Art Meets Fashion (Again): Cult Brands Grab Gallery Stores
Two cult brands have revealed NY flagships in which a premium of space has been given over to gallery concepts, manifesting their respective desires to be considered as seriously stimulating commercial entities.
Brazilian footwear label Melissa, famous for its sculptural plastic shoes, and Milan-headquartered streetwear player Off-White, both unveil new stores this September (just in time for Fashion Week), in which hosting exhibits and artistic events play a key role.
- Melissa: The Melissa store, designed by Brazilian architect Muti Randolph, echoes its sister venues in London and Sao Paulo by housing a separate gallery area. This is primed to house a regular rotation of multimedia art exhibitions that will build on the brand’s penchant for high-profile product collaborations. Exhibitions are scheduled to change three to four times a year, and it will also host bi-monthly events.
It’s currently hosting The Future of Her, curated by NYC-based photographer Kelsey Bennett and her sister Rémy Bennett, and featuring work by Signe Pierce and Sam Cannon. The exhibition explores a potentially genderless future (for more on brands witnessing success from taking a topical stance, see Retail’s Activist Brands). Melissa plans to take the store concept to Asia next.
“The most important thing is to keep the store always alive with events,” says Raquel Metz Scherer, marketing director of Melissa. “For us, the Galeria concepts are more of a marketing investment. This has so much more value than an ad campaign or a digital video.”
- Off-White: Helmed by American DJ/architect/designer and Kanye West collaborator Virgil Abloh, Off-White has opened its first NY location in SoHo called Empty Gallery. The lush, plant-filled space reprises a pop-up first seen in Paris in June, where Abloh stated: “There’s obviously intellect in fashion, but it is so distilled – down to normcore at its fullest. What space is there for fashion intelligence to exist? This space is filled with that intent.” Abloh has also referred to his store concepts as "the crescendo of the Off-White language".
Work from rising artists is displayed throughout the interior, with the clothes apparently complementing the pieces – all of which are available for purchase. See also Rise of the Exploratorium for more on Off-White's store design principles.
The relationship between fashion and art is of course long-standing. British luxury brand Alexander McQueen sponsored London’s annual Frieze Art Fair in 2013, while Louis Vuitton and high-street giant H&M collaborated with provocative, pop-culture-obsessed American artist Jeff Koons in 2017 and 2014 respectively. Numerous other brands are well-documented as bringing artistic talent in-store.
To name just a few, Irish fashion designer J.W. Anderson (also creative director of Spanish luxury fashion house Loewe) has indefinitely suspended plans for a flagship in favour of a revolving showcase of collaborative projects with "kindred creative spirits", adjacent to London's Ace Hotel.
Meanwhile, Irish fashion designer Simone Rocha's NYC boutique, launched early 2017, revels in extraordinary pieces by iconic artists who’ve inspired her collections. These include works by French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois and American painter Robert Rauschenberg. Extending an enticing hand of aspirational accessibility, she’s even created a limited-edition photo book of art, available exclusively in-store, detailing the works of her key motivators. See Luxury Brand Art Collabs Evolve for more.
In a climate in which luxury brands can no longer rely on the former weight of heritage or even traditional craftsmanship, cultural connections will become increasingly important. For more on the premise and rising value of intellectual affluence, see Re-Engineering Exclusivity, part of our New Rules of Luxury Macro Trend, as well as Art-Fuelled Fashion Spaces.