The Warhol Effect

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As the first major Warhol exhibition in almost in twenty years opens at Tate Modern (March 12–6 September 2020), we look at the artist’s enduring Pop Art legacy on a clutch of Bond Street’s leading lights.

As one of the most influential artists of the late 20th Century, Andy Warhol needs little introduction. A leading figure in the Pop Art movement, he is best known for making art out of consumer products such as Coco-Cola bottles and Campbell's Soup cans and capturing American icons like Marilyn Monroe, Debbie Harry and Elvis on the silkscreen. Then, there are the bold colours: pink, yellow, green, turquoise… that he instilled into each highly collectable artwork.

Today, Warhol's Pop Art legacy lives on. He continues to inspire legions of fashion designers from Prada to Celine, Gucci to Victoria Beckham. Of course, fashion and Warhol are the perfect fit. In the 80s Stephen Sprouse made Warhol’s iconic prints runway-worthy. But it was perhaps Gianni Versace’s 1991 Pop Art collection featuring a jewel-encrusted version of Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych screen print that really brought the artist into the luxury fashion arena.

Having spent most of the ’50s working as a graphic designer, Warhol became one of the first artists to turn his work into fashion. In 1962, he joined forces with the Campbell’s Soup Company to offer all customers a ‘Souper Dress’, an A-line paper dress printed with his celebrated soup cans. Available to order for the price of $1 and two soup can labels, this creative collaboration brought Warhol’s artwork to the masses. Today, these coveted dresses can command as much as £7,000.

According to Caroline Stevenson, head of cultural and historical studies at the London College of Fashion, Pop Art emerged during the mid to late ’50s, alongside the boom in advertising, consumerism and youth culture. “Andy Warhol’s work reflected on the bold, playful imagery connected with advertising and youth, but also on celebrities and fame,” she says. “As well as producing art and films, Warhol created celebrity icons and socialised with the New York elite in his studio, The Factory. This placed him right at the centre of the avant-garde art, fashion and music scenes of the 1960s and ’70s, so as well as influencing fashion visually, he was very fashionable himself.”

With his shock of platinum blonde hair, striped Breton tops and dark sunglasses, Warhol is synonymous with the “15 minutes of fame” line, though today, there are doubts as to whether he was the first to coin the phrase. Whatever the case, in a world where social media is but a click away, it pays to have your lipstick and shades at the ready. Hermès’ Rose Inouï matte lipstick from the luxury brand’s newly launched 24-piece lipstick collection, is designed for maximum impact. The colour-block cylinders containing each lip shade are made from polished metal and are refillable. And this decidedly cool looking pair of shiny opal pink shades by Stella McCartney will shield you from the flash of a phone camera.

Legendary British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes was one of the early adopters of Warhol’s commercial style. Her whimsical Pop Art-inspired ‘lipstick’ and ‘wiggle’ prints can still be found in her current day ready-to-wear collections.

Now, aged 79, she recalls her first encounter with Warhol at the famous Factory during the heady days of Studio 54 in 1972. “When I first met Andy, he was quiet and retiring – an Atom Bomb in disguise”, she says adding: “He was the initial jumping-off point for me - the start of my career.” A decade later, Warhol would film one of Rhodes’ most notable New York runway shows which is now part of the permanent film collection at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Elsewhere in popular culture, David Bowie’s ode to Andy Warhol was released in 1971. With its shock of cobalt blue and lightning bolt stripe, Mulberry’s Amberley satchel gives a nod to Bowie’s legendary Aladdin Sane album cover.

Louis Vuitton's rubber silhouette ankle boots in coral pink from the s/s 2020 collection are also pure pop. Meanwhile, at Smythson, yellow is the colour of choice for its new Ludlow Concertina Shoulder Bag, crafted in grained leather.

There is an art in taking something innately consumerist and familiar in Western culture, such as soup cans or fast food packaging and lending them to fashion. As Stevenson notes: “When fashion takes on Pop Art aesthetics and values, it allows us to celebrate the everyday, mundane experiences of consumer culture. In some cases, it even allows us to laugh at ourselves. Take Jeremy Scott’s designs for example, which take everyday icons like McDonald's and The Simpsons, and transform them into fashion design.”

Indeed, making the ordinary extraordinary is something that Anya Hindmarch also has in common with Warhol. A sequinned tote bag in her s/s 2020 Brands Collection is embellished with a Heinz Tomato Sauce motif while Walkers Crisps are the subject of a whimsical sequined evening clutch in a choice of pink or turquoise.

Meanwhile, Gucci’s gold sequined shoes in white leather and Double G detail are reminiscent of the exquisite footwear illustrations Warhol produced while working as a commercial artist. Forming part of its pre-fall collection, Gucci aficionados will have to wait until May when these shoes will be available to purchase in its Bond Street store.

Comparisons can also be drawn between Warhol’s Flower Series and William & Son’s SkLO Small Wrap Object. Designed for the home, this unique objet d’art is hand-blown from a single Czech glass tube, meaning that no two designs are alike.

The last word goes to Rhodes who says: “In fashion, influencers come and go but Andy's legacy will go on forever. With his major retrospective opening at Tate Modern, it is bound to influence all levels of fashion.”

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