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Fashion X Art?

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Malaysia’s sharp online art community Arteri recently got in touch asking for our thoughts on becoming a contributor to their blog.

We were flattered of course, because they were specifically interested in ULTRA – the clothes. They also wanted us to tackle the age-old debate, ‘Is Fashion Art’? Wah, maybe too big a task for a collective mostly concerned with sustainability. But we do like to tackle things.

So here’s an effort.

Fashion has had a good run in our lifetimes. Jeans moved from mechanics onto models, and upturned collars from workers onto wannabes. Fashion’s exposure amongst the growing masses leads to ever increasing avenues of exploration. Many take it further than a rummage through the bottom of the drawers each morning, turning fashion into a form of expression and statement of personality, individuality, opinion.

(L: Susie Bubble by Dossier; R: Anna Dello Russo by Tommy Ton)

(L: Susie Bubble by Dossier; R: Anna Dello Russo by Tommy Ton)

The Fashion as Art debate is a shifty one. To us it mostly seems born out of the grander debate of ‘What is Art’. Oh Arteri, what have you done?!

Pulling at threads over this question, we looked over to our well-loved Wikipedia for advice. This is what She tells us:

“Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression…”

The list goes on to include the likely suspects, “music, literature, film, photography, sculpture and paintings”. Where’s fashion? Where’s video games? We’re onto a hell of a philosophical debate… and you know those not only never end well, they never end at all.

ULTRA – The Clothes

ULTRA – The Clothes

So! Here is our blatantly self-informed and self-formed opinion, left wide open to your debate:

We would like to think that there is art in everything.

Sure, there are ‘traditional’ forms – paint on canvas, on gallery walls – nice and comfortablesemantic associations of the moment. But we’d like to believe that everyone gets the chance to instigate some human emotion through “deliberate arrangement of items”.

It might be how you put together your kid’s lunchbox, or the way you write your lover’s name in a card, or how you drape cloth over a woman to represent what you think about her and the shape of her body… to perhaps pique her interest and enliven the way she sees herself.

Here’s “to influencing and affecting… the senses, emotions, and intellect”, regardless of skill set.



‘We Are ULTRA’ are a collective of thinkers and makers grounded in sustainability. We have created art installations, fashion, organic skincare, retail concepts and always like to grow.

This article was first posted on the original Arteri site on 27 April 2011.

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