For fashion lovers, clothes have always been more than just garments. Often described as art, the hours of research, tailoring, developing innovative design techniques and the ability to derive inspiration from the most obscure concepts make this label make a lot of sense, so it’s no surprise that the two are intertwined. From artists-turned-designers and vice versa, the skills and drive required to be involved in the art and fashion worlds lend themselves to being a multidisciplinary creativity.
One area where the worlds of fashion and art most obviously interact is in couture – where single pieces can take hours of craftsmanship to complete. From Iris Van Herpen’s technical, moving dresses to Schiaparelli’s gold hardware pieces, the shared properties of these one-of-a-kind pieces are reminiscent of sculptures. However, within this lies a rising trend – a sort of body armour – and one artist getting it right is Nusi Quero.
Originally from Florida but now living in LA, Quero’s background as an artist and architect led to him experimenting with digital fashion renderings, before 3D printing these designs into intricate couture corsets which have since gone viral and rapidly advanced Quero’s notoriety. Worn by everyone from SZA to Kylie Jenner, Nusi’s wearable art corsets combine technology, intuition and structural concerns to create unique, striking pieces.
Involving concerns about the body and wearability, Quero’s work is not only visually, but also structurally intriguing. As he has told Hypebae, “I noticed this phenomenon that occurs when people try on or wear the work – they are imbued with a sense of power or courage, often willing to bear more skin or be slightly squeezed than they would normally. Some of the pieces restrict certain movements and encourage posture”. Here, he touches on a major expression of his work in being physically encompassing: their bone-like structure both restricts and cages in its wearer – but in both, this serves to empower.
As well as the visual similarities, this concept and feeling created by Quero’s work is one that extends itself to body armour in fashion. Made to aesthetically replicate the protective gear worn by authorities or those on the front line, when decontextualised in the less-dangerous sphere of fashion, body armour has come to symbolise power, heritage and being (literally) bulletproof.
At his headline Glastonbury performance and subsequently on the cover of his most recent album, Stormzy wore a custom Banksy stab proof vest. Was this art or fashion? Again, both. Drawing on themes of culture, strength and vigour, this iteration of body armour made complete sense for the performance – exhibiting both its protective and strengthening capabilities for what Stormzy described as “the greatest night of (his) life”.
Elsewhere, another frighteningly big event in the arts, The Met Gala, has seen celebrities draw on elements of body armour for the same reasons. Able to be adapted to each year’s theme, 2018 saw Zendaya channel Joan of Arc in a custom Versace armour. More recently, Lil Nas X attended in a gold Versace bodysuit/ armour that recalled typical superhero costumes as well as an evolved take on last year’s theme.
Schiaparelli has also built its brand on a type of armour. Although not as outwardly forbidding, the couture house’s structural gold pieces represent the capacity of intricate designs to both conceal, protect and exude a different type of power. From runway moments that go viral to pieces replicating and extending the body, Schiaparelli makes body armour glamorous and gilded – something that made it almost guaranteed to be on the red carpet this year.
Perhaps the abundance of wearable armour right now is a reaction to the state of the world right now – we all know that global events and occurrences have a tendency to play out in all facets of society – or maybe it’s an addressing of, and rejection of wider feelings of vulnerability. Another take is that it’s just the latest expression of avant-garde within fashion, or a vessel by which fashion and art’s intersection is most practically displayed. Whatever the reason, the rise of armour in fashion serves to symbolise an expression of guardedness from the wearer: you can look, but don’t touch.
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