David Hockney, Style Icon: Fashion’s Unending Infatuation With the Artist

Artist David Hockney in front of his painting "A Bigger Grand Canyon," 1998, oil on canvas
(Photo by Belinda Pratten)

David Hockney may arguably be Britain’s greatest living artist — a November 2011 poll of 1,000 British painters and sculptors declared him Britain’s most influential, anyway — but the fashion world has another title for him: style icon. With the recent opening of his Royal Academy exhibition, “A Bigger Picture,” on January 21, Hockney’s signature look is once again causing a stir. Simon Chilvers, the Guardian’s assistant fashion editor, recently declared Hockney as his “all-time style hero.” British GQ named him one of the 50 Most Stylish Men in Britain. Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was among the throngs who visited his show this weekend.

When Hockney arrived in the California in the ‘60s, his platinum blonde bowl cut and thick round-framed glasses made him an unforgettable figure. The bowties, cable-knit sweaters, bright mismatched socks, trench coats, mod suits, and newsboy caps he wore became as much of a part of his persona as his emblematic California poolside paintings, which — as his iconic 1967 piece, “A Bigger Splash,” alludes to — caused a “splash” within the art community during that period. The vibrant color motifs of his paintings often paralleled his colorful sartorial choices, classic pieces with quirky accents.

Both Hockney’s personal style and art regularly pop up as inspirations for runway collections. Westwood has named a jacket after Hockney. Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey centered his entire spring/summer 2005 menswear collection around him, calling Hockney “my icon.” Interim John Galliano creative director Bill Gaytten named his spring/summer 2012 collection “Big Splash” in honor of Hockney’s painting. Designer Osman Yousefzada said Hockney’s California color palettes influenced his spring/summer 2012 Osman line.

E-commerce site Mr. Porter, meanwhile, has invited customers to “Shop Mr. David Hockney,” pairing an interview with the artist with a page featuring purchasable items that Hockney would wear, like Selima Optique round-framed tortoise-shell glasses, a Ralph Lauren Purple Label cashmere cable-knit sweater, and a Brioni knitted silk tie. "He looked as if he had got out of bed and just found himself in those clothes,” Jeremy Langmead, editor-in-chief of Mr. Porter, told the Guardian. “It didn't look too contrived, he didn't look in the least self-conscious, it just looked as if that was how David Hockney looked; that was how he was made. Remarkable."

Last fall, Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey told BLOUIN ARTINFO that she was a “huge fan” of Hockney’s after naming him as one of her dream artists to work with, calling his “Fresh Flowers,” exhibition of iPad and iPhone drawings “one of the best exhibitions I've seen in a very long time.” Fashion’s infatuation with Hockney has many in the industry eager to work with him. Will he be the next artist to have a designer collaboration? One can only hope.