Since fashion transports us to a world of unrivaled fantasy, it’s not surprising that for fall 2012—
a particularly dreamy, playful season—designers looked to surrealism, the famed avant-garde artistic movement, for inspiration. Surrealist-inspired absurd imagery dominated the fall catwalks, at Mary Katrantzou (who showed distorted pencils and spoons) and at Diane Von Furstenberg who emblazoned her fall clutches with eyes and lips, the latter a signature of artist Salvador Dali, one of the movement’s pioneers. Back in the 1930s, Dali collaborated with fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli on now iconic pieces, including the Lobster Dress, a floor-length evening gown printed with a cheeky crustacean motif.
By re-imagining clothes through surrealism’s twisted lens, designers question conventional notions of fashion, much as the surrealists did with art. Take a trip through our top 10 picks of the most outrageous designs, books and events of the season.
1. Surrealism fashion trend: Mary Katrantzou Fall 2012
Katrantzou’s fall collection is replete with patterns that warp perception and elevate the mundane to the absurd. Repetitive, bright prints depicting mazes and typewriters and featuring elements like spoons and pencils not only trick viewers’ eyes through a distorted sense of dimension, but also use objects in an unconventional, irrational way much as the surrealists did.
2. Surrealism fashion trend: Giles Fall 2012
Surrealist art often veered towards the macabre, and Stephen Jones’ plumed headpieces for Giles seem to have been plucked from some dark dream. By pairing them with elegant silk gowns and velvet suits, Giles Deacon creates the kind of shocking juxtaposition found in many surrealists’ works.
3. Surrealism fashion trend: Lanvin Fall 2012
The surrealists had a particular fascination with lip and eye motifs, with these images featuring prominently in many of their paintings. This season, Lanvin uses similar motifs to create fun, playful jewellery pieces that accent the opulent, glamorous clothing.
4. Surrealism fashion trend: Moschino Cheap and Chic Fall 2012
At Moschino Cheap & Chic, designer Rosella Jardini takes a literal view of surrealism, presenting a lip print dress, which features a face emblazoned with Dali’s signature moustache. Adding to the visual fun house? Rainbow-hued fur and eye motifs.
For more surrealism (read: Dali-inspired) fashion trends, read on to the next page…
5 and 6. Surrealism fashion trend: Rodarte and DVF Fall 2012
Hands figure prominently in Surrealism as objects—and as tools meant to unlock the unconscious psyche–through techniques such as automatic drawing. This season, both Diane von Furstenberg and
Rodarte’s Laura and Kate Mulleavy pay homage to this notion with handprint dresses. Von Furstenberg showed a graphic black and white shift, while at Rodarte, the handprints were more ethereal and reminiscent of cave paintings.
7. Surrealism fashion trend: Diane Von Furstenberg accessories
This fall, Diane von Furstenberg draws on popular Surrealist imagery using
handbags in the shape of hearts and others decorated with clock faces, eyes and lips. Paired with black or bold, solid colours, these
playful accessories add an element of artful surprise.
8. Surrealism fashion trend: The background book
Discover the roots of the surrealism trend in
Dada in Paris, a comprehensive tome first published in France in 1965. This October, the first English-language version of this definitive work on Dada, the intellectual movement that gave birth to surrealism, will be released.
9. Surrealism fashion trend: The inspiration book
Learn more about surrealism’s best-known proponent in
Salvador Dali: The Making of an Artist. This tome charts Dali’s influences, artistic development and his modern-day legacy.
10. Surrealism fashion trend: The exhibition
Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting, an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto this October. Frida Kahlo was one of the few female artists to be embraced by the Surrealists and her work explores many of their core concepts with unrivaled honesty and insight.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.