Karl Lagerfeld once said “Art is art. Fashion is fashion.” Leave it to Frank Gehry, then, to blur the lines between the two disciplines. At this year’s Art Basel Miami, just outside the VIP entrance where multi-billionaire mega-collectors were quietly ushered into the booths of blue-chip galleries, the architect and sculptor debuted an 11-piece handbag capsule collection with Louis Vuitton.
The French maison took great care to present Gehry’s creations in a museum-like way: each piece was propped up or enclosed in glass, surrounded by sketches, notes, or archival photographs of Gehry’s work. It was easy for the viewer, for example, to draw a line from Gehry’s Capucines MM Concrete Pockets bag, with its 3-D printed exterior that recalled curved concrete, to his Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
By his own admission, Gehry didn’t think this design was going to work at first. “It is hard to adjust the existing Capucines shape, which is very strong. We had been working on that design graphically in 2-D, and the images that we had made were compelling. I was skeptical that the architectural shape would be strong enough, though,” he admits. “The final bag not only got the sculptural feeling that I was looking for, but it also has the graphic quality that we liked.” Another bag boasts the same hammered LV logo that Gehry created for the Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Then, there’s the “Bear with Us Clutch,” a wearable miniature iteration of his 2014 ursine sculpture at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
The collection is organized into three themes: architecture and form (which includes Concrete Pockets), material exploration, and animals. For the latter, Gehry took his cues from other creatures besides the bear: as with his architecture, fish served as a common motif in the collaboration. Gehry recalls the origin of his aquatic aesthetic: In the 1980s, after an influential Beaux-Arts drawing exhibit at the Met, many of his contemporaries began to add decorative elements and flourishes to their work. “They were reacting to the sterility of modernism, and they felt that historical ornament was the solution,” he explains. The forward-looking Gehry felt frustrated. “Architecture for me is about creating in the time that you are in, not replicating the past,” he says. “I don’t know where this came from, but I said, ‘If you feel the need to go back in time, don’t go to the Romans and the Greeks, go back 300 million years earlier to fish!’” It sparked something within him. He started to sketch, obsessed with figuring out how to translate the Piscean poetry of their movement into a building.