A muse is a word often thrown around in the fashion and art world to refer to an artistic inspiration for a creator or an artist.
The muse acts as a reference.
The definition of a muse is a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.
The idea of muse and mannequin is one that really intrigues me because I automatically have an association with playing dress up as a kid. When I was younger, I collected some Barbies throughout my childhood — Barbies that I would dress up whenever I had free time. I would take outfits from the blonde Barbie and put it on the brunette Barbie. I would keep doing this until I got bored. But during this time when I was a kid, my cousins and friends and I would always play dress up. Whether it was going into my mom’s closet and stealing her clothes to try on or making “make-shift” clothes out of bed sheets and old clothes, I would still find a way to feed my creative interests.
For an artist, one of the most powerful relationships they can have is the muse — someone that inspires them to produce the work. For Picasso his muse was the 17-year-old Sylvette David. For Alfred Stieglitz, his muse was Georgia O’Keeffe. But in the fashion world, there have been some iconic muses for many artists and designers:
Audrey Hepburn was a muse for Hubert de Givenchy.
Jacques de Bascher de Beaumarchais was a muse for Karl Lagerfeld.
Back when Kanye was working on an Adidas/Yeezy collaboration, he used his wife as a reference of inspiration because she has the “body of all bodies,” according to Kanye. Many fashion designers choose their muse for their body shape. This means that the must can become a literal mannequin. “She was always my muse, now she’s become other designers’ muses,” he said. This is true as Kim has been a muse for designers like Olivier Rousteing for Balmain.
My friends and I have a clothing line called Kundan Paaras. It is a women’s evening wear brand specializing in luxury gowns, blouses, and trousers. We source our material — 100% silk — from India from a small tailoring company. My job is to cast models and direct editorial photoshoots. My job is to find a narrative and integrate it into a photoshoot. We needed to find a muse for our photoshoot — someone who was reflective of our values as a brand.
We chose Amrita Sher-Gil as our muse.
She was a painter famous for her blending of her traditional and Western art forms — It’s similar to what we do at Kundan Paaras. We take classic elements of our heritage and blend them with Western styles and cuts.
She was a revolutionary in modern art in India, and she’s someone we look up to now for our latest collection.
As you can see, we drew inspiration from Amrita’s look and persona. A woman dressed in traditional feminine attire while pressing flowers into a book — a modern form of art.
If the muse is anything, it is a mirror into the creative artist’s psyche. I’m starting to see this a lot with designers like Virgil Abloh, the creative director for Off—White. These alliances — though not always real — formulate the blueprints of the designer/muse relationship for the future.
The muse merely enhances creativity and allows the consumer a window into the designer’s psyche.
Designers should embrace the use of the muse as a reference and a resource. It’s a tool for storytelling and it sends us into the past for a moment — I think that’s what I connect to the most.