Encyclopedia of Color Science and Technology

2016 Edition
| Editors: Ming Ronnier Luo

Art and Fashion Color Design

  • Larissa Noury
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-8071-7_262



Art and fashion color design concerns the harmonies of color associations of textile and other materials used for a couturier’s aesthetic project. It is an illustration of collaboration of artists and couturiers on the harmonies of color associations in order to create a personal style. They were more closely tied at the turn of the twentieth century than they are today. Artists did not see the difference between creating an original work of art, such as a painting, and designing a textile pattern that would be reproduced many times over. Each was a valid creative act in their eyes. There are a lot of vivid illustrations of the centuries-long love affair between fashion and art of color. Couturiers are past masters at capturing the contemporary zeitgeist in their designs, while artists have frequently used clothing as a way to give all-round expression to their aesthetic ideas.

The Role of Art and Fashion

Beginning from the nineteenth century, major changes emerged both in the role of fashion and in the place of art in society. Growing affluence and new social structures gradually turned art, color, and fashion into ways of expressing personal taste and identity. This section presents a historic panorama of the color in the fashion design during the twentieth century, highlighting certain symbolic movements such as the Art Nouveau, the Russian avant-garde, the modernism, pop art, or the kinetic art. It lists the color’s harmonies for modern fashion design and describes the tools, ranges,  palettes, and techniques which allow personalizing a dress with fantasy and subtlety.

Art has often been a major source of inspiration for dress designers of the twentieth century. Some creations by Liberty, Sonia Delaunay, Liza Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and Jean-Paul Gauthier can be mentioned. In their practice, the art of color is conveyed to fashion. The designers paraphrase the masters of painting. This connection between art and fashion is particularly obvious starting in the late nineteenth century.

Fashion and Identity of the Color Palette

Belle Epoque

The artistic principles of the Art Nouveau combine the personal style of expression where the sinuosity of the shape harmonized well with the mosaic of contrasted colors. The synthesis of practical considerations and of aesthetic natural forms and lines is characterized by color palettes of a great richness. The modern time influenced a lot the development of the fashion design and produced profusion of the  polychromy in it. The large selection of paintings by Giovanni Boldini, Auguste Toulmouche, James Tissot, Jean Beraud, and Alfred Stevens – visual artists who reflected the best on the fashion style of the Belle Epoque – is an example of what could be called fashion inspiration in fine arts. Artworks were created in realistic manner and have not even a touch of stylization typical of modernist art. Figures depicted in these paintings are precise and realistic. However, it would be fair to say that style itself is the subject matter instead of a particular model. Fashion is the main theme and inspiration for these paintings.

Beautiful symbolic women’s dresses by famous Austrian artist Gustav Klimt followed, in which he introduced his frescoes and paintings of portrait. Klimt himself drew the blue caftan, a long tunic of oriental style, and many other dresses for Flöge Emilie, his companion for many years, who owned a fashion house in Vienna.

After a visit of a workshop in Vienna, the avant-garde fashion designer Paul Poiret brought the idea of mixing art and fashion to Paris. He opened a Martine school in 1911, a place that was also attractive for artists. He then employed Parisian artists such as Lepape, Ibibe, and Erte on fashion illustrations. He employed the artist Raoul Duffy to design fabric prints and to invent tissues. He went to art galleries and showed his artistic sensibilities by preferring Impressionist paintings at a time when they were new and unappreciated by the public. Poiret became very interested in modern art and said, “I have always liked painters. It seems to me that we are in the same trade and that they are my colleagues”. The couturier considered himself as an artist first.

Russian Constructivism and Suprematism

The artists of Russian avant-garde in 1915–1935 initiated probably the most intensive and creative art and architectural movement of the twentieth century and became a significant source of any art movement since that. The constructivists defined the chromatic surfaces as fundamental colored elements where the straight lines, the rectangular forms, and the principal colors (yellow, red, blue, black, and white) are used to make a unified composition. The color interdependence simultaneously with the community of ideas formed by the uniformity of geometric contours and the absence of force of gravity, the balance of the unit, and the dynamism of the parts, all form a kind of representation of an ideal cosmos.

Varvara Stepanova, Alexandre Rodchenko, Liubov Popova, and others show their creativity thorough re-energizing new forms and meaning in art and dress design. The key fragments of Russian revolutionary creativity still glow like radium, living on futuristic art and design into the imaginations of some most influential couturiers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Christian Dior haute couture in 2002 was inspired by the color  palette of Malevich painting.

