Often at museum gift shops, there are scarves colored with patterns from a Monet or a Renoir. Visitors can then wear the art they've seen; they adorn themselves with the work of an artist. But where art ends and fashion begins is more complicated than whether or not a famous painter designed the pattern on your t-shirt. The way a dress drapes the shoulders, a corset hugs a torso, or the design of a new hat should also be seen as a form of art. In the past decade, curatorial choices at major museums reflect this sentiment, giving huge exhibitions to the designs of Jean Paul Gaultier or the photography of Mario Testino. Then, of course, there's Karl Lagerfeld: Parallel Contrasts exhibition/fashion show in Germany.
Here in Dallas, a few galleries are blurring the lines between art and fashion with design-centric parties or runway shows. At the forefront is Circuit 12 Contemporary, which recently launched a Designer-in-Residence program.
"I've always had an internal battle between my love and devotion to fine art and painting and also my obsession with high fashion," says Gina Orlando, who co-owns Circuit 12 with her husband, Dustin. "I'm interested in discovering where high fashion and fine art intersect and in what modes in the future they can potentially intersect."
Earlier this month, Gina announced Nicholas J. Moore to be the program's first designer. A self-taught couturier of 8 years, Moore's exaggerated styles blend classic patterns and colors with flashy shapes and in-your-face innovation. Think black kimonos over sequined pants, or a boxy little black dress made with faux crocodile skin. His first presentation of designs at the gallery focused on redefinitions of the little black dress, which you can now find in the boutique that sits behind the showroom.
This is just one more angle in which Gina and Dustin break out of the Dragon Street gallery mold. In Circuit 12's first two years in business, they've thrown traditional practices out of the window, preferring to run their space with a sleek, party atmosphere more akin to a gallery in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, where the two met. They represent some of the trendiest artists on Dragon Street and for opening night parties, you'll often find a dj in the corner of the gallery space. They're two cool cats and they're committed to sharing their taste with Dallas.
"This program works into our modus operandi for the whole gallery, which is take on risky artists and break down boundaries in what art is supposed to look like," Gina says. "It's not about adding a retail element to the gallery, it's about offering a platform to a designer and challenging our audience to consider the boundaries between art and fashion."
Although, Circuit 12 will be the first gallery in Dallas with an added retail element, other galleries around the country have adopted similar models. OHWOW in Los Angeles, for example, recently added an archival bookstore to the gallery. Similarly, it's not necessarily about selling the books, but about curating and promulgating a particular interest.
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"We didn't open the gallery with the intention of getting involved with the fashion community," Gina says. "But we've found a huge community of designers here and we wanted to offer a platform that could promote a new dialogue."
She hasn't fully ironed out all the details of the residency. Moore received the first residency because he was closely entwined in the fabrication of the program. He will replenish and add to the collection in the boutique through August, then a new designer will step into his shoes. Gina knows who it is, but isn't ready to announce quite yet. In her mind, the design community in Dallas is big enough to fill her roster for years to come, but she's not opposed to work from outside the city as well.
"I don't know what this will turn into a year from now," she says. "I'm hoping other designers will chime in and realize this is something they can relate to and be a part of if they want to. I see this as my contribution to a scene in Dallas that deserves more attention."
Stop by and see Moore's little black dresses during Circuit 12 Contemporary's normal gallery hours, Tuesday- Saturday 11a.m. - 6 p.m. The gallery is located at 1130 Dragon St. Ste 150.