Call It Artwear: A New Generation of Designers Treats Clothing More Like Art
In the summer of 2020, Emma Berson launched Akyn, an online store and gallery exclusively for wearable art. Berson says the artwear boom is part of a larger shift in consumption patterns during the pandemic, which places more emphasis on ethics and transparency. “People started to prioritize quality over quantity, sustainability and small businesses,” Berson explained. With nowhere to go, no one to see, and no H&M to pass on on their daily commutes, consumers have been able to distance themselves from the toxic lure of cheap, “trendy” clothing. The recession has forced many people to be more careful about their purchases – and after a year of being stuck inside with closets full of unused clothes, it’s understandable that those who choose to buy new clothes want to make them count. . Berson expresses some apprehension about the use of the term ‘artwear’, but not out of a lack of enthusiasm: ‘Once you label it like this, it becomes easier for people to think of it as a label. trend ”. Its message is clear: for those involved, artwear is a movement, not a passing pandemic trend.
“[Artwear] frees designers from the constraints of mass production and borrows heavily from contemporary art, vintage clothing and DIY cultures of the past, like punk, ”said Paul Smyth, co-founder of London-based store 50m . The retailer sells art clothing from trendy artists like Adam Jones, who creates clothes from vintage pub towels in Wales, and Duran Lantink, the Dutch mastermind of dead animals, who created recycled couture for stars like Billie Eilish and Janelle Monae. Lantink said this shift towards a counter-cultural aesthetic reflects a growing rejection of celebrity and influencer culture. “[People] want clothes that make them unique and special and that they are the only person in the world to wear, ”Lantink said. He believes consumers are increasingly interested in establishing their own looks rather than emulating the styles and trends propagated by others online. And now that leaving home is a momentous occasion, Smyth and Lantink say people want to make bolder fashion statements than ever before, which artwear responds to.
“Everyone is thinking about everything in their life, which has worked to our advantage,” artist Joshua Thomas tells me during a 40-minute descent on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. The street is home to Thomas’ 6,000-square-foot flagship, Gallery Dept., which opened in the fall. “This year has forced people to ask, ‘Do I really need an office? Or see some people? Or burn that gas tank in my car? Industries are doing the same. They reassess themselves. The gallery department’s expansive retail space, which looks like a cross between the opening ceremony and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, is filled with designer clothing, most of which contains artistic touches from Thomas. In the early days of Gallery Dept., Thomas marked each of his recycled garments with his expressive paint strokes. As demand increased for the brand’s flagship products like flared denim, screen-printed t-shirts and hoodies, Thomas had to abandon the “one of one” approach and embrace batch production. He prides himself on the ability of Gallery Dept. to evolve, without sacrificing the artistic aura of collectable clothes. He describes artwear as a wise investment. “Whether it’s cars, fashion or real estate, people are less interested in things that depreciate. And what depreciates faster than fast fashion? He asked. “Anyone who follows trends and fashions buys an ideology and a product with an expiration date. “
Political and fiscal value aside, artwear also fosters a unique human connection in a time defined by extreme isolation, says Williams of Small Talk: “Creating clothes in this intimate, semi-collaborative way has been a tremendous way. connecting with people. Artwear creates a unique bond between designer and wearer: customers receive garments that an artist has spent hours, if not days, creating for their explicit use. “I know it sounds cheesy, but these pieces have a certain special energy,” Akyn founder Emma Berson said. “You can Feel that an artist made them, compared to a graphic print t-shirt that costs a dime a dozen. Even when people have places to go and people to see again, Berson is excited about the future of artwear: “I’m optimistic that this is part of a bigger awakening that is not localized to our being. trapped inside during a pandemic. “