The creative directors behind Saul Nash, Collina Strada, and Priya Ahluwalia share their favourite images from FARFETCH’s Art of Choice exhibition and how art inspires their fashion and design
Celebrating the unique experiences that inform the way we dress, FARFETCH has officially launched an international photography project – The Art of Choice. The campaign sees pop culture figures and modern auteurs FKA twigs, Tyler Mitchell, and Carl Gerges curate a three-part exhibition from Magnum Photos’ iconic archive of 20th century photography which will debut alongside impromptu street art installations in London, New York, and Dubai, as well as appearing digitally in Berlin, Paris, Mexico City, Moscow, Seoul, Shanghai, and Tokyo via the FARFETCH community and curatorial IG accounts.
Supported by renowned curator and artist Antwaun Sargent and featuring photography by Eve Arnold, Ernest Cole, Bruno Barbey, Chris Steele-Perkins, and Herbert List, the globe-spanning exhibition sees experimental pop musician FKA twigs select images from London, American photographer Tyler Mitchell honour New York, and architect and musician Carl Gerges handpick photographs from Dubai. Together, The Art of Choice champions photography through a fashion retrospective – connecting our day-to-day style curation process to the act of art curation and celebrating how images and iconography of the past inspires fashion today.
As part of the launch, FARFETCH invited three global tastemakers from the world of fashion – British choreographer and designer of the eponymous label Saul Nash, Hillary Taymour of Collina Strada, and menswear designer Priya Ahluwalia of Ahluwalia – to view the exhibition. Recontextualising the archival curations through their own personal narratives, each designer has chosen a photograph which most inspires them. Below, the designers share the meaning behind their image selection and how art influences their own fashion and design choices.
For his selection, Saul Nash chose a black-and-white snapshot of a 1975 Brixton street party lensed by Chris Steele-Perkins. In the image, playing children and lounging adults wear tailored trousers, swinging mini skirts, long pointed collared tops, and trainers as they enjoy a day outside in London. “I love the way the image presents a genuine moment in motion,” says Nash. “The dynamic nature of the children playing is really captivating to me.”
“This image reminds me of the many photographs of my sisters in our family album,” he continues, also explaining that documentary photography and realism are most inspiring to him. “I really appreciate the insights we can get into these times via photography…it can present a truthful snapshot of a moment in time to someone but also have the ability to make the mind wander and question what they are seeing in front of them.”
Speaking of his own work, Nash explains: “Art is extremely important because it acts as a tool to mirror and reflect reality.” Last week, Nash delivered his solo runway debut – telling stories of his teenage and secondary school years through his autobiographical SS22 collection. “I really love the power art has to tell stories,” he says.
HILLARY TAYMOUR, COLLINA STRADA
Founder of eco-friendly and inclusive brand Collina Strada, Hillary Taymour, picks an image nodding to human interaction in New York. Taken in Coney Island in 1983 by Alex Webb, the photograph captures a couple dancing in the forefront while others pass by in the background. “It embodies the atmosphere of time and space in NYC with bright colors and human interaction,” says Taymour. “The image shows an importance to me based on human interaction during this time. We have been separated from loved ones for so long during this pandemic that this image really drew me to a sense of togetherness again.”
Besides reflecting on its themes of togetherness, Taymour highlighted stylistic qualities which drew her to the image. “The photo has interesting prints and colors,” she says, speaking to Coney Island’s bright scenery and kitschy circus wall art. “The patterns and the wall motif really felt like Collina and reminded me of some pieces I have made… I love color. I also love maximalism and minimalism, but nothing in between.”
Supported by a friend group of artists, the designer points out the significance and positive influence that the art community has on her work and mental health, “I am continuously inspired by my community of artists and it has helped me grow the brand to where it is now,” she explains. “Being around art constantly allows you to make a clear mental note of what you like and what you don't like and helps you focus to become the most authentic version of yourself.”
Menswear designer Priya Ahluwalia – who recently presented her powerful SS22 film in celebration of Black hair after becoming the fourth recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design – selects a black-and-white image taken at Notting Hill Carnival by Peter Marlow. “It’s emotive, nostalgic, powerful, inspiring, and slick,” she says, explaining that the image’s colouring speaks to the time it was taken.
According to Ahluwalia, she was also drawn to the image due to its “beautiful sartorial details”. The photograph provides insight to late 70s fashion with striped knits, sharp tailoring, and a selection of hats. “Everytime I look at it, I spot something new,” she explains, noting that details seen in art may often inspire colours, textures, and moods of her own collections.
The designer – whose research of art from Black and Asian diasporas guides her work – also explains that the image forms a snapshot of the time it was taken. Titled “The Notting Hill Riots”, the photo represents Black people in Britain fighting for equal rights. “I have a sense of pride when I look at the image,” she says. Responding to the image’s name, she states: “It actually looks pretty peaceful. I think it’s interesting because there are so many examples where Blackness has been equated with violence even when there is none and this seems to be one of them.”