Wednesday, April 22, 2009

YSL is to Mondrian as Fashion is to the Elements

Hello hello!

Sorry to have been absent so long, but my exam is finally over! Hurrah! And while I should have been paying attention to how "price parity power" is an innovation of the eighth round of the the Doha International Monetary Fund or bla bla bla, I was actually thinking about something very different.

This dress, in fact.

Allow me to preface the following rant with "I love  Yves Saint Laurent, this dress and this brand". The following is by no means a judgement rant. More of a friendly theoretical rant.

Okay, phew, here we go.

The thing is, this dress makes absolutely no sense. The Mondrian concept was a statement of artwork pared down to its essential parts: colour (the primarys: red, blue, yellow) and lines (vertical and horizontal). 

And since YSL's dress, Mondrian inspired pieces have popped up in the most unexpected places and to amazing effect:

Side note: I love these sneakers. And the car. And the dress, coat, bag, hat, flag, wheels, boxes.

Though it is clear to me that these images are representing purely the aesthetics of Mondrian's work, I couldn't help but wonder (Carrie Bradshaw moment) how the concept of elementary design would be best applied to a dress. 

There is no doubt in my mind that Kaylene is better equipped and schooled to address these hypotheticals than I am. But I'm going to give it a go. 

So it seems to me that the design of a dress is related to: 

* Shape (lines, panelling)

* Colour (Would this be primary colours as with Mondrian, or would an appropriation of the concept into fashion translate into DIFFERENT initial colours?)

* Material (Potato sack, I guess?)

and variations on these concepts.

So here are two Mondrian-concept dresses that I found:
Christopher Kane, F09,

Contender through strong use of lines (very Mondrian, don't you think?) and colour choice (oooooh so simple!). However, there is a problematically complex use of pattern in the bust/chest region.

American Apparel Dress,

Use of pure black makes colour extremely elementary. Also, classic shape. However, the dress is so simple and paired down that it borders on dull-as-dog-%$#@

I don't know, Kaylene, I just can't decide. What do you think of the matter?


  1. hmmmmm

    I think you are referencing Mondrian in a very oversimplified manner. Straight lines and primary colours are not enough. In particular the Christopher Kane dress would appear to be influenced more by Art Deco and consider carefully its use of a tertiary colour.

    Come on girls look more closely at Neo Plasticism and Theosophy. There lie your answers.

  2. Thanks for your comment. Though I've always been interested in visual arts, I don't really know all that much about it.

    You see, my degree is mainly in literature, so my analysis of Mondrian is from a more Structuralist point of view rather than from Neoplasticism. It was also more of an individual analysis (what I think the work means) than a study of the theory surrounding the work, movement or artist

    So in literature, Structuralism means analysing the underlying structure which supports the variation between individual examples. This includes arguments like Propp's seven characters, Lacan and Foucault. I'm not saying it's a full-proof form of literary criticism, but it is an interesting idea which deserves attention.

    Basically, all I was asking is if Mondrian defined elements of colour, line as the elemental structure of artwork, how would this apply to fashion? I guess I should have worded it differently, and specified this argument through Structuralism.

    As for the sneakers, I was thinking that they were a simplistic example of Mondrian inspiration. Indeed, the sneaker-name is Mondrian. And I agree that the Kane dress isn't TRULY a Mondrian dress, but felt it reflected an idea of structuralism.

    I'll definitely look more into these movements of neoplasticism and theosophy though. Maybe you are right, hopefully I'll find my answers.

    Please keep in touch!

    Love Centine.

  3. Let's not forget that Mondrian was primarily a painter and not a fashion designer. In this perhaps we should contemplate how individual designers have or have not been influenced by Mondrian's work. In this they are not necessarily following his principles as an artist but merely taking a grain of the visual 'text' to suit as their starting point.

    Let's also remember and celebrate that fashion is a visual art form!!!!

    Literary criticism is as well and good, however you could eleborate on how you are applying your literary theory further than naming Foucault etc. All ideas are interesting as they are subjective theories or opinions.
    Have the bravery to clearly speak your own without need of reference. Or if you are influenced by a reference be clear as to why.
    Love your blog.
    Enjoying watching it develop.

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