Deste Fashion Collection

Dakis Joannou, a Greek industrialist with a sore spot for aesthetic treasures, is hip to the love affair between art and fashion. In 2007, he began the Deste Fashion Collection with M/M Paris to archive these unions. A new artist has been invited each year since (with insight from the prior year’s honoree) to concoct a hypothetical time capsule that includes garments and original projects. Contemporary looks on the runway were chosen for their ability to reflect the modern woman and the world she inhabits. Each capsule also includes images from the original runway show and curatorial notes contributed by the honoree. Although originally conceived as a five-year project, there is no end in sight. The windows outside Barneys’ New York Flagship house the summation of 5 capsules, on view through July 6. For the unveiling on June 5th, German performance artist John Bock generated clothing from second-hand sources and distributed them on the spot.
The party was a therapeutic reunion where art and fashion circles could reminisce about trends and change. Isn’t hindsight fun? Joannou recently told Brian Boucher of Art in America that he isn’t "really trying to make a statement out of this," so let’s give these artists the honors they deserve!


Artist: M/M Paris (Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak)

Most Accessible

M/M Paris’s curatorial notes indicate a fixation on "the social and economic context" of well-known brands that still manage to step outside of the "standardization of dressing codes." Their vibrant drawings revisit outdated fashion sketches of yesteryear. Hypnotizing line glorifies a bunny-ear hat by Comme des Garçons, melding fantasy, femininity, and mystery. Marc Jacobs accessories and Balenciaga’s multi-colored plastic and metal open-toed pumps are honored for their definition of character and reinvention. A YSL alpaca hooded dress and a Givenchy leather studded jacket "might be extraordinary one day" and are included in the capsule thus. These last two items prompted black and white drawings, inspired by the search for individuality within corporate structure. Drawings hang from the ceiling in the window at Barneys’ with the colored images at front and the monochrome drawings behind them. The first three items discussed are revealed like they would be in a game of peek-a-boo that corresponds with the viewing of the monochrome drawings. This straightforward capsule is most literal, combining fashion and art through landmarks in technique.


Artist: Juergen Teller

Most Commercial

Jeurgen Teller, a regular of both fashion and art circles, evokes the gluttonous behavior of aesthetes. Teller’s photograph of Victoria Beckham‘s anonymous legs consumed by a Marc Jacobs shopping bag are the epitome of "the consumer being consumed." Consumption reappears in the case of Helmut Lang, a designer forced to surrender creative control in dire times, and Teller’s commemoration of his runway shows a la behind-the-scenes photographs. The window at Barneys’, boarded up and masked with a photograph of Yves Saint Laurent (who passed away in 2008), devours the proclaimed stage of commerce. The capsule also includes an image of Amy Phelan, a generous art patron and fashion-forward collector, posing with a Richard Prince/Louis Vuitton collabo tote that collapses the distinction between collectible and accessory. American Apparel‘s "cheap unpretentious sexy sportswear," capable of mingling with high fashion as well, is lauded for the entirely new market it birthed. This individuality is embodied by Bjork, an "extreme sculptural object" with the ability to "self-curate" by approaching emergent designers such as Bernard Willhelm. Teller honors the crafty and unrestrained, supporting renegade tactics unique to the modern age.


Artist: Helmut Lang

Most Timeless

Helmut Lang’s window at Barneys’ is an installation entitled "Front Row," a recreation of 5 white urethane-resin folding chairs in a dismal concrete box. Lang’s choices for his capsule challenge the importance of a "visual code." The Birkin bag by Hermes, for example, is well-crafted and will remain in favor furthermore until they no longer take responsibility for all repairs. Comme des Garçons is similarly conscious of its evolving customer, and Lang includes the black geodesic top from S/S 2009 "as it seems to predict that the world is losing its bottom and its top." Martin Margiela’s plaster coat, a mold of a jacket from his 1989 S/S collection, is dually revolutionary and classic. "Front Row" also emphasizes politics. Azzedine Alaia’s resurgence after buying his house and brand name back from Prada in 2007 was embraced by a small circle that widened when Michelle Obama wore his black leather belt on several occasions. Louise Bourgeois’s simple silk dress represents a contemporaneous enthusiasm for vintage clothing that is due in part to environmental and ecological worries in tandem with the economic meltdown. Lang’s capsule summons simplicity, consistency, and the "reversal of the idea of status symbol."


Artist: Patrizia Cavalli

Most Endearing

Patrizia Cavalli’s artistic statement reflects her disdain for collections, "distracted" items that may never see daylight. Her writing proposes that garments create a unique sensory reality that deserves to be projected as such. Cavalli’s capsule contains objects of fantastical form worn purely for aesthetic or cerebral pleasure. Alexander McQueen’s claw shoes challenge the desire to walk upon such grandeur. Nasir Mazhar’s hats are "unbending…tyrant[s]" that provide entertainment for racing thoughts "wavering endless to and fro from the brain’s within to the great outdoor." Diane de Clercq’s "Cheater’s Jacket" and Stephan Janson’s stripped feather cape propel Cavalli into fantasies of cunning card-sharks and "impermeable" ducks. V&R’s Detachment dress is the subject of the window at Barneys’. In Cavalli’s poem the void below the hip is caused by an unexpected slash, and she must learn to balance the two extremes of "tutu — countertutu. Matter — antimatter." Cavalli’s capsule uncovers goosebump-inducing moments in fashion, the hallucinations that stir myth and invite the wearer into another dimension.


Artist: Charles Ray

Most Merciless

Charles Ray’s capsule references Hans Christian Andersen’s "The Emperor’s New Clothes," a tale that verifies "many of the things around us are without substance." His contribution is a set of nude photographs based upon invisible garments. This project languishes in the misleading nature of fashion while questioning the structure of quality. The garments are listed separately and include price tags but no indication of designer. Silk, leather, or velvet appear regularly in the opulent listing. His "imperial nakedness" drains fashion of its power. Ray does not have a vitrine at Barneys’ but perhaps that’s the way he’d rather have it.


Artist: Athina Rachel Tsangari

Most Cerebral

Tsangari’s short film "Capsule" presents nearly ten outfits on several women from designers such as Alexander McQueen, Catt Potter, and Ying Gao, among others, as they navigate a psychological minefield. The film appears on two screens that follow similar stories except for momentary lapses in sanity. Subtleties in the film speed and lighting lead into creepy visions of a women strolling out of another character’s mouth shot in extreme close-up or melted faces that reveal an abysmal cavity. The garments chosen are dramatic and feverish, placing the ladies simultaneously in an insane asylum or deserted royal abode. The frequency of disciplined habits, manic rage, and rambling narration obscures whether this is a tale of fashion’s virtues or vices. The confusion of Tsangari’s film is beautifully executed in her Barneys’ window, where a disorienting kaleidoscopic mirror installation chops and screws the film even more. Tsangari’s web is one of deception, where "truth is impossible" and the viewer is wont to find themselves under the spell of both fashion and the film itself.

Photos by: Maria Maltsava

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