Picasso in fashion


Huddled in his Parisian studio, the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso pioneered a new of seeing that would change the art world forever. Abandoning traditional perspective entirely, he created new compositions with stark geometric shapes and abstracted flourishes. His Cubist masterpieces confirmed the idea that art could be great without attempting to mimic physical reality, exerting a huge and liberating influence on many artists to follow. He even set aside his paintbrush to dabble in the fashion world, adding his artistic vision to delicious fabric prints that everyone could get their hands on.

At the beginning to the 20th century, new technologies like photography and commercial flights were radically transforming the way people viewed the world around them. Artists sought new approaches to try and capture the blur and speed of new cities and racing transport, and Picasso was definitely at the forefront. As he continued experimenting, his forms became larger and more representational, with flat, bright decorative patterns and strangely abstracted shapes.

The fashion world had already taken note of the Cubist’s endeavours as early as the 1920s, although only with a subtle nod, as dresses were adorned sweetly with geometric prints. As fashion became increasingly more inspired by modern artistic endeavours, Picasso began working his own designs into the mix. In 1955, American textile company Fuller Fabrics introduced their “Modern Masters” range. Picasso joined a range of artists from Chagall to Dali, providing the company with several designs to transform into trendy textiles. That year, avid fashionistas could buy a Picasso dress in Fuller “drip ’n’ dry” for just $8.99. In 1963, as the decade’s love for dramatic prints grew, he collaborated with American sportswear manufacturer White Stag, producing gorgeous, colourful PVC-coated anoraks, printed corduroy ponchos, shirts and sweatshirts. Advertisements appeared applauding the artist’s fame and asking the public “Can you afford a Picasso?” Now everyone could, and what’s more, they could flaunt it anywhere they went.

The last few years have seen a surge of Picasso inspired designs. Balenciaga’s 2012 spring collection brought a futuristic twist to the catwalk with graphic shapes, long pockets and panelled jackets all dripping in stalactites of metallic fringing. These edgy designs certainly recall Picasso’s cubist paintings, echoing his use of monochrome with a muted palette of lilac, peach and claret. Their sharp metallic twinges remind us of the flash of Picasso’s modern cities and his focus on severe forms like the cylinder, sphere and the cone to represent the natural world.

That same year, Oscar de la Renta welcomed a direct connection with his Resort 2012 collection and “The Picasso Newsprint Dress.” His designs reveal a unique and modern take on Picasso’s Cubism, mirroring the jagged edged and fragmented shapes of his paintings. The collection also draws upon the artist’s later use of newspaper and collage techniques, its designs featuring a similar jumbled together feel.

Jean Charles de Castelbajac’s 2014 spring collection was filled with gorgeous oversized prints featuring large, loosely drawn Picasso-like faces. In bright primary colours, they share the distinct simplicity that Picasso mastered in his portraits, a signature style of disjunctive, primitive allure.

The latest Paris Fashion Week brought Picasso into the limelight with a new and bold approach. Young French designer Jacquemus made a bold beauty statement at his AW15 show, as his models sauntered down the catwalk with two faces. These stunning make-up designs seem to be a direct influence of Picasso’s unusual take on portraiture, where eyes were perfectly misplaced and noses delightfully distorted.

Confirming the artist’s place in the fashion world, Spanish photographer Eugenio Recuenco has turned his lens onto the visual richness of Picasso’s heritage. His images recreate the artist’s paintings with a chic contemporary twist, allowing us to approach the famous paintings with a modern mind and a fashionable flair. The models twist and stretch into strange postures in a delightful attempt to capture the warped cubist realm of Picasso’s figures. Stunning details complete the collaboration, the model’s patterned clothing and bold make-up transforming Picasso’s vivid colours and abstracted brush strokes into magazine-ready looks.

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