Wednesday 27th March

| BY Paul Toner

Keith Haring, But Make it Fashion

The phenomenon of designers lifting the work of artists, both dead and alive, has been part of the fashion norm for decades. There’s the Mondrian dress by YSL, the Basquiat x Comme des Garçons Shirt, Yayoi Kusama for Louis Vuitton, JW Anderson and Gibert & George and Raf…. with just about every NY artist you can name on one hand. Yet, it’s the work of New York artist Keith Haring that has become a go-to across the design spectrum. The kitschy cartoon figurings synonymous with late artist still to this day uphold a transcendent level of policial importance. Haring pushed the perceived notions of what street art could be. The vibrant cartoons jumped, danced and barked across the city – Haring, like his peers Warhol and Basquiat, aimed to make art accessible to a wider audience, taking it from the galleries and into the streets. Kering’s art was underpinned with a level of outspoken activism critical to the times. Racism, homophobia, drug abuse and AIDS stigmatisation all crept up as reoccurring themes in his work, the latter being particularly significant as the artist died of AIDS-related illnesses in 1990.

Outside taking to the streets with his artwork, Haring also collaborated with dear friend Grace Jones. The artist was in charge of making-over the songstress for her leading role in the comedic-horror flick VAMP, alongside painting over the dress she wore in the final moments of her I’m Not Perfect! music video – in which he stared in alongside Andy Warhol.

Paying homage to the artist’s work, Lacoste dropped a collaboration with the Keith Haring Foundation earlier this week, where the brand’s staple pieces are overlaid with a plethora of Haring’s most iconic works. From t-shirts and polos, to caps and even underwear – the Lacoste croc and Haring’s Barking Dog make a rather fitting pair.

This is obviously just the last in a long line of cases that crept Haring’s designs into the luxury market. Last year, Coach took the squiggles and ran with it – satin bombers in candy-coloured hues and leather jackets were splashed with radiant hearts and dancing characters, alongside a range of bags embellished with Haring motifs, including the barking dog being zapped up by a UFO. Two brands no stranger to collaborations, Uniqlo and Thrasher, have also had the Haring treatment. Fittingly for the latter, Haring cartoons skated under the Thrasher logo, whilst the Uniqlo collaboration sees a range of graphics dedicated to the Big Apple.

Chiming in on the action, Jeremy Scott created a tracksuit in partnership with Adidas in an all over Haring print – the swirls and curls reminiscent of the time Haring painted on the body of Grace Jones for her shoot with Mapplethorpe. The obsession doesn’t stop there though – Nicholas Kirkwood marked the opening of his new NY boutique back in 2011 with a range of Haring inspired footwear, including thigh-high roller skate boots and stilettos, where the heels were cleverly replaced by Haring’s cartoons, which looked as if they were holding the shoes up themselves.

In June, the Tate Liverpool is set to curate the first major UK retrospective of the artist. So get scavenging online for these collaborations, there’s no excuse not to be dressed to the nines.

‘Keith Haring’ Opens at Tate Liverpool on June 14th 2019.