14 October 2015

Wearing Cubism

The Cubist movement was highly idiosyncratic yet methodical in it’s mannerisms. Cubism consumed fashion in the most divine sense of the word and it was an inevitable success, mainly due to the vivacious nature of the art and the possibilities deriving from it. Futurism and Constructivism were two movements that had their moment but failed to mimic the deep-rooted impact of Cubism. They didn’t permute the whole fashion industry and divert its direction like Cubism did.

Structure, layering, geometric shapes, colour blocking and clean-cut lines - the core elements of Cubist painting - have subconsciously wormed their way into the wardrobes of many of us. Céline leads the way in the utilisation of the undeniably flattering, chic angular appeal of Cubism. Their use of primary tones as a statement colour has become their signature and took its form in knee-length skirts for Autumn-Winter 2015. An altogether more muted look for SS16 used delicate lace and a neutral palette to portray the Celine woman but fear not, for the sprinkle of Cubism came in the from of boxy cuts and weighty shapes. Pheobe Philo’s blending of Cubism with other movements; Modernism, Constructivism, Surrealism and Futurism; creates a contemporary cool that promises to radiate from every collection.

By valiantly dethroning the Western style of The Belle Epoque, Cubism represented the freedom of women and the abolishment of unrealistic proportions. A very specific silhouette stood at the heart of the design process for the likes of Dior through the “New Look” and others long before him. Only one brave enough to take a step into the future could break away from the Belle Epoque and into the new aesthetic of Cubism. The pioneers of the movement were Vionnet, Patou, Collet, Poire, Lanvin, and of course Chanel. The unorthodox designers were opposed to the traditional styles which propagated “the perfect body” and instead embraced Cubist fashion, which used incredibly flat and cylindrical silhouettes to create a proficient weightlessness, bringing the body to life.


Swedish label, Cos has notably formed a brand around the aesthetic. Cos has found success in its luxe look and consciously current pieces that are readily available at prices that are deemed affordable by most. Bridging the gap between high-end and high-street, it appeals to those of us who seek clothing that is high quality and contemporary, yet accessible and readily available. Sandro, Maje and the ever-trusty Zara collate to form this group of retailers who have creeped up with the common aim to provide us with an aestheticism that we’re eager to buy into.

The original Cubists: Fernand Léger, Georges Braque and specifically Pablo Picasso, allowed Cubism to gain momentum as a movement and then trickle down to the designers who didn’t copy their approach, but merely used it as inspiration for their own interpretations. Designers of Paris didn’t just share a city with the Cubist artists, they shared a certain vehemence and electric approach which heightened their creativity and cultural relevance.

Yves Saint Laurent dynamically arranged contrasting colours to augment the embodiment and paved the way for the colour-blocking phenomenon. His “Mondrian” dress didn’t grace the catwalk in 1965 but stands as an infamous symbol of sixties fashion. Saint Laurent continued to pay homage to Cubism through his designs however Hedi Slimane’s reinvention of the brand is pursuing an altogether different direction and approach.

There are not many design concepts that manage to relentlessly cling onto relevance quite like Cubist dressing does. It is not always at the forefront of collections, but its brilliance lies in its ability to make an appearance in a plethora of forms. Whether through Fendi’s geometric shapes, Victoria Beckham’s structure, or Peter Pilotto’s sharp prints; it is a recurring presence that transcends the concept of trends. By embodying several different elements of dressing, it can be near impossible to pinpoint to a specific season so just comes back, reinvented and reinterpreted to feed our burning desire for something new, but old at the same time; familiarity but other-worldy.

The relationship between art and fashion is somewhat symbiotic: artists have and still do draw inspiration from fashions of the past and present while designers embrace art as a cultural statement to keep their designs relevant and alluring. It’s easy to appreciate that art history isn’t defined solely by the contemporary, and fashion is by no means limited strictly to clothing; but it’s difficult to realise that the condensing of these significant cultural elements into one does more to question this link than confirm it. Is it really so difficult to appreciate art and fashion as two separate components, before we consolidate them without a second thought?