashion label Ann Demeulemeester under his belt. His menswear prints for Prada are inspired by art history and European mythology, including Greek gods and goddesses, while his womenswear prints are influenced by the French Revolution.
As well as being seen on the catwalk, Chemin’s fashion prints have also been displayed in a more artistic setting. His illustrations and extensive correspondence between Miuccia Prada and Prada’s design director Fabio Zambernardi were exhibited at 032c magazine’s headquarters in Berlin’s St Agnes space as part of a show called Keep Your Daisies for the Cold Days.
Chemin and Prada are not the only ones pushing boundaries. For autumn/winter 2016/17, Lala Berlin’s designer Leyla Piedayesh didn’t hold a traditional catwalk show but instead opted to present her collection, Persian Queen Goes to Berlin, as a fashion film at Me Collectors Room. Based in Mitte, this large white-walled gallery is owned by art collector and expert Thomas Olbricht. It shows important temporary and permanent exhibitions, such as a recent retrospective of work by American photographer Cindy Sherman.
Directed by Jonas Lindstroem, the Lala Berlin fashion film tells the story of a woman during three stages of her life. ‘I wanted something different. Something that would engage people and be emotional at the same time,’ says Piedayesh. ‘I wanted to drag the focus from fashion to an emotional 3D level – to see, hear, and feel. There were no seats, no rules, just a fashion film to give the audience a taste and general mood of our AW16 collection.’ The acoustics in Me Collectors Room lent themselves well to the film’s score, which featured Piedayesh’s favourite singer Jesper Munk, whose soul-stirring tunes played over the film.
Piedayesh and Lindstroem have collaborated before, so their partnership felt right for this collection which was inspired by Persepolis – the ancient Persian capital. It features one-shoulder silhouettes, 3D knits and a new signature print based on antique creatures. ‘This collection mirrors my background and relationship to Iran in a really beautiful way. The whole inspiration goes back to my Persian roots,’ says the designer.
Don't Shoot the Messenger
The relationship between artist and designer is also paramount for Don’t Shoot the Messenger (DSTM) designer Jen Gilpin, who collaborates with her husband, photographer Maxime Ballesteros, on all her brand’s imagery. For her autumn/winter lookbook, Gilpin was inspired by 1940s surrealist film-maker Maya Deren who was ‘such a strong woman and made some beautiful imagery in her films’. The nod to surrealism includes some odd pairings, such as a model wearing quintessential DSTM fetish-inspired black bodywear and seated beside a pair of mannequin legs (which recalls the work of fashion photographer Guy Bourdin). A large pitchfork and ladder are used as props and there’s a false, self-inflicted stab wound to the hand – this isn’t for the faint of heart.
Art is a huge influence on Gilpin’s designs for DSTM. ‘I’m more interested in art inspirations than in fashion inspirations. I see clothing creations as little wearable inventions,’ she explains. DSTM has found an aesthetic to covet and has stuck to it, with an all-black collection that includes leather and silk. ‘For me black is the medium and the message comes into form with the lines, cuts and geometry of the clothing,’ says Gilpin. The team is currently working on a new collection and moving towards a seasonless approach, using art to create an aesthetic that makes women feel strong, elegant and sensuous.
In a city such as Berlin, which is known for its creative scene, it’s no surprise that the boundaries are beginning to blur. ‘Art and fashion belong together. There’s not really a border for me,’ says Piedayesh. And the inspiration that artists provide to fashion designers will not diminish anytime soon. ‘The art world is very interesting here,’ says Gilpin. ‘I love having artists around me, they inspire me greatly and remind me of the meaning behind creation.’