Dear Coco

“F” stands for Fashion and “A” stands for Art.

“I am intrigued by the narrative woven into the imagination and creativity of self-expression, and, above all, the manifestation of an identity that extends far beyond the fashion that we buy and wear.”

Jackie Burger, Fashion Editor of Elle South Africa

When referring to the term “fashion”, each person has his/her own connotation: some might be negative and some might be positive. To some people fashion is a superficial way of spending money and gaining status while to others it is a spontaneous valve creating opportunity for the inner persona to manifest.

Nothing gets me more excited than engaging in fashion-based conversation with un des amis de la mode (a fasion friend). Normally we could go on for hours, discussing the endless possibilities of mixing and matching all sorts of garments, brainstorming over new and daring ideas and exploring the open minded space of creativity. But when I try to keep up the same conversation with the cashier at Cotton On, the so-called conversation would end up in me standing all alone in monologue style. Having made a conclusion I realized that the difference between these two bodies is the different interpretations of fashion. To me, and likely to my un des amis de la mode too, fashion is more than just a piece of clothing you wear to cover your body and look lovely for your “maybe”-future husband, fashion is form of self-expression, a momentous act/thought created when the soul, body and heart meats together. We do it, to wear it, not so that we can be it, but that it can be us.

Fashion cannot be defined or placed in a box, it represents a life liven and therefor it is enormous and monumental. A lot of people refer to fashion as art. I myself have a great passion for art and it makes perfectly sense to me why some people would relate to fashion as art: art is also a way of expressing yourself, just like fashion. Perhaps fashion can be seen as “wearable art“.

A few years ago the famous question “Is fashion art?” returned to the spotlight when fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld told the Telegraph: “I am against museums and exhibitions in fashion. One woman said to me — ‘In my world, the world of art’ — so I said: ‘Oh, don’t you make dresses anymore?’ A thin smile and then: ‘If you call yourself an artist, then you are second-rate.’”.

Whether fashion is art or not, at end, who cares? When we look at the work of some game-changing designers such as Alexander McQueen, Laura Mulleavy and Rodarte’s Kate, it is totally acceptable for fashion to intercept with the realm of art. Other designers agreeing with the statement that “fashion is art” includes Paul Poiret, who fancied himself as an artist, Ralph Rucci and John Varvatos who told ARTINFO: “If you’re creating and you’re new, and you’re pushing the envelope – I definitely think it’s a form of art”.

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Yves Saint Laurent co-founder and partner Pierre Bergé, who does not relate to fashion as art, describes some of the biggest names in the industry as artists. He told ARTINFO: “Fashion exists only when it’s worn by women. Otherwise, it is nothing. It’s not an art. But Yves Saint Laurent was an artist, like Balenciaga was an artist. And Chanel, too. And Christian Dior, too. And Schiaparelli was an artist. Fashion is not an art.

Contributing to the debate, against Lagerfeld’s wishes, is the fact that fashion is making its way into art’s most sacred institution — the museum — with exhibitions such as “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the Met, “Elsa Schiaparelli And Miuccia Prada: Impossible Conversations”, the traveling “Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective,” and the roving “Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” all attracting record-breaking crowds.

The Met's Spring 2012 Costume Institute exhibition, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, explores the striking affinities between Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, two Italian designers from different eras.

The Met’s Spring 2012 Costume Institute exhibition, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, explores the striking affinities between Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, two Italian designers from different eras.

"Surreal Body"

“Surreal Body”

"Classical Body"

“Classical Body”

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“Don’t be a prisoner of fashion and don’t be afraid of age!”

– Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada

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While fashion is parading around, having everyone scratching their heads, it still has quite a gap to fill before it convinces both industries (and the rest of the world) of its place in the field.

While the answer to this question remains in the dark, the tug of war between both companies will endure. For the long run it is best to refer to art and fashion as a symbiotic relationship – two different bodies relying and feeding off one another.

As Lagerfeld told the New York Times in 2008:

Art is art. Fashion is fashion. However, Andy Warhol proved that they can exist together.

Andy Warhol: Tomato (1968) transformed into a Campbell's Soup dress (Fashion Rogues, The Rodnik Band).

Andy Warhol: Tomato (1968) transformed into a Campbell’s Soup dress (Fashion Rogues, The Rodnik Band).

Thus, whether fashion is art or not, the true beauty of fashion is not about having a walk-in closet with bejeweled garments, velvet Versace dresses or a pair of leather Louis Vuitton’s , but the never-ending possibility for each persona to be her own “A-list” designer. Being classy goes much deeper than the skin. Classiness reflects the way you carry and present yourself, it is a lifestyle. You can always be classy and fashionable, but you can’t always be fashionable and classy. In fact it should be whether a person has a sense of classiness rather than a sense of fashion. Being fashionable does not guarantee you being classy, it guarantees you of just being you. Fashion is infinite, it can be anything, but being classy is the state of an honest heart in a passionate fashion-love affair.

Photographed by Emily Shur

Mark wears a sweater by Kenzo, shirt by Stussy, pants by Moschino and shoes by Havanas.
Kim wears a sweater by Chloe, shirt by Acne, dress by Kenzo, pants by Marni, necklaces by Emporio Armani and Marni, bracelets by Alexis Bittar, belt by Ariat International and shoes by Siperga.

Photographed by Emily Shur

Auguste wears dresses by Missoni and Sonia by Sonia Rykiel and necklace by Marni.

Photographed by Emily Shur

Mark wears a blazer by Lanvin, t-shirt by Givenchy, shirt by by Robert James, pants by Versace, necklace by Alexis Bittarand shoes by Givenchy.
Auguste wears shirts by Salvatore Ferragamo and Peter Som, skirts by Louis Vuitton and ICB, pants by Helmut Lang, scarf by Louis Vuitton, necklaces by Salvatore Ferragamo and Frieda Rothman Belargo Jewelry, bracelets and rings by Belargoand shoes by Carven.

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