Instagram is one of our favourite social media platforms. For one thing, it’s a great way of exploring and sharing art, sometimes letting us see things in a different light. Gillian Daniel is the creator of Fash of the Titans, her Instagram project that we’ve been featured in. In this post, she tells us how and why she started this fascinating clash of art and fashion.
I have always enjoyed looking at art and beautiful design. My grandfather was a painter and, growing up, my parents worked long hours so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents after school. I remember watching my grandfather as he mixed paints and sometimes painted portraits of me (well, he tried and failed a lot since I could never sit still).
I went to museums a lot as a child because of my parents’ shared love of art and museums. Eventually, I decided I liked looking at art so much I wanted to get a degree in it. Fast forward four years: I now have a Bachelors and a Masters degree in History of Art.
But my career as an art historian was put on hold as I realised that the introspective world of research was not really for me (I can’t sit still, remember). I also wanted to explore other aspects of the cultural and creative industries.
One day, I was looking at the Spring/Summer 2015 runway shows from Fashion Week and a few of the looks really reminded me of art works that I knew. Out of curiosity, I put the looks together with their “art doppelgangers” on Photoshop. The results in some cases were so strikingly similar that I thought I would share it on my own Instagram account. I didn’t really think it would get much of a reaction, but people loved it and started sharing it too. I kept on doing it because it was so much fun and eventually made so many I ended up starting an Instagram account just for them.
I called my project Fash of the Titans as a fun play on ‘Clash of the Titans’. I was inspired by the ‘Who wore it better?’ features you often find in certain types of magazines (that I not-so-secretly enjoy). I thought it would be fun to see if people thought, for example, if a model in a frothy pastel confection by the Italian fashion house Emilio Pucci “wore it better” than the French impressionist Claude Monet, with his dream-like Le Pont Japonais, which almost seems to shimmer with light.
When creating new matches, I typically start by looking at the runway shows, as I have a far better knowledge of art than I do fashion, so it is easier for me to work this way round. I just browse the looks to find one that reminds me of a work of art. It doesn’t always work like that though.
Sometimes it’s really simple and I see something that immediately reminds me of a specific work and it takes me minutes to actually make the match and post it. Sometimes, something about a look might remind me of the style of an artist, or a work that I feel I might have seen before; perhaps the colours are very ‘David Hockney’ or the squiggly line work is Jackson Pollock-esque. In this case, I look through the artist’s oeuvre to find something that will match the look in question.
There are times where I work the other way round. This might be because it’s a milestone that I want to commemorate, such as an artist’s birthday or a special occasion like Christmas or Halloween. In this case, I start with an artwork in mind and then go about finding a fashion look to pair it with. This was quite difficult at first, as I had to really scour collections to find something that could match, especially when I was not as familiar with fashion.
It’s been a little over a year now since I started and I find that I’m much more familiar with the styles of different designers. My process of matching an artwork with a runway look has thus gotten a bit quicker.
Who wore it better? Marchesa S/S 15 vs Masked Man in a Pink Tutu (1840-1902), from the collection of Richard von Kraftt-Ebing – look out for a series of posts coming up for the fabulous @wellcomecollection where I'm lucky enough to work! This one is inspired by one of my fave items in the ongoing #InstituteofSexology show 👄
I have a lot of favourite paintings and sculptures that I’m dying to find match for. Some examples include Nocturne by James Abbott McNeil Whistler, My Parents by David Hockney, Ria Munk on her Deathbed by Gustav Klimt, Girl Before a Mirror by Pablo Picasso and practically everything by my favourite painter Gerhard Richter.
There are also many really famous works of art I am always looking to match such as The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh, The Lady of Shallot by John William Waterhouse, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger and The Scream by Edvard Munch. The undeniable influence of these great works can be seen in the work of many designers, but I’m looking for that one subtle yet unexpectedly evocative match that will make people really see the works in a new light.
My project is all about showcasing art and fashion in a different way; Instagram is a great platform for it because of how visual it is. Fash of the Titans is primarily image based, as I use fashion and art to evoke each other using colours, lines and shapes, and this formula is really enhanced by Instagram. It foregrounds the image and lets it speak for itself.
I love doing Fash of the Titans because it lets me look at the art I love in a new way by breaking it down to its elemental components of shapes, lines and colours and then looking for those combinations in designs that I like. I think many designers are very influenced by art. Indeed, many cite specific artists as inspirations when speaking about their collections.
However, I don’t often like using these more obvious instances in my work. My favourite matches are always those which are the most surprisingly reminiscent, like when the swirling colours of a dress recalls the moody palette of a painting or when the sharp angular cut of a jacket echoes the clean geometry of a sculpture.
Painting is probably the medium easiest to pair with fashion. Its two dimensional nature is more easily evocative of fabric textures and prints, and it also allows the post itself to look more aesthetically pleasing. In terms of a specific style or period, I don’t think there’s any one that lends itself best to being paired with fashion. If anything, I’m just limited by my own preference for, and knowledge of, certain artists and styles. For example, because I know the modern and contemporary period the best, I’ve featured artists like Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney and Gerhard Richter many times.
Gillian is a Marketing Assistant at the Wellcome Trust. She has an MA in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art. See all of Gillian’s art and fashion matches on Fash of the Titans.