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Fashion and art combine for the cultural olympiad

11th June 2012

Mary Katrantzou and Nicholas Kirkwood among the designers to collaborate with artists for the cultural arm of the Olympics

If you think that the relationship between fashion and the Olympics begins and ends with that Stella McCartney designed kit, think again. This month sees the unveiling of a fashion project which is part of the London 2012 Festival – the cultural celebration of the Olympic Games.

The rather dignified sounding Britain Creates 2012: Fashion + Art Collusion is a collaboration between fashion and the arts, the first event of what is being termed the Cultural Olympiad. Nine fashion designers have been paired with nine leading visual artists and tasked with creating a one-off artwork that showcased each of their design strengths. With typical mayoral gusto, which attendees of London Fashion Week are well used to seeing in full flow, Boris Johnson calls BFC backed project a “melding of two dynamic strands” of creativity.

Although the works are only due to be unveiled at an auction gala on 27 June, Guardian fashion has been given an exclusive preview of two of the works by our favourite designers – print supremo Mary Katrantzou and shoe tsar Nicholas Kirkwood.

Katrantzou has been paired with Mark Titchner, a former Turner Prize nominee whose work centres on systems of belief. Digital imagery is important to both artists and so they’ve come up with an animated film entitled “Tint the pallid landscape (off to the wars in lace)”. Katrantzou’s elaborate prints are the landscape background for Titchner’s text which is a list of Olympic and Paralympic qualities such as strength, courage, speed and precision. Both the artist and the designer talk about “combination” with this artwork. Titchner sees it as “an ecstatic, aesthetic flow where images and texts pass”, whilst Katrantzou talks about the “crayola box colour” of the landscape which features layers of everyday objects (fashion forensic types should check out the cameo appearance by the yellow pencils that were embroidered onto a skirt in her autumn 12 collection).

Nicholas Kirkwood and Simon Periton’s pairing has produced a chandelier of dismembered shoes and scalpels cast in resin named “Dissecting Waltz”. Periton made his name with his so-called doily art – intricate paper sculptures cut out by scalpel appropriating subjects ranging from Wallis Simpson to the Sex Pistols. Kirkwood is currently ruling the red carpet with his architecturally inspired, hand-crafted and mind-blowingly expensive shoes. Their work is meant to poetically show off Kirkwood’s craft. Periton calls it “a literal clashing of elements wanting to travel in opposite directions… beautifully.” Whilst Kirkwood describes it as “a play on the theme of ideas being up in the air, constantly evolving or in this case revolving in one’s imagination, with the anticipation that the an idea will materialise when it falls back to earth.”

The rest of the works will be unveiled at the gala later this month and will then go on display at the V&A from 6 to 29 July and in the windows of Selfridges on Oxford Street from late July until August. The other art and fashion marriages are Giles Deacon and Jeremy Deller, Stephen Jones and Cerith Wyn Evans, Matthew Williamson with Mat Collishaw, Jonathan Saunders with Jess Flood-Paddock, Hussein Chalayan with Gavin Turk, Paul Smith with Charming Baker and Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos with Francis Upritchard.


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