Is Fashion Art? (Margiela Couture Makes Us Wonder)

LA Times blogger Elizabeth Snead has a bone to pick with Maison Martin Margiela’s couturiers. She writes:

“The oceans are dying, children are suffering around the world, the ozone is disappearing, and the polar ice caps are melting, and this is the best idea you can come with up for us to wear in a few months? Is it any wonder no one takes high fashion designers’ suggestions to heart anymore?”

Okay, it’s kind of funny and true (in a sad way), but at the same time, this brings us back around to the age old question: When it comes to fashion, and more specifically, to the meticulously crafted works we see during couture week, should we consider it art or, um, just really unwearable clothes? Let’s discuss!I mean, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the notoriously reticent and definitely avant-garde Martin Margiela is not kidding himself about the fact that this shoulder board attached to velvet ropes, pantyhose on the face situation he has going on here is not going to be The. Next. Big. Thing. And despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of the Belgian designer (it’s fair to mention he also churns out all kinds of wearable yet unique and cool clothes, too), I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that yes, this jacket is indeed heinous.

However! Margiela and other designers spend a lot of time and handiwork on detailed pieces like this. And like any work of art, its inception begins with research, inspiration, a sketch, and a production process that requires a great deal of skill and talent. And while it’s unlikely that something like this will ever be worn — though I’d LOVE to see it on the red carpet (Bjork, I’m talking to you, girl) — someone with a lot more money than most of us will snatch it up for their own private collection, just like they would a painting. And they may or may not lend it to the Guggenheim when they do a Margiela retrospective years from now. (Which brings us around to the philosophical discussion regarding the arts being restricted to the wealthy but that’s another post entirely. So.)

Question here is: Would Elizabeth Snead tell Matthew Barney that his work is a fastidious waste of time? In fact, she’s rightly concerned about the state of our world right now (especially for a gossip columnist!), but is she insinuating that it’s a place where we should stop fostering artistic undertakings altogether? Or is fashion ever art in the first place? Obviously, I don’t think my H&M top is. But I think this monstrosity creative endeavor is. Anyone? [LA Times]

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