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There is a new incentive to pop into the Jerome Dreyfuss boutique in Manhattan, beyond the designer’s soft, understated leather and skin handbags. Dreyfuss has commissioned French artist Julien Gardair to create a special installation inspired by the same Palm Springs, Calif., vibe as his summer collection of carryalls. Gardair can be seen masking black tape on the store’s tiled white walls, and once it’s finished, the piece will remain up through September.

Dreyfuss has wanted to embark on such a collaboration ever since laying eyes on the former Waterworks location.

This story first appeared in the July 12, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“When I first saw the store, I thought, Oh that is going to be a great place to make an exhibition. I’m not a gallerist, I don’t know anything about art, I just like it very much,” says Dreyfuss, who always makes the rounds in Chelsea when he visits New York. “[Designers] always have to make new pieces, new pieces and we never have time to sit and think about art. This gives me the opportunity to express myself with my friends.”

Gardair has proved an ideal partner. Born in Versailles, France, and raised in the suburbs of Paris and Montpellier, France, he obsessively collected contemporary art magazines he bought at the flea market as a teenager and catalogued them at home.

“I guess I was kind of cuckoo,” he says with a grin.

Gardair earned an MFA from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts Paris-Cergy and has been Brooklyn, N.Y.-based for the past two-and-a-half years, where he works in as many as five mediums in one day, ranging from delicate ink and stamp drawings (a selection is on display at the Martos Gallery) to large-scale cutout felt installations.

Dreyfuss, who first met Gardair a year ago through his artist friend Caroline Rennequin, connects with the 33-year-old’s unconventional approach.

“I think it’s very interesting when young artists don’t have money to express themselves. Then they have to find ways to be able to say what they want to say…using materials you don’t use normally for art,” he says.

Indeed, armed simply with rolls of black tape, Gardair is using the Broome Street store’s tiles as a kind of grid to give structure to his otherwise fluid, free-form mural.

“I give myself very strict rules and try to find freedom inside of them,” explains Gardair.

As for how his final result will mesh with Dreyfuss’ designs, Gardair sees them as a natural pair (his cutouts already have inspired Dreyfuss’ upcoming fall collection).

“I don’t have to push anything very much to find the connection with the brand. [His bags] look so simple, and at the same time, they are so exclusive. I guess I’m the same because I use tape or bleach or cardboard or really bad carpet and try to make the best out of it. But he’s working with good material,” muses Gardair, who has been using Dreyfuss’ shopping totes to carry his tools. “They’re a bit tight for my shoulder. Maybe he can design something like a whole series [of bags] for me.”

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