It's more than an air kiss. T. Krithika Reddy unveils a riveting romance between fashion and art

Graceful gowns inspired by the works of Tamara de Lempicka, streamlined looks taken from the Cubist movement, Pop Art in lollipop shades on tees, Op Art with its optical illusion on dresses and Frida Kahlo's melancholic mood translated onto maxi dresses ... it's no longer a mere crush. It's a full-blown affair.

Gallery chic is the new buzz word in the style circuit. As the two worlds meet, clothes turn into canvases and the visual language gets more dynamic. Wendell Rodricks, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rohit Gandhi-Rahul Khanna, Pankaj-Nidhi, Ashish Soni… the style-art synergy list is growing by the day, what with paintings and sculptures offering a treasury of creative inspiration.

“Art fascinates me. I've done clothes based on Picasso's matador sketches. I would love to translate the works of some Goan artists. Their rough lines and almost angry brushstrokes leave me cold. I also like my artist friend and ex-student Payal Khandwala's paintings. I find her sense of colour and strength of line incredibly inspiring,” says designer Wendell Rodricks, one of the pioneers to have romanced art with a complete collection inspired by Cubism.

Tough call

What charms designers about art are not just the patterns or the palette. Art brightens up the fashion landscape with its intriguing textures, dimensions and narratives. “Using art as a template isn't easy. Most often, the designer has to lend a tactile touch to something that's intangible. The challenge does not stop with interpretation. The difficult part is the execution. It's a tough call to create art-inspired clothes,” say Pankaj-Nidhi. “Holographica” was the design duo's vision of the Op Art movement of the 1950s and 60s. “With iridescent hand cut embellishment and multi-tier architectural embroidery (think piles of sequins and glass beads) we went for tessellating forms that create an optical illusion so typical of Bridget Riley's Op Art. But steering away from her signature white-and-black scheme, we went for a contemporary colour story and created delicate silhouettes such as square pants and geometric shifts. The result was magical on the ramp.”

Moods, moments…

With both fashion and art being creative mediums, it's interesting to note their moments of togetherness. When Sabyasachi Mukherjee went for Frida Kahlo-inspired creations, the fashion world couldn't stop raving about his use of colours and layers to match the Mexican painter's unique sense of forlorn beauty.

“Sometimes it's not necessarily the technique of the painting, but the mood it evokes, that inspires our creative process,” says designer Anand Kabra. “I have a tendency to do mood-based collections. I've worked on a complete line, inspired by Polish Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka's works. I take the essence of the work and translate them into wearable art. Lempicka's portraits of women are precise and elegant. The lines are soft and they have a touch of sensuality. That was the motivation.”

Enduring association

For designers like Rohit Gandhi-Rahul Khanna, art is constantly working on a subconscious level during the design process. “As designers who also run an art gallery (Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi), it's almost impossible to design without thinking of art. Our current Spring-Summer line is titled The Workshop. The garment is the canvas and we've splashed ink and played with paint to create interesting forms. Earlier, we've created a whole line based on the works of leading Indian artists. We've also conjured up a line based on the works of Kerala-born artist George Martin P.J.”

Talk about form, and the duo says, “One hangs on the wall, and the other is worn. So you have to pay attention to construction. Besides, it's a daunting task to develop the fabric, the print and the embroidery to match a painter's inspired dimensions.”

Wendell equates fashion with architecture when it comes to form. “Fashion is a bit like architecture. Only the platform is different. One is on terra firma; the other is constructed for a body that moves. Translating an emotion is easy for me. The sea breeze and the air of Goa evoke abstract emotions in me. But when I take a seahorse motif and give it a Cubist interpretation on my clothes, it's not simple. It's painstaking.”

That art cannot be divorced from fashion is apparent with newer experiments such as “Art ‘Oouture”, a luxurious expression of art and fashion as envisioned by Vanessa G with designer Ashish Soni. “I guess every designer is also an artist. So the movement between the two mediums is pretty seamless. It will continue to enrich the fashion world,” assert Pankaj-Nidhi.


In the realm of nature where everything is ergonomic, the Cubists brought in angular and straight lines, and reduced the clutter. I cut my clothes along geometric lines so that the drape was soft and curved. Like in Cubism, I let colour and minimalism do the talking.

Wendell Rodricks on his line Cubism, a precursor in fashion's romance of the art world in the country.


Krithika ReddyMay 11, 2012