Fashion: Fashionable for fifteen minutes

New York's fashion scene has never ignored Andy Warhol for long. A new exhibition, `The Warhol Look', shows the comeback collection of ex-Factory protege Stephen Sprouse alongside the high kitsch of Dolce e Gabbana. Tamsin Blanchard reports.

Photographs by Chris Moore.

The fashion world has gone pop art crazy. Not that fashion, by definition, can be anything other than "pop", but next spring, two designers and a major new exhibition in New York will be responsible for spearheading a new craze: pop art reproduced on clothes. You can wear it or you can frame it. Take your pick.

The designers in question are Stephen Sprouse, a Warhol protege who in the Eighties was responsible for dressing downtown New York, and Dolce e Gabbana, the Italian duo who have transformed their younger D&G label with the help of a young Italian pop artist. The exhibition, called "The Warhol Look", is now showing at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Stephen Sprouse's comeback collection, shown in a Soho warehouse in New York at the beginning of the month, could not have been better timed. While Sprouse's camouflage-print Superhero cape and trousers from the days at the Factory are on display at the exhibition alongside fashion by Halston, Versace and Vivienne Tam, his own collection featured brightly coloured screen-prints of Warhol robots, the Empire State Building (printed and sequinned on a long, slinky evening dress) and ticket stubs. There were no Marilyn prints - that would have been too obvious - and besides, Versace used the image for his collection for autumn/ winter 91/92. Iggy Pop, Tama Janowitz and I Shot Andy Warhol star Lili Taylor declared the collection a hit. Iggy Pop already has a wardrobe full of Sprouse and this collection, using images with permission from the Warhol Foundation, was declared a hit.

Sprouse had not shown on the catwalk for five years and this time he is there to stay. The collection will be manufactured by Staff International, the Italian company that produces collections for Vivienne Westwood. The high street copycat versions will follow soon after.

Of course, it is not the first time the paths of Andy Warhol and fashion have crossed. "The Warhol Look" exhibition examines the way the artist was driven by an obsession with glamour, fashion and Hollywood.

As well as showing some of Warhol's own clothes, including one of his wigs bizarrely framed and hung on a wall, the exhibition charts the artist's friendships with the in-crowd of the Seventies: Halston, Calvin Klein, and jewellery designers Tina Chow and Elsa Perretti. His magazine, Interview, served to fuse the two worlds even further. In turn, Warhol's work has never stopped being an inspiration to the fashion world: look no further than Calvin Klein's Steve Meisel advertising campaign for cK One. He uses Richard Avedon's larger-than-life portrait of the Factory members, including Joe d'Alessandro and Candy Darling staring listlessly at the camera lens. Meisel transformed it into an advert using a mixture or models and "real" people, but keeping the raw attitude of the original.

Stephen Sprouse is still living in a Warhol world. His East Village New York apartment is painted silver and he skulks around New York's underground, a reclusive, elusive figure. He is still obsessed with the idea of Velcro fastenings - his clothes rarely use zips or buttons, apparently because he broke his arm in the middle of the last decade and wanted clothes he could do up and undo with one arm. After five years away from the catwalk, and several shaky comebacks, Sprouse has revived his own name with the help of his mentor, Warhol.

If it seems as though Sprouse is living in the past, he perhaps is. But there is certainly a market for his bright and funky screen-printed clothes, if only as collector's items. In Milan, Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce have found a brand new pop artist to collaborate with. For their younger D&G line, they have worked with a young 24-year-old artist, Andrea Martini, who is in his final year at the Accademia delle belle Arti in Milan. Martini and the designers share a love of religious imagery and high kitsch. The result is a collection of clothing that reproduces Martini's brash 3-D sculptures of sacred hearts, burning stars and thorny roses in hand-embroidered sequins on to plain shift dresses and simple T-shirts. Of course, if you want to get ahead of the trends, you could always try taking a photograph of your favourite Campbell's soup flavour down to your local print shop and have it copied on to a T-shirt. Now that would be worth hanging on your wall.

`The Warhol Look: Glamour , Fashion and Style' is showing at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York until 18 January, 1998 (001 212 570 3600).

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