Settling into a joint interview with architect Zaha Hadid at the atmospheric Palazzo Contarini Polignac here, Karl Lagerfeld accidentally tripped over Hadid's black fringed handbag, which she had placed on the floor next to her chair.
VENICE — Settling into a joint interview with architect Zaha Hadid at the atmospheric Palazzo Contarini Polignac here, Karl Lagerfeld accidentally tripped over Hadid's black fringed handbag, which she had placed on the floor next to her chair.
"We live in the century of bags," Lagerfeld joked.
It was an apropos gesture and comment, given the subject at hand: a massive Chanel art project, dedicated to the house's classic quilted handbag, that will travel the world in an otherworldly Hadid structure.
At a press conference here Saturday on the opening weekend of the art Biennale, Chanel lifted the veil on the collapsible, futuristic pavilion for its "Mobile Art" exhibition, slated to make its debut in Hong Kong in January for a two-month stay before traveling to Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, London, Moscow and Paris — a journey that will take until 2010 to complete.
The scale model of Hadid's "contemporary art container," a gleaming white, UFO-like structure, was greeted with spontaneous applause, led by Lagerfeld, who urged everyone to stand up to get a closer look.
"For me, it's perfect. It's a huge sculpture and I like it even better empty," Lagerfeld said in an interview, repeating the sentiment during the press conference, evoking a few gasps from an audience of mainly art journalists. "I think design and architecture are the real art today."
Nevertheless, Chanel has commissioned 15 contemporary artists and given them carte blanche to create works inspired by its most iconic handbag, famous for its chain handle, quilted leather surface and rectangular shape. But the artists' names won't be revealed until October during a press conference in Hong Kong, where the pavilion's setting also will be revealed.
Fabrice Bousteau, editor in chief of Beaux Arts magazine and curator of the Mobile Art project, said the artists come from all points of the globe, are well known to curators and are strongly represented at the Biennale.
All of them were invited to visit Chanel's principle leather goods factory in Verneuil, France, just outside of Paris, to help get their creative juices flowing. According to Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel's head of fashion, the project is designed to "surprise" customers, communicate the brand's heritage in a new way and energize one of its most iconic products.Chanel plans to invite its top customers to discover Hadid's project, but the exhibition is open to the general public and free of charge. Pavlovsky said up to 2,000 people a day can be accommodated. Boasting exhibition space of more than 6,000 square feet, the 7,500-square-foot pavilion also will house a cloakroom, reception area and rest rooms.
Chanel declined to reveal the cost of the venture, but Pavlovsky acknowledged the quilted bag, introduced in 1955, remains a perennial bestseller, constantly refreshed by Lagerfeld. Leather goods represent roughly 30 percent of the Chanel business, he noted.
The Hadid project represents tightening links between the fashion and art worlds — and its sheer scale trumps previous Chanel projects, which include commissioning artists to create works for boutiques or to help unveil new collections of fine jewelry.
Still, Hadid and Lagerfeld assured they plan to stick with what they know best.
"I'm not an architect. There's a job for that," Lagerfeld said in his rapid-fire manner. "A poorly cut dress is not dangerous. A poorly built building can fall and even kill people."
A longtime fan of Hadid's avant-garde work — her undulating, pony-hair settee has long been a fixture in his photo studio — Lagerfeld has been itching to do a project with the Iraqi-born, London-based architect for years. They finally crossed paths in the lobby of the Mercer Hotel in New York last year, and conceived the idea spontaneously.
"She liked the idea of this kind of container," Lagerfeld related, dressed in a black jacket over a white shirt and pants, the graphic inverse of Hadid's ensemble. "I never saw a project realized so quickly."
In the interview, Hadid acknowledged that some of Chanel's best-known motifs — its iconic perfume bottles, packaging and graphics — are based on block shapes and straight lines, but, she deadpanned: "We are not a square office."
She described her design for Chanel as a "Taurus" with a defined "loop" configuration through which visitors pass, exiting the same place they entered. Thanks to digital technology and manufacturing advances often stemming from the automotive industry, Hadid is now able to realize designs that even until recently were impossible.Pavlovsky drew a parallel between Hadid's hard-to-construct architecture and Chanel's short-lived 2005 bag, a futuristic, ergonomic Lagerfeld design from 1998 that was perhaps ahead of its time, and certainly difficult to manufacture.
Lagerfeld credits Hadid with making a visual "break" from the Bauhaus principles that have defined architecture for decades.
Hadid, an avid collector of handbags and shoes, confessed she has toyed with the idea of fashion. "I used to buy fabrics and pretend I was going to make clothes," she said. "I think pattern cutting is the most important component of making clothes. But I don't want to compete with someone who is good at it."
Nevertheless, Hadid said barriers between once discreet realms such as art, architecture, design and fashion have been erased, evident in how many artists now express themselves with installation-based works. "I have the feeling we were more segmented before," she said.
Still, in an era of statement architecture for hotels, museums and concert halls, Hadid said the fashion world generally lags behind. "There are not that many really great stores," she said. "They think minimal is the best way to exhibit their work."
For his part, Lagerfeld said buildings and clothes are great design bedfellows.
"Architecture and fashion are like Russian dolls," he said. "One fits inside the other."
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)