The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has released its second Wear LACMA collection of fashion accessories created by Los Angeles designers and inspired by the museum’s permanent collection. And the creations are so spectactular, they are practically works of art themselves.
Custom perfumier Haley Alexander van Oosten of L’Oeil du Vert, accessories mavens Maryam and Marjan Malakpour of NewbarK and women’s clothing designer Juan Carlos Obando were tapped for the collection, which is for sale at the LACMA store and online, with all proceeds benefiting the museum.
They had the run of the museum and could choose any piece as a starting point. What they came up with offers insight into who they are as designers and a chance to see a distinct part of their brand vision distilled.
Obando, for example, is an advertising director-turned-designer, and he was drawn to a 16th century bronze sculpture of the god Mercury by Willem Danielsz van Tetrode. "Mercury is an icon for communication, which has always been my thing,” Obando said. He created several pieces of jewelry that look both ancient and modern at the time time, including sculptural, slab-like pendants etched with the tiny icon of a winged foot ($1,500), hinged cuff bracelets ($1,500) and coin necklaces ($275).
Wear LACMA is the creation of Katherine Ross, wife of LACMA museum director Michael Govan, and a veteran of the fashion industry (most recently, the U.S. brand consultant for Balenciaga). She came up with the concept after seeing the success of designer collaborations like the Missoni collection for Target. “Since I know so many artistic designers in L.A., it evolved into this idea of having them look at the permanent collection as a way to inspire people in a different way, “ Ross said. “And there are so many talented designers here now, so it’s a nice way to celebrate that too.”
The project is also a testament to the supporting role Ross has played in the local fashion community since moving here with her husband in 2006, both as a mentor to and client of many up-and-coming L.A. designers. “Katherine is one of my muses,” said Obando. “For her to consider my fragrance as a fashion accessory is an honor," added Van Oossten. "She’s so forward-thinking and supportive. And the quality oils I use, they are like jewels.”
Van Oosten drew inspiration from an 18th century bronze relief of “The Triumph of Neptune” by Antoni Montauti to create a sensual, botanical fragrance named “Tonae” which comes in a shell-encrusted bronze bottle ($1,200), a rollette ($275) or a wood-and-bronze diffuser ($2,200) that is quite sculptural-looking itself. As for the fragrance, there's a beautiful story to go with it. “I imagine a woman picking wildflowers, then a bull comes up and seduces her with his warm honey breath. She jumps on his back and he takes her into the ocean and ravishes her. So it’s very sensuous and deep*,” she said.
The Newbark designers created pouches ($450 to $500) drawing inspiration from two 19th century prints, “La Manifestation,” 1893, by Edouard Vallotton and “Monkey’s Hand,” 1888, by Henri-Charles Guerard. How did they choose the works? “Well, black and white graphics fit perfectly with the aesthetic of our brand,” said Maryam Malakpour. “There was also the question of, ‘Would you want to carry this?’ The image of ‘La Manifestation’ is timeless, and the ‘Monkey’s Hand,’ is more mysterious and exotic.’ We fell in love with them both.”
Wear LACMA Collection, $275-$2,200 at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, lacma.org.
[*UPDATED 1:07 p.m. April 26, 2013: In a previous version of this post, custom perfumier Haley Alexander van Oosten was misquoted describing her Wear LACMA fragrance as "sensuous and sparkly." The correct description is "sensuous and deep."]