NEW YORK — His twisted take on luxury, branding and consumerism has fascinated the fashion world since 2000, when Toland Grinnell introduced “Trunk Show,” a sly take on logomania and every fashion fanatic’s luggage obsession. He tinkered with the Louis Vuitton look long before Takashi Murakami did, working a bolt of knockoff LV fabric into art. He sold his own high-end handbags under the TG brand. Then Grinnell created “An Apartment for Two in 35 Trunks,” a luxury camping set complete with working stove, shower and a fake fur-wrapped air mattress, which he showed in 2002.

With “Maze, Traps & Runways,” opening at the Mary Boone Gallery on Fifth Avenue today, Grinnell takes his fetishistic exploration of luxury a step further.

This story first appeared in the January 8, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“The new pieces are equally as decadent or kinky,” he says, “but you have to work through the first veil to see it.” “Portable Runway” is one such piece — a tiny runway complete with electric lights all tucked into one of his beautifully crafted suitcases. “They say ‘Life is a stage and we’re all actors,’” the artist explains, “but really, life is a runway. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a fragrance or a car — everything has its runway.”

Grinnell’s love of luggage and the luxe life brought him to the edge of the fashion world, and now he hopes to venture even further, mentioning a mysterious corporate project in the works. “I have some very big things cooking with my fashion stuff, but I can’t talk about them just yet,” he teases.

While some artists might begrudge the growing synergism between art and fashion, like a giddy exchange student, Grinnell embraces it. “The relationship between art and fashion adds spice to both communities. It’s not a one-way street,” he says. “In the beginning, it may have seemed like fashion was very easily exploiting art and art didn’t have a lot to say about it. Now it’s more like happy cohabitation.”

Grinnell also predicts that the relationship forged between the two during the last few years is one that will continue to develop and grow. “It’s rational. If car companies and artists were working together you’d say ‘Huh?’ But fashion and art go together really well,” says Grinnell. “It’s like ham and Swiss.”

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