Masterpieces à la mode: six paint-inspired collections

This article was originally published here on _Shift London

There is something deeply nostalgic about arts and crafts. That youthful purity of being up-to-the-eyes in acrylic paint, rather than worrying about your acrylic nails snapping, is something we have all but forgotten about. Creating a beautiful mess out of googly eyes, PVA glue and glitter that found its way into every bodily crevice; art class formed the foundations of creative fun. Though the days of creating fridge-worthy masterpieces have been left in our childhood (sorry Mum!), fashion is still taking an inspirational swipe from the oil palette this season around. 

Brushstrokes spliced upon balloon skirts, lustrous satin shift dresses in every colour of the rainbow – fashion has got it just right. For SS20, painterly prints are making a splash among the fashion pack and nothing says well-heeled glamour better than art. Deeply rooted in culture, the marriage of fashion and art has long been one of experimentation. There’s no better excuse to jazz up your wardrobe than with a few strokes of hearty-arty style inspiration. 


At every gallery showcase there’s one pioneer, an outright trailblazer, and in fashion’s art class of SS20 that designer is Jeremy Scott. Flying the flag for cubism, the Moschino creative director donned his apron as the brand offered a 60-look take on easy easel style – inspired by none other than Pablo Picasso. Citing the 20th-century painter, Scott reworked the classics into his novelty trademark style, resulting in a spectrum of shockingly-fun silhouettes. In particular, models wedged within lifesize canvas frames or wearing obnoxiously large shoulder pads, it was all in keeping with the lighthearted theme. 

A master of his cartoon-like, kitschy craft, you can count on Scott to take a spin around the colour wheel. Bella Hadid became a baby-pink-powder-blue Harlequin as other models channelled flamenco red. Character outfits followed suit: models in pirate hats, later a skeletal bull jumpsuit made its debut (in reference to The King of the Minotaurs, 1958), then a personified violin. The show was charming, at times reminiscent of a dressing up box, but one that oozed opulence. Even approved by Anna Wintour, this collection is truly a masterpiece of the fashion moment. 

PORTS 1961

At Ports 1961 it was all about cut-and-paste prints: long-sleeved dresses with chopped up still life scenes on show. Flowing fuchsia skirts and patchwork hero pieces glided down the runway at the Tate Modern for Karl Templar’s brand debut. It’s clear to see why patterned panels are top of our wish list for SS20 and these numbers are making everyone lust over the midi-length. Think terracotta colouring and rustic florals matched with mesh details, in bold blue, for a Matisse aesthetic. The fabrics were fused together by waist belts to create a clean, conservative shape. Dresses perfect for a champagne-filled gallery opening or first date. It’s an artistic wardrobe investment that we should all be making. 


Amid a Pyer Moss media whirlwind, designer Kerby Jean-Raymond took pride in black heritage and blended music into the fashion mix, for a celebratory Afro-American culture trip. Fuelled by a fondness for the “original soul sister,” Rosetta Tharpe, he opted for watercolour-print fabrics, depicting an abstract portrait of the musician. In rich tones, his interpretation of early 1970s rock and roll was electric, to say the least. Bold mustard hues took centre stage, teamed with washes of baby blue, then striking purple.

Jean-Raymond commissioned the artwork of exonerated painter, Richard Phillips – who spent 45 years wrongfully imprisoned for murder – as to embody a strong sense of freedom. The lively prints were bolstered with abstract guitar motifs that sat beautifully on sun-pleated slit skirts. Heralding the joy of music, the paintings morphed from t-shirt dress to low-slung cape, as models walked the runway to Anita Baker’s Sweet Love, while other looks were cinched at the waist by piano bumbags.

Where to wear? Think corner seat of a bustling New Orleans jazz cafe, complete with a cool old fashioned in-hand. These designs are about living unapologetically free: easy, bright and breezy.


Subtlety is key at Roksanda. The brand took delight in diluted tertiary shades, with a watercolour wonderland dreamt up in the Serpentine Gallery. It was a perfectly apt setting for the flouncing dresses, where classical music accompanied models in a timeless garden parade of flushed lilacs and dusky pink – later evolving into a scarlet and orange colour scheme that packed a zesty punch. Gowns crafted from metal-stiffened taffeta conjure the illusion of dabbled paints on a palette, almost Monet-esque in appearance. It seems tin foil had an ornate upgrade, and we whole-heartedly approve of it. Creative director Roksanda Ilincic, took her artistic cues from Mary Weatherford’s blissfully chaotic contemporary art. The result being a tranquil blend of mellow warm tones upon beige base material. Shapes were equally as effortless; oversized with an elongated neckline and hem that grazed the floor. Flawless.


Feeling oh so English? Enter Richard Quinn, fashion’s rising star and cult favourite behind candy-hued flower prints. Essentially the sort of flora you find in botanical books, but much prettier to look at. Already treasured by royalty, having received the first Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, _shift now crowns him our ‘Prints Charming’ for his dedication to craftsmanship.  He returned for a fourth season at London Fashion Week to showcase a roster of patterns, both painted and printed at his in-house facility. Quinn’s designs incorporate frills, feathers and endless fun. Tainted with a light wash effect, his signature florals are likened to 1950s tablecloths that have had a luxury facelift. Your grandma likes them but you love them more. 

By using his own technicolour tech, there are no limits to Quinn’s creative reach. This is exemplified through a perfect hash of quintessentially-British garden prints and lucrative PVC for those indecisive style days. This season saw the revival of his darker work: with red, black and royal blue colours bringing out the more seductive side of a Quinn woman. To soften the atmosphere, the designer sent out schoolgirls for the show finale, adorned in vintage rose-print dresses and white feather headpieces – the pinnacle of elegance. Consider our hearts melted.


There was no shortage of painterly pizazz at Marni, with each look capturing a myriad of colour in a loosely-outlined, beautifully blotched art style not dissimilar to fauvism. Telling a tropical romance, colour saturation is at its maximum. Vivid floral designs bore lashes of shocking pink, and green reigned supreme – in both the colour palette and repurposing aspect of the collection. Earth-conscious creative director, Francesco Risso, tackled sustainability with style, through the use of regenerated textiles and organically-sourced cottons. Before transitioning into knitwear for added texture. Exuding a dreamy holiday feel, Marni has mastered the next spring/summer season. It just gets better: the collection evolves from one-shouldered smocks to twisted wrap skirts for utmost variety. What more can a girl dream of? Abstract, and absolutely terrific.

So go forth, pick up a paintbrush and embrace the art attack movement – “Try it yourself!” in the wise words of kids TV presenter Neil BuchananOr shop a Moschino skirt, if you’re feeling less fond of the mess. 

Header image courtesy of @moschino via Instagram

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