Is fashion an Art? If so, then is the fashion designer an artist? Or rather an artisan whose job it is to introduce taste and proportion to an object they are creating?

Is the occupation of fashion designer like that of an architect, cabinetmaker, ceramist or carpenter? Creating functional objects, in this case to protect and swathe the human body, which are not only practical and comfortable but also beautiful, flattering as well as culturally timely?

Clothing created to be purely functional can be very ugly. Even uniforms designed for military persons, law enforcement officers and those who serve the public in any field must have a soul, a composition, a rhythm and sense. So aside from a very basic “raison d’etre”, they must flatter and even entertain.

Young fashion designers, those who are yet unfettered by the demands of mainstream, mass marketed fashion retail and department stores are in the best position to evaluate and discuss the concept of fashion as an art and the true meaning of the modern grand design.

Olivia Rubens is a 25-year-old fashion designer in Toronto. She is a creator of fashion in the purest sense because her concepts and creations are not yet influenced by the demands of the mass market and fast fashion. Olivia believes that fashion is not art in the purest sense of the word and that the fashion designer is an artisan who creates a functional object but gives it beauty, style and grace.

Olivia believes that fine art objects, such paintings, sculptures, and even photographs bring pleasure expressly to those who view them and although this can stimulate a myriad of positive feelings, the experience is static and distinctly different from the more hedonistic and blissful emotions one experiences when wearing one of her garments. Therefore, in her opinion, the act of designing modern fashion garments becomes artisanal and is a more personal experience which takes function to a much higher level.

“A struggle of mine is striking a balance. (As a designer) you want to be different and you want to tell your own story but you still must be approachable if you are to be successful. An artist in the purest sense can create a single work of art and she doesn’t care if people embrace it or not as it’s more of a personal statement. A fashion designer must try to create garments which are an expression of her talents and vision but will also be loved by an audience in greater mass.”

In Olivia’s opinion one of fashion’s greatest influences is social media. Online shopping and the sharing of personal experimentation on sites like Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram create a completely distinct experience remarkably different from the traditional bricks and mortar shopping of the past.

“I like blending some of my own creations with vintage pieces because they are unique and one of a kind and I am able to create a distinctively exclusive look which reflects my own personal style and taste.” Some of my customers combine single pieces of my clothing like a coat or jacket with their favorite jeans and t-shirts. In other words, they make it their own mixed media and share it on social sites. That’s often how style evolves. Much of it happens on the street.”

Olivia has her own website at www.oliviarubens.ca

Bjanka Djuric is a 24-year-old fashion designer who was born in Germany but is of Serbian heritage. Her family emigrated to Canada when she was a very little girl and so she considers Canada her home. A recent graduate of the Ryerson School of Fashion, Bjanka believes that ashion is art.

Bjanka has created her own label, B.Dj and her designs reflect the interdisciplinary practices of art and fashion. As a fine artist herself, she believes that fashion, art and society live in an indivisible intersection and that fashion garments should provide an experience to both the wearer and the viewer much like a single painting, sculpture or photograph.

“I’m influenced by the experimental fashion designs of people like Hussein Chalayan who has offered in previous collections a kind of performance art and are so much more interesting than simple catwalk presentations.”

In a recent collection Chalayan created a two in one dress that transforms with a single tug and another, a garment which emits laser beams. He is of Turkish/Cypriot/British heritage and exhibits his men’s and womenswear collections at London Fashion Week. He is the recipient of two British Designer of the Year Awards and teaches at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

“I love the idea of presenting fashion collections as though they were performances.” Says Bjanka. “I believe it takes fashion to another level, an artistic or conceptual VS mechanical place. It’s therefore art in the purest sense”.

Bjanka wears her designs but is not averse to pairing her own unique items with a $3.00 T-shirt from Zara.

“It’s often so difficult to resist the temptation of fast fashion because it’s so available and inexpensive. But I would like to see people become more sensitive to the idea of protecting the global environment by buying fashion designed in a more environmentally sensitive way and supporting their local design community.”

In both cases, as young fashion designers, both Olivia Rubens and Bjanka Djuric feel strongly that most fashion purchases will, in the future, be made online and that the era of a dominant bricks and mortar will have less influence on the buying habits of the next generation.

“The traditional retail store will not disappear.” states Olivia, “but there will be a global reach that cannot be imagined without the Internet. “I am aiming for markets in Japan, Europe and the USA and my online presence will allow customers in foreign markets to experience my products”.

So, the argument as to whether fashion is art or whether it is simply the business of creating fundamental necessities, objects that we use in our everyday lives and making them more remarkable, appealing and attractive is a matter of opinion depending on your own experience and value set.

However, there is one thing for certain, fashion, whether artisanal or a form of art continues its explosive evolution and is becoming a more globally influenced, androgynous and technologically dependent product with far reaching influences in culture, society and even political statement.


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