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Joan Didion Artlexachung
Joan Didion for Céline SS15 / "Rachel in Fur" by John Currin (2002)Collage art @artlexachung

This year’s viral fashion moments retold via art history

As 2015 draws to a close, we ask the curators behind @artlexachung to chart 2015 in fashion through a series of images from art history

The parallels between art and fashion are undeniable. Ever since Schiaparelli looked to works of Surrealist art to inspire her creations way back in the 1920s, designers have been looking to museums, galleries and image archives when researching their collections. These references have been continually picked out by our favourite Instagram account @artlexachung, experts at scouring through decades of art history to curate image references for our favourite collections. As we look back at 2015 in fashion, we asked the artists behind the account to rifle through the archives of art history and curate a series of artistic accompaniments to this year’s most talked about moments. From Galliano’s debut Artisanal collection for Maison Margiela to Raf Simons’ final gesture on the runway at Dior, here are the year’s standout fashion moments and their artistic parallels. 

Phoebe Philo has always been somewhat of an anomaly in the world of high-fashion. Unlike designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Donatella Versace whose larger-than-life personalities are as famous as their work, Philo prefers to operate under the radar, even once stating that “the chicest thing is when you don’t exist on Google.” Therefore it should come as no surprise that a quiet thinker like Philo should elect 80-year-old literary heroine Joan Didion as the face of her SS15 campaign – an author who, although beginning her career writing for Vogue, later went on to craft essays and novels which explored the decay of morality and cultural chaos. Shot by Juergen Teller, the campaign moves away from stereotypes of beauty and dissociates it from youth, instead suggesting that intelligence and experience can be far more beautiful than a flawless complexion.

From the moment Galliano’s appointment at Margiela was announced in October last year, speculation was rife as to how the Gibraltar-born designer and his romantic sensibilities would fit into a house renowned for its stripped-back aesthetic and minimal branding. The answer was revealed in January’s ‘Artisanal’ collection, the house’s own take on couture which uses found items and elevates them into spectacular looks. Although the presentation was decidedly pared-down in comparison to Galliano’s theatrical showings at Dior, there were flashes of the designer’s signature aesthetic visible in a collection which still stayed true to the Margiela house codes. As the year has progressed, Galliano has proved himself worthy of the role and established the appointment as one of the greatest moments this year.

Rick Owens is renowned for the unique presentations that have become part of his identity as a designer. For his SS14 collection he flew in American step-dance crews for an electrifying show which shook up notions of beauty, whereas his latest womenswear show served to underscore the strength of women – a point illustrated by the models who, as well as wearing the collection, were literally wearing eachother. However, his most provocative statement this year came in January’s AW15 menswear show which featured men walking the runway with their penises subtly visible under cut-out garments. The media furore surrounding the show illustrated that, despite female nudity being fairly commonplace, male nudity still has the power to shock. In Owens’ own words, “nudity is the most simple and primal gesture – it packs a punch.”

Despite his tragic death in 2011, Alexander McQueen’s creative legacy is stronger than ever. This was proved true in March this year, when the Victoria & Albert museum announced that his retrospective, Savage Beautywould make its debut in the UK. Although it was apparent that demand was high, the show ended up attracting over 480,000 visitors over 21 weeks – the museum even had to hire a specialist firm to manage waiting times and stage overnight showings over the last two weekends to accommodate fans. The show’s popularity underscores the genius of McQueen and his subversive designs, proving his reputation as one of the most-respected designers in fashion history.

It’s been a good year for Rihanna. Despite not having yet released her upcoming opus ANTithe Bajan superstar found herself starring in Dior’s Secret Garden campaign as well releasing one of the year’s biggest hits, “Bitch Better Have My Money”complete with a video drenched in cult film references. Although her enormous fanbase and commercial omnipresence may make her seem like an obvious choice for a Dior campaign, the casting choice actually made Rihanna the house’s first ever non-white campaign star, cementing RiRi’s status as a modern-day trailblazer.

Many of us have experienced the initial difficulties of coming to grips with new technologies, but few of us have accidentally shared a raunchy selfie with almost 200k followers. Marc Jacobs, however, faced this fate earlier this year when he posted a picture of his bare buttocks accompanied by the suggestive caption “It’s yours to try!” Despite the picture being removed almost immediately, followers had already screenshotted the picture and a social media storm predictably ensued. Proving his good sense of humour, Jacobs responded in genius fashion by screenprinting the caption onto a T-shirt and posting a selfie in it a few weeks later. 

2015 was the year that Lily-Rose Depp stepped out from her parents’ shadow and became a star in her own right. Appearing at Chanel’s New York Métiers d‘Art show, Depp stole the show and caught the eye of Karl Lagerfeld who then cast her as the face of Chanel’s eyewear collection. At just 16 years old, Lily-Rose has already amassed an impressive 1.1million Instagram followers – she also made headlines for coming out as sexually-fluid in an Instagram post by iO Tillett Wright this year as part of LGBT charity project “Self-Evident Truths”. With her high-fashion credentials and charitable spirit already confirmed, it will be interesting to see what 2016 holds for Lily-Rose Depp.

Few editorials garnered as many column inches this year as this bizarre collaboration between fashion’s ultimate power couple and the iconic German photographer. The photographs were shot around the Château d'Ambleville on what was originally supposed to be an innocent holiday for the trio in the South of France. Instead, what resulted from the trip was a series of odd images which show Kim decked out in a nude leotard and fur coat climbing a hill; elsewhere she can be seen posing next to a JCB, or puckering up to Kanye in an extreme close-up which was later chosen as the cover image for a photobook published in System magazine.

Few power moves in fashion have attracted as many column inches as Raf Simons’ appointment at Dior. His first collection – the creation of which was captured in 2014’s Dior & I – was lauded as a new, modern direction for the French luxury house, a critical success despite being realised in only five weeks. Despite a profitable three-year stint as creative director, Simons announced his departure from the house in October just days before the publication of an interview with Cathy Horyn (conducted over a six-month period) detailing the breakneck pace of the fashion industry, leading many to question the fashion calendar.

This year, Pirelli and iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz made a conscious move to shy away from the sexualised aesthetic of previous years and instead create art that empowered women of all ages, celebrating their achievements as opposed to their bodies. The star-studded cast included women from all careers including filmmaker Ava DuVernay, tennis legend Serena Williams and 19-year-old Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson, all of whom posed for a black-and-white celebration of women worldwide.