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Fashion's beautiful relationship with art

The idea of artwork being some kind of 3D multimedia project designed to appeal to all the senses, rather than merely an object to look at, feels right for our time.

There's a real buzz about the vivid, almost saccharine sweet pastel shades that will define spring/summer 2012 fashion.

That, and of course the other huge trend of the moment: thrilling prints and 3D textiles. Sometimes it's hard to tell one from the other because the surface is textured, which heightens the overall trompe l'oeil effect of the print.

Leaders of the print movement are, perhaps not surprisingly, many of the designers who have orchestrated the defining palette of the season. They include the Canadian-born Erdem Moralioglu, whose digi-prints of florals this season were enhanced by fabric flowers layered on top, as well as the gifted colourist Jonathan Saunders. And Mary Katrantzou.

For her fashion show last September, the Greek-born designer, who like Erdem and Scottish-born Saunders works from London, created an installation from pungently scented real flowers dyed to enhance their natural colours, then arranged in blocks of three for the backdrop.

Models then walked around it wearing trouser suits and body-affirming dresses in what looked like an exact photocopied print of the flowers making up the decor.

Ever since Alexander McQueen's Platos Atlantis Spring/Summer 2010 collection, which was to be the last he ever did and which gave the world the reptilian wedge shoes that became the centrepiece of last year's Savage Beauty exhibition in New York, print has careened into the forefront of fashion.

While the reverberations of McQueen's hyper-surreal collection are still being felt, it would be partly true to say the visionary designer very much took his cue from a movement already going on in the art world, or the arts generally (in music, interiors, film, theatre, etc).

The idea of artwork being some kind of 3D multimedia project designed to appeal to all the senses, rather than merely an object to look at, feels right for our time. And it was with this thought, "fashion mirrors art", that I put on my most intellectual-looking spectacles (Giorgio Armani, obviously) and set out for two major art openings last week.

The first was the opening of David Hockney: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. This artist began experimenting with multimedia long before the YBAs (young British artists) made it fashionable. Familiarising myself again with some of his most iconic pictures, I was hit by colours women will be picking out on skirts and dresses this summer.

I'd forgotten just how very uplifting Hockney and his colour scheme can be, particularly his landscapes. Up close you can almost feel the warmth of the sunshine and smell the green, green grass.

The second groovy event was Gary Hume's show, which spans not one but two of the three sites of trendy British art gallery, White Cube.

Hume, a YBA and a contemporary of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, collaborated with the fashion brand famous for prints, Marni's Spanish designer Consuelo Castiglioni on her Autumn/Winter 2010/2011 collection.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get anywhere near Hume to ask him whether he sees any parallel between his latest body of work, titled The Indifferent Owl (one painting did feature a cartoonish owl) and the tactile/vibrantly coloured mood of fashion.

No matter, the paintings spoke for themselves. These were all so glossy and gooey, and made to look even more so because he paints on aluminium, they appeared to have been created from sickly, sticky sugar, not gloss paint. They made you want to reach out and touch them and then quickly lick your fingers.

At the gatherings in Mason's Yard, just behind the Ritz hotel and Hoxton Square, I spotted a guest wearing a printed dress by Jonathan Saunders.

A perfect choice! Hume's work is defined by his particular palette of grungy grey, verdigris and mucky pink set against pop-art purple, canary yellow and black. Saunders' prints, although subtle, continue to set the pace for the fashion scene.

Because London was particularly chilly on both nights and art gatherings inevitably spill out on to the pavement so that bohemian guests can puff on ciggies and chat earnestly, the coats were kept on. I also spied a few fingerless gloves, like the red Chanel versions Madonna wore to the premiere of her WE movie in London last week.

But nearly all the crowd - who included Bip Ling, the trendy stylist, and the actress Gillian Anderson (known for her role in the popular TV series The X-Files) - had entered into the spirit of spring by wearing a pair of brighter than bright opaques with wedges (Charlotte Olympia?).

But I can report the trend for dyeing your hair pink or orange, which emerged from Hoxton and has spread as far as Harajuku, is now over.



Julia Robson is a London-based fashion journalist, broadcaster and stylist

Updated: January 22, 2012 04:00 AM



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