The presence of fashion stands in art exhibitions has created debates on whether organisers should admit them during such events or not. Some people argue that fashion is an outsider that should not be admitted, while others feel that the creation and innovation surrounding fashion qualifies it to be an art. There are also other arguments that qualify some aspects of fashion as art while disqualifying others. Several definitions to both concepts, as will be discussed in this paper, have been developed.
Gezcky and Karaminas (2012) defined art as a field with restricted entry, where most production elicits cultural meaning, mostly in the form of “painting, sculpture and music”. This definition contrasts with the general understanding of fashion as an industry and as a people’s way of life. It is therefore much easier to attach monetary value to fashion, often replicating it and still maintaining a high value. The same does not apply to art. Replicas are often treated as second rate and are not considered and valued as highly as the initial piece of art. Replicas are treated as replicas and their value is usually much lower than the original piece.
An important part of the culture of a people is dressing. Art, having much relations with culture, can accommodate the way people dress thus creating a leeway to accommodate fashion as an art. However, in most contexts, such a leeway might be ambiguous when there is little or no attachment of the identified piece of fashion with a given culture, which is not uncommon (Binlot 2012). The industrial production of fashion commodities makes it more and more detached from the work of artistry, which is in most cases identified with handiwork and personal talent.
An important aspect of art involves bringing together colours and parts to create patterns that carry significant meanings. Mosaic, collage patterns, as well as the creation of other fields such as creation of puppets to create meanings all provide definitions of art. Fashion has so many of these characteristics in that it brings together pieces and colours to create a completely new commodity. These colours and the design of fashion products are then used to elicit some meanings and expressions (Binlot 2012). For instance, it has become part of fashion to wear black clothing to signify sad moments. Another example is the already established fashion patterns where some pieces of fashion commodities represent masculinity and others femininity. The use of fashion can therefore qualify to represent artistic work. The main contention with this argument would fall on the process through which these fashion products are created. Art does not only involve the complete product but is mindful of the artist and how the product came to be.
Postrel (2010) argued that fashion does not specify any medium, but is a reference to “any aesthetic change for its own sake.” She argued that other forms of accepted art such as sculpturing and paintings were a reflection of dynamism in fashion. To the list, she added dances and music, poetry and other literature. With these observations, she alluded to the fact that fashion was a representative of changing tastes and preferences, which are reminiscent with human beings. However, the existence of classes in fashion is a major undoing. While art has no distinct boundaries and limitations, fashion is segmented mainly by the financial abilities. The universality of art explains the existence of museums that are often cheap to access where people of all walks of life can enter and consume the art. Fashion can therefore be discredited on these grounds because not much can be conserved and displayed for other people eto see if they do not identify with the work.
Art provides an individual with crafted and highly emotive feelings when taken to an audience. However, it remains appreciable and likeable to the artist even if there was no audience. Art remains relevant and stands on its own. On the other hand, Postrel (2010) noted that fashion must have an audience in order to get appreciated. In as much the creativity the designer puts in, it would only be appreciable and bring out the intended meaning when worn. This is a big difference between art and fashion, which disqualifies fashion from being an art. People argue that the inability of fashion to stand on its own makes it more of a commercial product than an art. Fashion only becomes relevant when applied.
The creation of artistic products takes handiwork and takes an individual who conceives it in their minds and executes it in a certain way. It explains the composition of songs and creation of melodies, paintings, composition of poems and many other forms of art. The artist provides every detail that they feel should be included in the piece of work, then makes changes until they see it fit as they conceived it. At times, some changes are prompted by intuitions rather than imaginations (Binlot 2012). The same case applies to the development of most fashion products. Although most of them are regarded as industrial products that do not qualify to be works of art, they require an individual who undertakes the steps of an artist to create the model that is then replicated. The designer conceives ideas, generates them and is completely satisfied with the product they create. With this path, which is a reflection of the process of mainstream artists, fashion can be qualified as an art or a form of art.
Robert Radford provided a different approach that suggested that art as a field could be subsumed into the territory of fashion. This followed a definition of the two terms, where he described art as a field where institutions that train the artists determine their legitimacy and attach economic value to the products that the artists create. On the other hand, he termed fashion as a sector that concentrates on the appearance with an aim to seduce and a sense of ephemerality. However, when the definition is expanded to include other factors such as notable social forms, human expression and judgments on aesthetic matters, art becomes subsumed in fashion.
The phrase ‘art is art and fashion is industry’ is common in many literature that attempts to determine the legitimacy of fashion in art discussions. As Gezcky and Karaminas (2012) noted, the creation of an apparel brand by Worth through handiwork and the close relationship that he created between his work and his company show a significant argument to qualify fashion as art. He viewed himself as an artist because he determined the design of his work, and gave his clients very little freedom to choose. This feature is reminiscent with mainstream artistry of painting, music and carving, where the artist expresses himself and his work is admired by others. One characteristic of art is creativity, which was a strong aspect of Worth as he raised his company. Despite these views that position fashion as an art, others that view it differently exist and provide equally plausible arguments. Leading fashion enthusiasts opposed that fashion is an art, attaching the spiritual and timeless values of art as a sharp contrast to fashion due to its dynamism. Further, the ease of commercialisation of fashion as opposed to art is another clear distinction between the two. With the aspect of commercialisation coming to play, fashion is seemingly seen as better classified as an industry rather than an art. Therefore, with all the definitions and arguments being fronted in media and in different forums, the debate on whether fashion is an art will continue to rage on. The verdict will remain subjective.