Dressed to Sell: An Artist's Guide to Fair Fashion
Image is everything. In the professional art world, there’s no truer statement – especially when it comes to personal expression and style.
You might think your work speaks for itself, but for collectors it’s often the artist behind the canvas that seals the deal on a piece of art. Presentation means everything when it comes to first impressions, and you want to leave your mark everywhere you go. While that might not mean showing up in the latest drop from Art Basel favorite HBA or engaging in a years-long and tumultuous artistic collaboration with Kanye West, nailing down your look still requires a thoughtfulness and attention on the same level as planning your next show.
Just as there’s no exact formula for crafting the perfect object d’art, finding a style equation that works for you is based strictly trial and error. Sure, you’ve already nailed your studio style, but taking your ripped- and paint-splattered work gear to an event where you’re hoping for collectors to drop thousands of dollars on you might not guarantee the results you’re looking for.
Regardless if you’re hitting up a low-key and affordable art fair or heading to a blue-chip soiree, we have some general tips for guys, gals, non-binary folks and everyone in between on how to make a lasting impression that leaves collectors and gallerists alike wondering which booth they need to sprint to in order to buy as much work of yours as they can.
Build your style from the ground up.
Many artists create bodies of work in different mediums, but at the heart of their creations is a unique style. You can think of your wardrobe in exactly the same way. Before building a capsule wardrobe (which everyone should have, but I’ll rant about that at another time), you need to figure out what you feel most comfortable and look best in. All you really need to lock down are a few good pairs of pants and some interchangeable shirts to match. Having those easy staples ready to go at all times will really come in handy when you have to show up to the art fair bright and early after two straight days of partying (and selling).
Bring out your Sunday Best.
Fancy clothes can seem out of reach when you’re used to comfort and functionality, but everyone (no matter what circles you run in) has to attend a stuffy cocktail party every once in a while. Those parties are even easier to palette when free drinks and interested collectors are involved. Hunt down a nice, true-to-you outfit that says “I’m professional, but also collectable!” by finding your perfect investment piece. With the help of your new and impressive digs, collectors will be more likely to invest in you.
Studio gear, but make it fashion.
Listen: no one is telling you not to wear your studio gear out to schmooze, but you might want to kick things up a notch with a statement accessory to liven things up. Adding a pair of metallic shoes to literally any outfit instantly takes things up a notch, or consider a sleek statement jacket to bring the look together.
Wear your art.
As an artist, you are your own best marketer. What better way to get people interested in you and your work than by wearing it? This is a tactic that’s been done since the dawn of self-promotion, whether you’re screen printing onto a t-shirt or painting directly onto a fresh pair of kicks. Artists have been collaborating with fashion brands big and small for decades, but there’s something incredibly refreshing and genuine about artists who product and incorporate one-of-a-kind pieces into their everyday wear. Let the art do the talking – whether it’s on a pedestal at Superfine! or on the back of your jean jacket at the bar. Someone might just unexpectedly want to buy it right off your back.
Make your art intrinsic to your fashion choices.
Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Louise Bourgeois, etc... there’s no shortage of high-profile artists who are known for their unique expression through fashion. Mom might have said “dress for the job you want” but it takes a little more than aspirational purchases to make your dreams come true. Think about your work’s philosophy and how that might translate into your wardrobe and try things out. You might just find that, by channeling one of the great eclectic icons of 20th century art. After all: life imitates art far more than art imitates life, right?