Soon after the establishment of the Haute Couture - and the consequent celebration of fashion designers as multifaceted creatives - fashion really did take centre stage in the ideation and production of costumes for various performances. One of the first couturiers who worked for the opera, ballet and also theatre was no less than Charles Frederick Worth, who used to dress celebrated actresses both on and off the stage.
Paul Poiret followed suit, applying his own taste and interests to the designs he made for the theatre. His take on orientalism translated into fantastical designs for plays such as Jacques Richepin’s Le Minaret (1913).
In 1922, Coco Chanel's collaboration with Jean Cocteau for his adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone represented a milestone in the history of avant-garde theatre and also intellectual, modernist fashion.
Chanel’s rival, Elsa Schiaparelli, also worked extensively with artists, and with Cocteau in particular, but never for their theatrical endeavours. She instead decided to focus on cinema. From the 1930s she produced costumes for Hollywood productions, culminating in the collaboration with John Huston for his 1952 movie Moulin Rouge, starring José Ferrer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Suzanne Flor and Colette Marchand.
Jean Paul Gaultier's career as costume designer started thanks to French choreographer Régine Chopinot who asked him to work on the costumes for the ballet Délices in 1983. Two years later, Gaultier and Chopinot worked together again on Le Défilé, almost merging their two genres, ballet and catwalk.
Interestingly, Gaultier was also influenced by cinema and theatre in his own fashion creations: Maschinen-Maria from Fritz Lang’s movie Metropolis is the inspiration behind Gaultier’s spikey, pink satin corset worn by Madonna in her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour. In turn, Madonna included references to Lang’s movie in some of her music videos like Express Yourself or Material Girl.
Even the iconic striped shirt which defines Gaultier’s aesthetic comes from his love for the cinema, and in particular from Fassbinder’s Querelle.
Because clothing and fashion are such powerful codes, filmmakers, costume designers and fashion designers have inspired each other.
The creative vision of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and more importantly, costume designer Barbara Baum have inspired fashion designers such as Miuccia Prada and Jean Paul Gaultier. Miuccia Prada stated in an interview that she was inspired by Bertolt Brecht movies and, in particular, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant for her 2014 Autumn Fashion Show in Milan.
In 1997 choreographer Merce Cunningham invited fashion designer Rei Kawakubo to work with him on Scenario which premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. It was an encounter of styles and views of the world (and performance, of course). Cunningham went against the traditional notion of dance as an elegant set of harmonious movements, and Kawakubo created garments that did not comply with the natural forms and ideals of beauty linked to the human body.
Dance surely gave and keeps giving fashion designers opportunities to experiment with new materials and techniques specifically developed to support the body of the performers.
In creating the costumes for AEROS we use flowing jerseys in rich solid colours and vibrant body-suites in space-dyed stretch yarns to capture the speed of movement in the Energy and Fun themes and to enhance sensuality in the Aesthetics and Magic elements of the show.
This is what Luca Missoni said when explaining the space-dye technique used to create the costumes for the ballet Step into my Dream choreographed by David Parsons in 1994 and later in 2003 for the Modern Dance show AEROS performed by the Romanian Gymnastic Federation.