Simultaneous Contrast and Sonia Delaunay

In the 1920s, abstract painting inspired a variety of fabric designs, mainly based on the simultaneous contrast effect, by the successful designer and artist Sonia Delaunay [1]. Married to Robert Delaunay and friend of artists like Mondrian, Arp, Vantongerloo, and Kandinsky, she was a member of the contemporary artistic avant-garde in her own right. It was her own abstract paintings that she translated into rhythmic designs composed of squares, lines, circles, diagonals, and color planes. In all, Delaunay created over 2,000 of these fabric designs, around 200 of them produced especially for the fashion house Metz & Co in Amsterdam.

Surrealism and Elsa Schiaparelli

Fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel’s main rival in the 1920s and 1930s, produced clothing and hats heavily influenced by Surrealism [2]. Her sweaters incorporating knitted ties or sailor collars were a sensation, and she worked in close cooperation with artists like Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau. An example of her work with Dalí is her famous lobster dress.

Coco Chanel and Japanese art

The designer’s passionate interests inspired Coco Chanel’s fashions [3]. Her apartment and her clothing followed her favorite color  palette, shades of beige, black, and white. Elements from her art collection and theatrical interests likewise provided themes for her collections. The ornament of the dress, in both pattern and color palette, resembles the Asian lacquered screens which the designer loved and collected. In convergence with the Art Deco line, the modernist impulse was married with pure form and Japanese potential.

Neoplasticism and the Bauhaus

Piet Mondrian changed the face of modern art. His influence extends to painting, sculpture, graphic design, and fashion. In search of plastic harmony, he introduced a universal language of shapes and  primary colors that goes beyond the painting; Mondrian was the central and most famous figure of the De Stijl movement. This style was baptized as neoplasticism and intended to achieve real objectivity by releasing the work of art from its dependence on the momentary individual perception and temperament of the artist. Yves Saint Laurent has created his famous dress with Mondrian’s color composition. The color in fashion design was developed by the school of Bauhaus and was also very enriching and interesting [4]. The relationship between form and color within the framework of visual perception was defined starting from the color theories of Kandinsky, Klee, Itten, and Albers in this school.

Op Art, Minimalism, and Pop-Art in Fashion

Since the Second World War, there has also been frequent interaction between art and fashion. In the 1950s, Karel Appel produced signed fabric designs, in the 1960s the Bijenkorf department store sold dresses inspired by op art, and since then the emergence of minimalist art has given rise to a widespread taste for sober, often asymmetrical designs. For instance, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac was inspired by Andy Warhol and his pop art Campbells Soup painting. Victor Vasarely, Yvaral, and other representatives of optical art, as well as Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s art, continue to influence modern fashion design and modern life [5].

In 2007, Christian Dior designed a unique piece, hand painted and enhanced with spectacular embroidery, Manteau Suzurka-San. Dior haute couture was inspired by The Great Wave of Kanagawa, emblematic work of the Japanese artist Hokusai. Focusing on the relationship between art and creations of the house Dior, it is possible to say that the original works have been in one way or another influenced by different artists. Certain highlighted artworks influenced not only the collections haute couture and pret-à-porter but also the unique world of fine jewelry, perfumes, and accessories. Because they reflect light and velocities, colors and shapes of the paintings of Sonia Delaunay emphasized the dancing model dressed in her parade by Ungaro Fall-Winter 2003–2004. Yves Saint Laurent revolutionized fashion and gave woman the freedom of movement that has inspired artists, poets, and painters. “The profession needs an artist to exist,” he said. He loved painting and painters such as Matisse, Mondrian, Braque, Picasso, and Van Gogh. Saint Laurent began in 1988 with Georges Braque, whose famous birds seem to fly stuck to the bride’s dress. Then, he designed a jacket inspired by Iris of Van Gogh. It took 800 h to sew the whole Van Gogh. Flakes, tubes, seed beads, and ribbons were all embroidered by hand to make the effects and lighting of the canvas. Yves Saint Laurent influenced in some way other couturiers. For instance, stylist Erin Fee has been inspired by flowered textile design and some kind of “camouflage” for his fashion collection. Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, on the other hand, brings a joyful color palette from BD art graphics. Nowadays, fashion designs have increasingly been regarded as autonomous works of art. Some creations by designers like Viktor & Rolf now go so far in that direction as to be scarcely wearable at all. Viktor & Rolf spread their cut-up couture in the magazine Dazed and Confused.

Tactile Color and Haute Couture

Nowadays, the collaboration between artists and fashion designers continues. The personal artist’s inspiration comes from tactile painting. Jean Marie Pujol, couturier who worked with Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, designed several dresses to be painted by Larissa Noury as a means to perpetuate the art-and-fashion marriage [6]. With this personal style, a series of hand-painted dresses were created and presented during the exhibition at Faubourg’s gallery in Paris, amid boutiques of Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gauthier, Chanel, and other creators of fashion.



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Colour-Space-CultureParisFrance