She's Got the Look: How Pari Ehsan Marries Fashion and Art
In one post on her blog, paridust, the fashion blogger Pari Ehsan poses in front of a 1980s Keith Haring work. The painting is a giant abstract canvas full of vibrant, thick black lines and smaller red squiggles on a white background.
Ehsan stands with her back to the work, looking out at the viewer. She’s dressed to match in a white-and-black piece by Rodarte that has the same playful aesthetic—not to mention color scheme and geometric pattern—as the Haring. The resulting photo is a work of art in and of itself.
Ehsan's fusion of artforms is a winning emblem of the happy marriage of fashion and art. While many naysayers used to adamantly proclaim their strict division, debating whether fashion designers, whose creations have a commercial purpose, can truly be artists, those strictures are loosening with each new fashion season and contemporary art show. Art has walked down the runway, inspired full couture collections, and used fashion as its subject.
For herself, Ehsan playfully pairs works of art that inspire her with their matching high-fashion looks. “I think that there’s so much that can happen with that conversation between art and fashion. People can be a little scared of it, but if you embrace it and explore it, it can be amazing,” Ehsan says.
It was a little over a year ago that she had an epiphany. As she stood in the Gagosian gallery posing for a headshot photo for her new architecture and interior design firm’s website, she realized that she matched the painting she happened to be standing next to.
“[Me and my photographer] were like, ‘Oh my god, that’s so cool,’ and that’s when the idea just struck me,” Ehsan says.
Since then, she has spent her weekends combing New York City’s museums and galleries for inspiration.
“Every Saturday, I’ll go, and I’ll start in the Lower East Side, and then I’ll go to all the galleries in Chelsea, all the new exhibits, and then in uptown,” Ehsan says. “Sometimes the designer comes to mind immediately when I see [a piece of art], other times I have to look a little bit. It’s kind of [love] at first sight, I usually know one way or the other.”
In some of her fashion-meets-art pairings, she achieves an eerie twinning between her look and her artistic inspiration, such as in the Keith Haring post. In others, the result is more a thematic composition in which she channels the aesthetic and spirit of the art, rather than mimicking it completely.
For a post titled Enchanted Forest, Ehsan visited the Brooklyn Museum of Art to see the contemporary artist Swoon’s Submerged Motherlands show. Swoon’s whimsical portrayal of nature—giant colorful tree trunks, old worn wooden doors—is paired with a soft, fluttery dress by Azzedine Alaia.
Ehsan’s dedication to transforming her look into that of the artwork extends down to her roots, thanks to a collaboration with her friend and hairstylist Cosma De Marinis. In the Swoon pairing, Ehsan’s hair falls on her shoulders in loose, romantic curls. In the post Gradient Dreams, Ehsan’s long tresses transition from her normal dark brown to a deep blue at their ends, mirroring the background painting by Pieter Vermeersch, which features a canvas that transforms from white to blue in an ombre effect.
In just a short amount of time, Ehsan has already achieved recognition for what was originally just a hobby. In 2014, The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) nominated her for its inaugural Fashion Instagrammer of the Year award. While she didn’t win the title, the validation opened up a lot of doors.
When she first launched paridust, Ehsan would comb her own closet for her artistic stylings. She soon moved on to begging designers to loan her clothes. But after the CFDA nod, designers started approaching her, or at least becoming more accessible to her requests.
“I feel like it’s just one of those things. I think the fashion industry can be a bit hard to break into, which is what it is. But I think that kind of really solidified my credibility,” Ehsan says.
It doesn’t hurt that Ehsan has the look and build to be a real model, too.
Now, she is ready to take her project to the next level, accepting only the projects that interest her at her eponymous architecture and design firm so she can focus more on her art and fashion work. This means more collaborations and more sponsored posts.
While Ehsan says that she is dedicated to staying “true to myself and true to the concept,” trying to monetize her work does change her process a little. She is collaborating with the Gap on their style guide campaign, which necessitates working around specific clothing. Ehsan sees this new approach of fashion first as “interesting” rather than a conflict with the way she has been doing things.
Having recently turned 30, Ehsan “feel[s] like doing this now is a weird thing to come into my own through.” But she also remembers what everyone has told her about the big 3-0—that it “changes everything. That you really come into yourself and you feel comfortable in whatever you’re doing. And it really has proven that.”
“It just goes to show that when you really love doing something, if you just keep doing it,” Ehsan adds. "In the beginning it was just my mom who was like, ‘Oh great post today.’ But if you continue doing it, and it takes that love to persist in doing it, people will start to notice.”