The Halloween weekend opening date for “Costumes & Wishes for the 21st Century,” a collaboration with visual artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and interdisciplinary design group Studio Manuel Raeder, was just a coincidence, insisted Bless creative directors Desiree Heiss and Ines Kaag. But Sunday’s crowd at the Berlin’s Schinkel Pavillon contemporary art space was really ready to try one on.
Upon entering the ground floor, visitors were encouraged to swap their coats for a “fragment” — a reduced costume piece inspired by a selection of Gonzalez-Foerster’s work shown upstairs. The outfits on view are from her performances as “apparitions,” where she dresses up as characters from history and fiction, ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to Marilyn Monroe to the subject of the 1948 film “The Boy With Green Hair.”
“She has chosen these characters for their intensity of pursuing a specific goal and she puts herself into the costumes because she wanted to feel that same intensity,” Heiss said, explaining the process behind Gonzalez-Foerster’s work.
In response, said Heiss, Bless “developed a fragment of these costumes that can be worn by people who come, in the hope that they can also experience the same intensity that the artist experienced when she tried to implement these figures.”
These fragments range from a comfy oversize red T-shirt adorned with gold chain and a pearl necklace, which stands in for Maria Callas, to a surprisingly wearable cream-colored white linen hybrid vest-scarf that conjures up Fitzcarraldo as played by Klaus Kinski in the Werner Herzog film.
“The reason why we used a scarf silhouette is because our aim in general is to always make things accessible to everyone,” said Ines Kaag. “You don’t have to get undressed to put on a costume.”
There are still challenges — the only mirror can be found in what’s called the Dressing Room, a carpeted area in the center of the room curtained off by colorful metallic fringe, created by Studio Manuel Raeder. Guests have to lie down to see themselves reflected in the mirrored ceiling.
At the opening Sunday, visitors who wore Bless’ fragments could also get character appropriate hairdos on-site from stylist Hiroguki Sugihara, and makeup applications from Uslu Airlines. Dubbed Cosplay Sundays, these events will also run Nov. 7, 13 and 20.
Heiss and Kaag also refer to their displayed designs as Wearaways — they can be purchased on the spot.
“If you want to prolong the experience, you can simply take it home with you,” remarked Heiss.
For those wishing to do so, prices start at 110 euros, $121 at current exchange, and go up to 320 euros, $352, for the Marilyn Monroe style, a drapable combination of gleaming mesh, embroidered lips and part of a little black dress, which is limited to three pieces. They will also later be sold to Bless retailers and be available for fashion clients, Heiss said.
Known for their wit, the Paris- and Berlin-based designers behind Bless are no strangers to creating scenes. Their Paris Fashion Week presentations have found models chewing on edible knitwear, climbing into human pyramids, or riding bikes.
“Costumes & Wishes for the 21st Century” officially opens today and runs until Jan. 22. Gonzalez-Foerster will also open a solo show at Berlin’s Esther Schipper Gallery on Friday.