More than just clothes
A lot of designers should be considered artists and not just designers, for the clothes they make. But there are some who don't just make clothes, they're photographers, film directors or sculptures, and in this piece, I am going to be highlighting some of the greatest fashion designers that had success in other areas of the creative realm.
After a shock departure from fashion in 2005 and no plans to return, Helmut Lang put all of his focus towards art. Stating in a 2016 article with Amuse that he is fully committed to art and doesn’t plan on changing paths. He now lives in his East Hampton home, with his studio close by, and the city he once fell in love with just a mere 2-hour drive away.
Most will know Helmut Lang for his clothing, but Lang has been putting on art shows since the mid 90’s. Being close friends with painter Kurt Kocherscheidt, to influencing his studio practice. Outside of the Viennese art scene, his collaborative work with Louise Bourgeois and Jenny Holzer, undeniably influenced his desire to make art.
Having made sculptures since leaving fashion, he truly made his debut to the art world in 2016 with his show in New York City’s Sperone Westwater. Overall, he has done seven solo exhibitions since 2008, as well as having two current solo exhibits in Austria.
His 2016 New York show was truly when he gave up the thought of fashion, shredding his archives, and using the debris to create sculptures. The way he has destroyed all his history and created something completely new with it seems to be a metaphor for his life. This commitment to a new art form is admirable, and was greeted with a lot of respect. As a fashion lover though, it hurts to know that some of the most iconic pieces from the last 20 years were destroyed on purpose, but he as the creator of the clothing should have the right to choose the lifespan.
It is difficult to draw comparisons between his art and the clothing he designed, as with most artists, you find similarities between pieces of completely different mediums. But it shows again, that he wanted a new start. His new life being controlled by him. And I say that because of how he left the fashion world, having Prada buy his label, and take too much creative power out of Lang’s hands. Now, with no business oriented boss telling him what he can and can’t do, he must feel the freedom he once had, when he first started his label.
Hedi Slimane is truly one of a kind. He’s the designer who gave Dior Homme a sense of direction, and Saint Laurent a new aesthetic. Slimane has been one of the biggest names in fashion for the last 15 years, but in between tenures at various houses he has taken time off to work on his photography.
Photography was his original art form, getting his first camera at the young age of 11. If you know anything about his work, you’ve probably seen his famous Diary, which actually inspired the Photo Diary on the DELCLINE03 website. His diary is filled with various pictures he takes while living life. Documenting everything from underground rock n’ roll stars to the newest Hollywood models.
Portrait photography is really where Slimane accelerates. With his most recent project in collaboration with V Magazine, he documented the artists, writers and musicians that live in New York. I love this project because I always dreamed of these collaborative communities with artists, designers, writers, philosophers, musicians and everything else, that bounce of each other. Although communities like Warhol’s close group of friends in New York, or Hemmingway and Picassos posse in Paris were more coveted and famous, these groups exist all around the world. And to me they all are inspired by each other. In Raf Simon’s recent interview with Vanity Fair he said “Actually, nothing ever started with me in relation to fashion. Things started in relation to art and design and film and music. Fashion is the last thing that came in. It’s what I do now . . . but if somebody would ask what is it that you breathe that’s not air, but that’s what you need, it’s art. I have to see art constantly. It’s not even like ‘O.K., I’m going to look at art in the evening’; it’s all day long.” Now although many have always compared the legacies of Raf and Hedi, they both seem to believe in this idea.
Back to Hedi though; he had a total of 15 exhibitions between 2002 and 2011, which was before during and after his Dior Homme tenure, but hasn’t had one since he joined Saint Laurent. But I do think we can expect a new one to come soon, as he left Saint Laurent a little over a year ago. His obsession is a city, and the sub-cultures with in it. Although in his project with V magazine he captured New York City, his true inspiration and muse is Los Angeles. Hedi famously moved Saint Laurent’s creative office from Paris to LA when he started in 2012, but has been living there for the last 10 years now. He is obsessed with the subcultures of the city, and uses his camera to document the faces within them. From actors to underground rock n’ roll bands, he photographs them in his classic black and white format.
Portraits are a talent, they seem like an easy task when you are given the right equipment, but it’s about much more than how well you know how to use a camera. Portraits are about the relationship between the photographer and the subject. It’s about developing intimacy with the model, gaining their trust. And this is something that Hedi is incredible at.
With him putting a lot of focus on photography now, we can expect a lot of amazing projects in the future. The best way to stay up to date with his work is through his Diary on his website.