Art and Fashion: Miguel Chevalier Teams With Hermes

There is no art form more capricious and changeable than fashion. This inclines some people to regard fashion as not an art form at all. Certainly a lot of clothing is merely pragmatic, and a lot of middling ready-to-wear garments attempt to capture trends and imitate haute couture and street fashion in a mediocre, poorly constructed way. If people are judging fashion on the behavior of the fashion victims who pursue labels and trends at any cost and lower-tier consumers who buy knock-offs and imitations just to keep up with the Joneses, then fashion certainly is a sordid thing. But that is to judge art world based on the output of Thomas Kinkade and poster art alone. It’s ignorant. So I am quite happy to see editorial shoots filled with allusions to high art, film, and literature and collections that carry on tradition with a new twist. That is art.

I am more ambivalent about artists teaming with fashion houses to create ballyhooed designs. In the last decade, Murakami teaming with Louis Vuitton is a prime example—one that paired an overrated artist with one of the most counterfeited and slavishly pursued fashion houses (that never ceases to make me yawn). I could only roll my eyes at that.

The teaming of videographer Miguel Chevalier with Hermes was a little more novel in theory. Hermes makes beautiful clothing. Their scarves are passionately collected with good reason and their ties are witty and charming. Their designs, however, are never very edgy. Chevalier’s large, interactive video projections make him a fine representative of artists enabled by technology, but there is only so much he can do with the framework Hermes gave him. Choosing Chevalier to create a few new tie patterns inspired by technology is a rather limp gesture. The designs are attractive, but they are only a veneer for a classic design.

As much as I may advocate for fashion and art, this little arranged marriage between them is not what I would call a success, but I also wouldn’t call it a failure. I picture most arranged marriages as something very business-like, without romance, and this feels very much that way. Like the rest of Hermes’ ties, the designs are charming—and yes, I would wear them and marketing is clever. I do not object to an artist and a fashion house collaborating in a good PR stunt and calling attention to each other, but to suggest that this is really about art is disingenuous at best.

That said, the Bravern in Bellevue has a space near the Hermes store that is hosting an installation by Chevalier through November 6th. Like the rest of the project, it seems a bit disingenuous. (“8 is infinity!” declares some of the literature obtusely.) A touch pad in the middle of the room allows guests to choose one of the 8 designs created by Chevalier (each in three color schemes). The designs are displayed on a video panel that takes up the entire wall and has an accompanying soundtrack. Some of the designs are dynamic and react visually and musically to the movement of bodies in the room, but the reactivity seems arbitrary and delayed. If these animations were on a computer screen, no one would be impressed, but on a large scale they are beautiful and a little entertaining. In essence, scale is everything. If you are in the neighborhood, stop in and see it and grab one of the brochures. Like the rest of the project, the printed literature is nice to look at and well-designed, even if it is just as flat.