Artists are turning clothes into canvases, producing bespoke, wearable art
Independent artists and painters are offering to treat your clothes, bags, and shoes as they would a canvas or a public wall. It’s called wearable art, and it turns their artworks into apparel, and vice-versa. “It’s an attempt to take art off the wall and bring it into our daily lives, where it can be consumed in an accessible way by anyone,” says visual artist Oona D’mello. “The message doesn’t change at all. It’s just the possible destinations that expand.”
Fashion has exploded, so has accessibility, and people want to stand out in the crowd. “So personalisation with original artwork adds that ‘wow’ factor,” says Mumbai artist Kanika Ranka, 25, who specialises in customising luxury handbags.
She started The Studio Project after graduating from the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, in 2016. “There are so many Louis Vuittons and Chanels out there now. The person sitting next to you at a café could have the same kind,” she says. “This way, the piece is you and it’s yours.”
It helps if clients know exactly what they want, Ranka adds. “We can always help them decide, but it’s like getting a tattoo for your bag — you have to be really sure, because it can’t be undone.”
Her designs range from paints spatter to floral patterns, comic characters and arty monograms. Prices start at `5,000 and can go up to `1 lakh. Time taken can range from two weeks to two months.
Art for the everyday
Studio Toffle in Delhi is a brand with an exclusive focus on wearable art. Most products are hand-worked. Techniques include fabric work, embroidery, acid bleaching, tie-and-dye, and spray-painting. “There’s a detailed stitching style that’s particularly popular. It’s similar to the Japanese sashiko boro, which is sort of like the patchwork mending of old clothing,” says founder, Kashish Gemini.
They have a Basics line that is competitively priced. “It is similar to any regular jeans brand,” says Gemini. “Except, with us you get to choose the fabric, work with us on graphics and the art.”
A customised outfit (jacket + jeans) starts at `16,000. “I recently had someone ask for a sketch of the American rapper Nas on a jacket, and used lyrics from one of his songs on the front.”
Graffiti on your sneakers
At Mel’s Make, Mumbai graffiti artist Melroy Williams takes regular-looking apparel (shoes, headphones, T-shirts or whatever you like) and adds a dash of art. “The city streets are the real runway and these artworks become a form of self-expression,” says Williams.
Graffiti of words like ‘Hustle’ or ‘Beast’, personalised doodles, characters from anime… “ever since we custom-painted Dragon Ball Z characters on a pair of Vans shoes for rapper Raftaar in 2018, people have been wanting them on their shoes too,” he says. Prices start at `1,000.
Visual artist Oona D’mello and designer Sohni Patel of House of Sohn collaborated to create a capsule collection of wearable art in November, for an exhibition titled Est Form, which will now be held annually. Works can also be commissioned — each garment is first created as a painting and then as apparel.
“The word ‘art’ must remain true at all points of the process,” D’mello says. “Making it wearable expands the conversation around it, as well as the scope for who views it, where it exists and who consumes it.”