Pop Art Fashion: Why this artistic genre must be pushed

Pop art and fashion are a powerful mix. Together, they create something relevant and modern and because of this I believe Pop Art Fashion should be promoted more as an artistic genre in its own right. Creatively, I think it can be pushed to new heights. 

The philosophy of pop art promotes bold communication and use of global symbols that can meaningfully engage directly with the public. Clothing is the ultimate democratic art platform – it knows no gallery wall limitations, it crosses cultural divides with ease. Clothing and accessories can travel the world like walking sculptures that engage people’s attention and create responses both immediate and potentially complex.  

There has been a strong history of clothing translating bold ideas from art, from the early 20th century to the present day. The incredible Ballet Russes costumes designed by Picasso and De Chirco, to the amazing clothing of Sonia Delaunay. Surrealism was engaged when Elsa Schaperelli collaborated with Salvador Dali, and then there was French designer Annie Marie’s brilliant surrealist handbags. 


In the 1960s there was an explosion of pop. Many artists looked to clothing as an engaging extension of their world – Andy Warhol made those iconic soup can dresses and in 1965 and Yves Saint Laurent created the Mondrian collection.

With the 1980s came a new wave of irreverent fashion designers mixing pop art and fashion, with Franco Moschino’s energetic and witty early collections and  Jean Charles de Castelbijac’s playful mix of fashion and art in Paris. Lately Jeremy Scott has been revisiting many of these ideas with his LA style slant. All these names are just a few of the more obvious ones, as of course there have been many more artists and designers who have actively engaged and pushed this cross over. 

But can Pop Art Fashion become more than just a cycle of repeated ideas? Can it evolve with fresh artistic integrity? In some ways, the current surreal handbag craze offers little beyond that of what french designer Anne-Marie created in the 1940s.


Personally, I believe in every art form there are examples of people heavily borrowing ideas of the past. You see many artists today painting in the same style as Warhol or Cy Twombly, so it seems this recycling is a problem faced by many artistic genres not just within fashion. The key point is the creator needs to strive for an originality in the creation and a contemporary relevance.

In addition to creating fresh new engaging ideas and images for Pop Art Fashion, an exciting opportunity also lies within the realm of branding. Branding is the intellectual world around a product, in the same way that traditional fine artists are able to create a story and philosophy around their work and from that associated value they can sell a signed blank canvas. If you change the way you look at something, the thing you look at changes. We have to take the opportunity to grow this artistic genre and find out exactly how far we can take it.

Like what you just read? Follow Philip on Twitter and check out his work with The Rodnik Band here. 

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