Part Nouveau: How Innovative Is Modern Fashion?

STORY BY Candace Bryan

Published: April 8, 2013

The fashion world takes great pride in being creative and artistic. I’ll admit even I’m impressed by its unique ability to make polka dots seem innovative every year, as though no one has ever worn them  before. The truth of the matter, though, is that a lot of the clothing, runway shows, and editorial spreads, which appear to be so revelatory and new to an untrained eye, are frequently stolen from the past. Under the guise of being “tributes,” or with no credit given at all, designers and photographers directly mimic fashions and visions of artists from the past.
 
Everyone is probably vaguely aware of the recycling that takes place in fashion: no one really thinks “Springs New Trends” are that new. But a popular new fashion blog called Part Nouveau does an excellent job of driving the point home.
 
The site posts modern images from the fashion world next to the photos, clothes, or works of art that they were evidently inspired by. It shows how Alexander McQueen made patterns from M.C. Escher’s art, and how the Christian Dior label often reaps inspiration from its own styles fifty years past. All the posts on Part Nouveau are also accompanied by brief, educational descriptions of different artists and the years of their projects.
 
Seeing the images side by side is a striking reminder of how much the fashion world seems to be working with a finite number of ideas. In order to have new products every season and new photo spreads every month, it’s almost a necessity for people in fashion to use past designs and ideas. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s precarious because people who have not studied fashion history thoroughly are blind to the similarities. Unlike the modern habit of sampling old songs in new ones, it’s not always immediately apparent that a designer didn’t come up with his design out of nowhere. The mission of Part Nouveau, though, is to shed light on the repeated visions and give credit where credit is due. And it does an excellent job.
 
Via Part Nouveau
Other Stories by Candace Bryan
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