Forget London Fashion Week, head to the galleries for inspiration

    14 February 2019

    As designers prepare final tucks and tweaks for London Fashion Week, we’ll soon be hearing what inspired their collections. Among their answers, Art is sure to be a recurring theme. Sometimes this is strikingly obvious- the Yves St Laurent’s 60s Mondrian collection with block print dresses, Louis Vuitton’s 2017 Jeff Koon’s bags, Stella McCartney Stubbs printed garments and Alexander McQueen’s Pollock-inspired piece spray painted live on stage by two robotic arms. Sometimes designs take from art by copying prints or printing copies but other times it’s the colours, themes or the clothes in the paintings that inspire designers.

    Oscar Wilde famously said ‘one should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.’ Following Wilde’s advice, why not skip the middleman and instead of models on runways, look no further than the masterpieces hanging on the walls of London galleries. There are the obvious fashion showcases such as Dior at the V&A, The Favourite Costumes Display at Kensington Palace or the many design museums in London, but you can also find inspiration in the art itself.

    The work on display is timeless, having surpassed the rising and falling trends of fashion. Just walking through any gallery should send inspirational shivers from your hem to your hat, but if you want a little direction, angling you towards today’s trends, read on to see our advice.

    Say it with words

    Credit: Getty

    Slogan t-shirts are not a new phenomena with political statements being emblazoned on t-shirts since the 60s, peaking in the 80s with Katharine Hamnett’s infamous designs and phrases like ‘Frankie says Relax’ and ‘Choose life’. Recently there has been a resurgence with captions such as ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ on t-shirts and Viktor & Rolf’s Viral sloganned dresses (not political but meme-able- ‘I’m not shy, I just don’t like you’).

    Words have often been an important part of art so why not look to artists for more poignant phrases to wear across your chest. For an example of Tracy Emin’s famous neon signs, you don’t even have to enter a gallery but can find one piece in St Pancras Station. (For more research, see The Guerilla Girls and Jenny Holzer at the Tate Modern)

    Colour Blocking

    For inspiration on your colour blocking only modern art will suffice and there’s nowhere quite like the Tate Modern. Start with Henri Matisse’s The Snail followed swiftly by Mark Rothko and Piet Mondrian. By the end, the idea of embracing summer’s neutral beige pallet will turn your face to Munch’s scream.

    Muse worthy Dresses

    Ever since we all became entranced with Killing Eve, that pink Molly Goddard dress worn by Jodie Comer as Villanelle has been the talk of town. While in more muted tones, find your own tulle muse with the impressionists particularly Degas ballerinas, ticking off the bow trend at the same time. For more picturesque dress inspiration look to the pre-Raphaelites for flowing gowns – pairs well with long waivy hair, a scattering of flowers and a melancholy gaze.

    Heavenly Hats

    This summer expect a lot of hats and there really is nowhere better to find some hatsparation than art. With feathers and flowers, bejeweled and bowed, the women, and men of history knew how to dress a head. Start with the V&A, which holds one of the finest collections of millinery in the world spanning 17 centuries. Hats also seem to scatter most of the 17th and 18th century portraits but our favourite is Cupid complaining to Venus by Lucas Cranach the Elder demonstrating that when you’re wearing a good hat nothing else is needed.

    Puffy shoulders and statement sleeves

    Shoulders and sleeves are not to be understated this season but rather than the 80s padded numbers think puffy cartoon princess style. These were seen for Spring Summer 19 on Rodarte, Saint Laurent and Brock Collection but none can hold a candle to the Tudors. For inspiration check out the National Portrait Gallery’s collection particularly Henry VIII who could fit the severed heads of his wives by each shoulder. Special mention to the suave looking ambassadors.