By Daniele Antonaglia.
Art and fashion are colliding like never before, inspiring creative design and innovative styling across cotemporary catwalks, fashion houses and retail shelves from high street to high end. The world of fashion is evoking hallmark works from the visual arts as inspiration to create standout designs in the rapidly homogenizing industry. With blossoming floral motifs, green palm shaped cut outs and woven wheat crafted straps, Australian shoe brand Wittner is the latest label to do this with their ‘Art of Style’ capsule collection, combining inspiration from Vincent Van Gogh’s works with this season’s shoe trends, to create truly unique must have styles.
The limited edition, four shoe collection is a collaboration between the century old fashion footwear label and the National Gallery of Victoria, in celebration of the largest collection of Van Gogh works to ever travel to Australia in the much anticipated “Van Gogh and the Seasons” exhibition, currently on display in Melbourne. The project, which has been in design and development for over seven months, draws its inspiration from Van Gogh’s admiration of the seasons and landscapes. To Van Gogh, the seasons held a deep meaning representing the circle of life in nature from bloom to death and this is an obvious theme in many of his most renowned paintings.
Wittner Product Manager Louise Patrick, says that naturally the focus on the seasons in the current exhibition inspired her to create four styles for the collection representing Summer, Winter, Autumn and Spring.
“There is a Van Gogh quote that I drew most of my inspiration from: ‘Spring is the fresh green of young corn and the pink blush of blossoms. Autumn contrasts the yellowed foliage with violet hues. Winter is the white of snow against its black forms… Summer is the contrast of blues and the golden bronze of the corn’” said Louise.
Inspired by this quote, each style takes on the colour palette of one of Van Gogh’s famous paintings. Spring style, Lente, is a feminine pink open-toed heel with a sweeping flower strap across the foot that encapsulates the florals of spring as inspired by Van Gogh’s Orchard in the Blossom. Summer style Été, embodies the warmth of the season and captures the beautiful fusion of greenery and wheat, as portrayed in Van Gogh’s classic Wheat field with Cypresses. Autumn style Herfst is a heavier look. The rich suede pump covered in hand-made leather flowers represents the combination of textures and colour that come with Autumn’s arrival, as inspired by the same deep hews in Van Gogh’s Vase with Honesty. Winter style Hiver, pins snowy white flowers to a rich combination of leather and suede in a classic boot shape inspired by Van Gogh’s Winter Garden.
Anticipating that the range would be launched in May 2017, the design team at Wittner were conscious of the fact that the pieces still had to be seasonally relevant as they would be displayed in a number of their flagship stores across the country. While the designs are interpretations of Van Gogh’s work, the collection also encapsulates some of the hottest footwear trends straight from European runways, making them the must-have statement piece for your wardrobe this season.
“Floral motifs are a huge trend for the coming Spring season and we decided to be first to market and launch this application in the ‘Art of Style’ collection. The colour palette of styles Herfst and Hiver is very relevant to the rest of the Winter 2017 Wittner collection. The deep wine colour in Herfst sits back with the berry tone for the season, and as Hiver is black and white it is very classic and timeless,” said Head Designer Louise.
Up and coming fashion blogger for JordyBlogs, Jordy Christensen agrees that the collection’s vivid colours and dramatic silhouettes are at the heart of this seasons trends and loves that the collection, whilst fashion forward, still presents signature styles. “The beauty to me is that they are still, at their core, really classic shoes. The Summery opened toe block heel sandals, a classic pointed heel and an essential black boot really make the perfect canvas for the trendier elements,” said Jordy.
“My favorite style from the collection is the Herfst Autumn pump. It is just such a great fusion of the most current trends including lace ups, the bold berry colour and the pointed toe, all very wearable art features that really exude Van Gogh’s essence,” Jordy added.
Art has served as a muse for the design team at Wittner for a number of seasons. From embroidered tapestries in Parisian cafes, to old paintings in French op shops to styles inspired by the Kinky Boots stage show, inspiration from unique art forms has allowed Wittner to produce cutting-edge in house designs that cannot be found at its competitors.
Head Designer Louise believes that globalisation and online shopping has led to increased consumer competition in Australia, meaning it is even more important to stock a variety of unique pieces exclusive to Wittner. “Our team always strives to draw inspiration from obscure areas and art has definitely been a big part of our inspiration for a few seasons now. Our product team is fortunate enough to be able to visit incredible galleries and spaces all around the world” she said.
This influence of Van Gogh’s paintings to Wittner’s ‘Art of Style’ Collection is just the latest in a long history of collaborations between art and fashion. Fashion theory expert and former Vogue Italy contributor, Dr Tiziana Ferrero-Regis can trace the historical background of fashion and art’s long standing relationship back to the time of Charles Worth, who elevated designs to an art form of its own. “In the 1800s Charles Worth, the first couturier and father of Haute Couture, promoted himself as an artist. He used to dress like Rembrandt and declared that he was an artist, not a dressmaker,” she said.
This tradition continued in the 1910s, with revolutionary French fashion designer Paul Poiret, whose designs were sought influence from various art forms. Poiret was inspired by fauvism, a style of painting that emphasises simplification and uses vivid colours. He also took inspiration from other art forms including the Ballets Russes, which influenced him to create his now famous lampshade dresses. Dr Tiziana Ferrero-Regis believes that “art was used as a way to lift fashion out of being a feminine job and from being mere dressmaking to an art form in itself”.
The fusion of art and style has continued into today’s fashion scene with art being seen “as a point of difference amongst the global homogenisation and casualization of contemporary fashion”. This is more blatant than ever before, with many artist’s work appearing in the latest designs of global fashion houses. Renowned artist, Andy Warhol has had multiple collaborations with major fashion Houses including Versace and Dior, whilst the current Louis Vuitton Collection contains imitations of some of the world’s most famous paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci and Van Gogh on its handbags.
Not only has art been a driving muse for the inspiration of fashion, but the hard work of designers is now in itself being recognised as an art form which is worthy of display in galleries. A number of fashion exhibitions pass through the National Gallery of Victoria’s doors each year celebrating that fashion can often be wearable art. Among those notable collections are The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From Sidewalk to Cat Walk, Viktor and Ralph: Fashion artists and a celebration of fine jewelry in Italian Jewels: Bulgari Style. Later this year, the gallery will be home to The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haut Couture and will display 140 garments designed by Christian Dior Couture. Along with Van Gogh’s work, Wittner’s The ‘Art of Style’ Collection can be seen on display at the National Gallery of Victoria until the 8th July 2017.