The effects of optical illusions have been utilised in visual arts since their beginnings. The term op art was first coined in 1964 by Time Magazine, and identified art which uses geometric forms to create hypnotic optical effects. The antecedents of this art movement can be found in a huge range of art movements, such as Neo-impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism and Dadaism. The op art movement exploded in the sixties, where hypnotic geometric patterns by artists such as Bridget Riley defined the decade.

The phenomena of optical illusion is frequently used by designers in the fashion industry, often for practical effects such as slimming the frame or adding the illusion of curves. However, in haute couture, optical illusion has been used time and time again to push the boundaries of fashion, taking the art form into the realms of avant-garde.

Viktor and Rolf | S/S 2010 | Paris Fashion Week

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren experimented with illusions of space with their collection in 2010, proving themselves as quite the illusory masters. From certain angles the model appears to be cut in two, creating the illusion of the top half of the model floating down the catwalk, seemingly disconnected, from the bottom half of the dress.

Gareth Pugh | Spring/Summer 2015

Optical illusion is a reoccurring theme in the work of op art pioneer Gareth Pugh. The designer uses bold, monochromatic prints to create dynamic pieces. Gareth Pugh spoke of his fascination with monochrome prints in an interview with Dazed, “when you shake the stripes, you can see a sort of rainbow because black absorbs all the colour and white reflects it and I quite like the effect of colour instead of seeing black and white.”

Issey Miyake | A/W 2016-2017 | Paris Fashion Week

Iconic Japanese design house Issey Miyake is known for technology-driven designs. The collection for the forthcoming season, designed by Yoshiyuki Miyamae, showcases optical prints giving the pieces a three dimensional appearance. The combination of optical patterns and geometric shapes delves into the outlandishness while retaining a supreme elegance, a skill which has been expertly refined in Japanese culture. Issey Miyake is what you would have “If M.C. Escher had embraced colour and turned to technical fashion design”, says Dazed Digital.

Christopher Kane | Spring/Summer 2014

Talented Scot Christopher Kane is another designer who has been seduced by the mesmerising prints of op art. Using geometric lines and contrasting colours to create entrancing facial features, Kane shows what a perceptively brilliant designer he is. The clean lines and sharp colour contrasts make Kane’s use of optical prints feel modern and futuristic, a taste of things to come for the op art movement.

Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible

-M.C. Escher

Written by Anneka Shally

Edited by Christina Wright

References

http://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/spring-summer-2014/mens/christopher-kane [accessed May 2016], http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2015-ready-to-wear/gareth-pugh/slideshow/collection#40 [accessed May 2016], http://www.fashionisers.com/fashion-news/issey-miyake-fall-2016-rtw/ [accessed May 2016]