Frieze Capital

Frieze London is one of the most creatively exciting events on the global art calendar. Here’s why the fashion industry is taking notice

Move over Fashion Week, there’s a more stylish event in town. Though Frieze London first started as a trade fair for the contemporary art world, it has quickly transformed into a scene for both industry insiders and anyone interested in art and creativity in general. And, of course, it’s now a place to be seen.

The fair’s tents in Regent’s Park are a true treat for the eyes. Art world deal-makers dressed in their new season Prada and Marni. Gallerinas with pensive stares casually cool in old Céline. Off-duty Balenciaga models showing how little they care with their flamboyantly dishevelled coats. Tan European socialites in preppy sartorial attire. Russian oligarchs and their signature ostentatious glamour.

The fashion industry is taking plenty of notice of this opportunity for marketing. Over the few past years, Gucci and Alexander McQueen have sponsored the fair and created pop-up events around it. This year, the fashion agenda was stronger than ever.


For Nicola McCartney, artist, educator and author of Death of the Artist, fashion’s link to the world of contemporary art is a means of increasing the cultural capital of a brand. “Some designers still see a hierarchy between the two, and thus want their work to be associated with fine art and all its romantic mythologies and prestige,” says McCartney.

The author also believes that the fair’s prominence and explicit commercialism represents a great opportunity for brands to tap into a demographic and market with plenty of money to spend. “The buyers at Frieze are interested in investing and therefore in what’s ‘fashionable’,” says McCartney. “This can be attributed to particular artists’ names, much like a logo. So it’s not too much of a stretch for the collectors at Frieze to also be considering fashion, as well as art, as something they want to buy.”

One of the sponsors this year was British luxury e-commerce powerhouse MatchesFashion. For Danielle Radojcin, Culture Editor at MatchesFashion, the partnership is a great reflection of the store’s clientele: “Our consumer is interested in lots of other things than just fashion, and art is really high up there, along with travel, music, and culture in general.”

The company collaborated on an interactive lounge with British artist duo Walter & Zoniel, who designed an installation called WZ.RAINBOWCAM – a giant box camera that allowed visitors to create their own abstract collages by pressing their body parts against rainbow-coloured flatbed scanners, with transparent walls allowing other spectators to watch the process. The piece questioned what constitutes a self-portrait in today’s proliferation of images on social media and the role of privacy and exhibitionism in the creation of a photo.

Photo: Martin Onufrowicz

Alongside this collaboration, MatchesFashion displayed an installation of works by menswear designer Craig Green and Spanish artist Saelia Aparicio comprising hand-painted silk embroidered wall hangings and wooden stools resembling curled-up human silhouettes. And the company hosted talks with Roksanda Ilinčić and filmmaker Liz Goldwyn, as well as American artists duo The Haas Brothers. The luxury retailer even organised an off-schedule Symonds Pearmain fashion show, with models walking past the exhibited artworks.

Outside of the fair, the fashion and art love affair was equally lively. Victoria Beckham teamed up with auction house Sotheby’s for a pop-up exhibition of selected Andy Warhol works at her Dover Street flagship. Christopher Kane displayed the watercolour paintings of his problematic friend Lena Dunham in his shop on Mount Street.

But the most engaging experience came courtesy of Prada. Miuccia loves art and has a foundation to prove it, so launching a pop-up art installation/members club at 180 Strand just in time for Frieze week was very on-brand. The Prada Mode London event was the third iteration of the company’s “travelling social club”, which mixes art experience with musical and dining sensations.

The happening included an immersive and urgently relevant installation by Theaster Gates, American artist and curator. His ongoing project, The Black Image Corporation, explores the visual and cultural representation of contemporary black identity, and included conversations with fashion creatives such as Grace Wales Bonner and Samuel Ross, as well as a line-up of exuberant live performances and DJ sets in collaboration with The Vinyl Factory and non-profit organisation The Showroom, London.

Photo: Martin Onufrowicz

Elvira Dyangani Ose, Director of The Showroom, London, says that the goal was to create a platform that formulates art as an act of radical friendship: “We wanted to develop a network which would evoke a strong and radical sense of togetherness and create a sense of community through the act of hospitality – rather than just an installation, we wanted it to be a place to inhabit and share ideas freely.”

Fashion’s affection for all things art might not be anything new. But as Frieze week has shown, this fusion has a potential to be more than just a forceful branding strategy. When done well, it can also bring people together and invite them to question the status quo.

The page could not be loaded!