The Art Foundations of Luxury Fashion Brands: An Exploratory Investigation

in Engaging with Fashion
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During the past 30 years, several Western European luxury fashion brands have invested resources in cultural initiatives distinctive from their core commercial activities. In particular, this has involved the brands establishing organisations (typically identified as ‘foundations’) dedicated to collecting and commissioning contemporary art by established and emerging artists. The suggested motives for these activities range from indulging the personal interest of the brands’ owners and managers, to a desire to invest their brands with cultural capital or creative heritage. This chapter is the first to explicitly investigate the phenomenon of luxury fashion brands’ ownership of contemporary art foundations, with the aim of understanding its nature, scope, and purpose. These will be considered in the context of the contradiction between the apparent desire for public engagement with the art foundations and the perceived exclusivity of the patron brands’ products and retail venues. The chapter investigates the phenomenon in two phases. First, an insight into specific cases of art foundations owned by luxury fashion brands is offered. This explores the internal structures of the relevant foundations and examines their programmes, communications, initiatives and connections with the patron brands. Secondly, expert interviews with relevant professionals will contextualise the role of the art foundations as a presumed meeting point between the inclusivity of public engagement and the exclusivity of fashion branding. This is an exploratory study representing the first stage of an on going project. It is informed by secondary research and primary qualitative research aimed at establishing a clearer understanding of the phenomenon under investigation. The chapter will provide insight into the contemporary nature of both luxury fashion branding and public engagement in an art exhibition.

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