“I wasn’t sure if I’m allowed to destroy the bag,” said Lukas Gschwandtner, eyeing the deconstructed Fendi Peekaboo handbag before him at Design Miami. “That occurred to me later.” The brand’s iconic handbag was splayed open on the ground, ripped apart at the seams.
Gschwandtner is presenting “Triclinium,” an immersive installation of his work in collaboration with Fendi at the design fair. The booth features new and reinterpreted works that pay homage to Roman history and speak to the body and physical presence; the outline of Fendi garment bags were drawn on the booth’s canvas-lined walls.
The Vienna-based artist, who trained in leather accessories at Schloss Hetzendorf as a teenager, had poured plaster into the Peekaboo in an attempt to better understand the bag’s construction. The resulting plaster sculptures, gestures of the bag’s interior compartments, were displayed throughout the booth and perched atop three chaise lounges, fashioned in beige canvas.
“Craftsmanship is a huge part of my practice,” he said. “I’ve always used canvas for my work. Visually, it just makes sense. The shapes are much more visible for me with the canvas. And then in fashion, you always do a calico prototype, and it’s constructed in this type of fabric — which again, was this organic link between Fendi, how they work, and how I work.”
Through early conversations with Silvia Venturini Fendi, Gschwandtner discovered a strong connection between his practice and Fendi’s design approach.
“Fendi gave me so much freedom, which was a huge privilege, because often it’s not the case with a big company,” he said. “The connection with Silvia helped a lot, because I think she really understood what I was trying to do with my work, and she also felt connected to those women that I wanted to show. And she of course is so connected to Rome, and she liked really focusing on the architectural and artistic historical part of the city and the home of Fendi.”
The booth also features his “Pillow Portraits” series, canvas sculptures that reference historical portraits of women lounging. Shortly before the fair, the artist had draped himself in canvas and filmed himself mirroring the women’s poses; the resulting video was projected on the wall alongside the original artworks to underscore his intention with the works.
On Wednesday night, before the fair’s public opening, Gschwandtner headed to Miami’s Design District for a party celebrating the first Fendi Casa flagship store in the U.S. Other guests included Silvia Fendi, Delfina Delettrez Fendi, Jacquelyn Jablonski, Alexander Roth, Nneka, Coco Bassey, Camila Coelho, Tina Leung and Rickey Thompson.