A fash­ion col­lab­o­ra­tion that’s truly mu­seum-wor­thy.

ELLE (Canada) - - Storyboard - ByAnyaGe­orgi­je­vic

With its lat­est col­lab, COS proves that fash­ion is art.

WITH ITS HIGH CEIL­INGS, bright-white and wood-pan­elled walls and art­ful or­ga­ni­za­tion of mer­chan­dise, the New York COS flag­ship on Fifth Av­enue has al­ways re­minded me, an artschool grad, of a gallery. Never more so than on my most re­cent trip to the store, in May, when the brand de­buted its spring/sum­mer collection, which in­cludes pieces in­spired by Cana­dian-Amer­i­can artist Dorothea Rock­burne.

Rock­burne is renowned for her in­tri­cate math­e­mat­i­cal, origami-like works. And as I pe­ruse the racks, it’s easy to ad­mire the way COS—a brand known for its el­e­vated min­i­mal­ist pieces—trans­lated her tex­tures of crin­kled pa­per, oil, grease and tar into wear­able gar­ments, like a de­lib­er­ately wrin­kled back­pack and a sculp­tural pin­striped cot­ton blouse. “We re­ally liked her ap­proach to work­ing with sim­ple ma­te­ri­als and giv­ing them a coat­ing and a fin­ish that makes them feel a lit­tle bit more starched,” Karin Gustafs­son, COS’ creative di­rec­tor, tells me later over drinks at the Car­lyle Ho­tel. This col­lab is only part of the fash­ion brand’s story. COS has spon­sored the new Rock­burne ex­hib­ition at the Dia Art Foun­da­tion in Bea­con, up­state New York, which show­cases the now 85-year-old’s sem­inal works from the late 1960s and early 1970s, in­clud­ing the Ineinan­der pa­per series, which served as COS’ in­spo for the collection.

The brand, based in Lon­don, Eng­land, has a rich his­tory of sup­port­ing the arts—whether it’s us­ing what’s on our walls to in­spire what’s in our clos­ets (such as spon­sor­ing an Agnes Martin ret­ro­spec­tive at the Guggen­heim, a part­ner­ship that also re­sulted in a lim­ited cloth­ing re­lease) or help­ing build hype around a name or an event. In the past three years, for ex­am­ple, the la­bel has teamed up with buzzy artists like Phillip K. Smith III and Stu­dio Swine to cre­ate in­stal­la­tions at Milan De­sign Week. “We’ve al­ways done a lot of re­search in art be­cause we be­lieve that it makes us think and it chal­lenges us,”

says Gustafs­son. “But it also makes us evolve our process and our ap­proach to cre­at­ing a collection.”

Such creative os­mo­sis is quite com­mon be­tween fash­ion and art. (We see you, Elsa Schi­a­par­elli’s Dalí lob­ster dress from 1937.) But over the past two decades, col­lab­o­ra­tion has be­come key. Louis Vuit­ton led the pack when it teamed up with Stephen Sprouse on a best­selling line of leather goods in 2000. More re­cently, the fash­ion house and Jeff Koons joined forces for its Masters collection, which fea­tured iconic works of art, by artists like da Vinci and Van Gogh, on lux­ury hand­bags.

In 2016 and 2017, Dior in­vited artists, like Namsa Leuba and Mat Col­lishaw, from around the world to rein­ter­pret its iconic Lady bag. Calvin Klein has a four-year li­cens­ing agree­ment with the Andy Warhol Foun­da­tion for the Vis­ual Arts that al­lows the com­pany ac­cess to the late artist’s broad port­fo­lio. For spring/sum­mer 2018, Warhol’s pho­to­graphs and prints ap­peared on every­thing from dresses to coats. Donatella Ver­sace also chan­nelled Warhol, reis­su­ing her brother’s iconic pop-art-themed pieces for a spe­cial collection com­mem­o­rat­ing two decades since Gianni’s pass­ing. Prada re­united with Tai­wanese-Amer­i­can artist James Jean, whose art-nou­veau-es­que lilies and charm­ing rab­bits adorned its 2018 Re­sort collection. Amer­i­can la­bel Coach li­censed some of Keith Har­ing’s play­ful works, which ap­peared on the brand’s spring 2018 leather goods, con­tin­u­ing its move to­ward the lux­ury high-fash­ion mar­ket that was once solely oc­cu­pied by its Ital­ian and French com­peti­tors. There has also been an in­crease in fash­ion de­sign­ers achiev­ing sta­tus in the art world through their avant-garde cre­ations—the lit­eral wear­able art of Gareth Pugh and Aitor Throup come to mind.

So why now? The re­la­tion­ship cer­tainly ben­e­fits both dis­ci­plines: It lends mass pop­u­lar­ity to the artist while giv­ing a higher cul­tural sta­tus to a fash­ion ob­ject that would nor­mally be con­sid­ered tran­sient. “What you have here is an ef­fort to en­list art for the pur­pose of giv­ing a la­bel a cer­tain level of pres­tige,” says Adam Geczy, an art the­o­rist and co-au­thor of Fash­ion­able Art, which ex­am­ines the in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity of art, commerce and cul­ture. An­other po­ten­tial rea­son these col­labs are ubiq­ui­tous is sim­ply that art has be­come more main­stream. Take the re­cent run of Yayoi Kusama: In­fin­ity Mir­rors at the Art Gallery of On­tario: It had on­line wait times of up to 13 hours for ticket buy­ers, caus­ing a city-wide Kusama frenzy. (Kusama, of course, col­lab­o­rated with LV back in 2012, a move that may have made her a house­hold name.) It has also be­come fash­ion­able to be a pa­tron or an ap­pre­ci­a­tor of art. Art Basel Mi­ami Beach, for ex­am­ple, has be­come the place to be seen, akin to a ma­jor fash­ion week—last year, 82,000 peo­ple at­tended the four-day event.

Fash­ion is, of course, a busi­ness, and profit is the goal. As such, there will al­ways be crit­ics who are con­cerned about the over­com­mer­cial­iza­tion of art. “I am cer­tainly quite wary of that re­la­tion­ship as well and very care­ful about how we en­ter into it,” says Jes­sica Mor­gan, di­rec­tor of Dia Art Foun­da­tion, who helped spear­head the Rock­burne-COS project. Mor­gan is, how­ever, proud of Dia’s as­so­ci­a­tion with COS and the sub­tle way Rock­burne’s aes­thetic was man­i­fested in the looks. She sees the pos­si­bil­ity of the two dis­ci­plines blend­ing even more closely to­gether in the fu­ture. “I ac­tu­ally think it quite pos­si­bly will hap­pen, and it’s re­ally awe­some in my mind,” she says. “It’s sort of the same as de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture fus­ing in a sim­i­lar man­ner.”

Af­ter spend­ing a day at the Dia with Rock­burne’s works, I find my­self in the change room with four or five pieces from the cap­sule. They are un­de­ni­ably COS, su­perbly draped in rich, crisp fab­rics. But they do carry a sub­tle aura of Rock­burne—enough for me to feel like I’m wear­ing one of my favourite works of art. And, chances are, this is the clos­est I’ll ever get to own­ing a Rock­burne. n

Artist Dorothea Rock­burne

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