Designers have long been inspired by art. Some brands are bound to visual arts and artists more closely than others. And I love the brands where artistic inspiration is in the brand DNA; and as we know, everyone’s DNA is different. Herein are two boutiques that blend art and commerce, each with a completely different and unique sensibility.
The Missoni family has long collected art and artists, sponsoring exhibits in New York and all over Europe. It’s a family thing. In New York, their Madison Avenue boutique turns itself into a display of Angela Missoni’s Surface Conversion several times a year. Missoni works with galleries, curators and artists from a variety of disciplines to contrast art and fashion. On view now is “I Feel Crazy,” an exhibition by Raul de Nieves and Jessie Stead, in collaboration with their performance art band, Hairbone. The artists have created a wildly colorful installation that mirrors ten years of live event ephemera with a quilt-like display of recorded improvisational performances placed throughout the space. And the art and the fashion work together to give you, the live shopper, a special experience.
The artists give window display another dimension. The collage in the window is a collection of time capsules showing the band’s signature makeshift props, fashion, and bits of the performances. The madcap images and colors are not unlike the Missonis’ colorful fashion vocabulary, carefully developed over the decades.
The Missonis are known for their signature designs, mixing pattern and color with creative abandon. Creativity is a family trait. DeNieves and Stead push the color button as well. The art and the clothing complement each other. The patchwork panels (how Missoni!) and the glowing videos are placed all over the store.
When you walk into the boutique, there is a large screen with a display of shimmering Lurex clothing placed in front of it. The art enhances the clothing and the clothing frames the art. There is nothing tame about either.
The designer works pastels and neutrals beautifully. Every piece has its own rhythm. The collection created by Angela Missoni is a family affair. The 60-plus-year-old business is a lifestyle as much as a clothing brand. While the company is known for its intricate knitwear and bold patterns, new fabrics and designs are reborn every season. Creating pattern is also an art, like painting or composing music.
The new fall clothes have a clean, sharp look. The uncomplicated shapes let the patterns shine. You have to wonder how many thousands of hours are devoted to the creation of the hundreds of different stitches and yarn effects that create the Missoni mystique.
Hairbone visuals echo the sunny bright colors of the summer collection. The patterns are electric, as are the artist’s images.
Missoni always produces the chicest beach bound clothing. Saturated colors and bold patterns do go with summer tans. While you are pulling the ones you want to try on, take in the video of one of the artist’s many works.
Worked with soft hand chic, the black and white group is anything but static.
Also on offer are many new kinds of geometric patterns, that have the psychedelic ’70’s vibe that Missoni is so famous for. This group in calmer colors is still full of color.
Summer accessories pop in front of this screen.
Patchwork is a huge part of the Missoni DNA. The family collects them, as well as art. The silky fabrics move with the body and the colors are artfully balanced all over the dress.
Long known for their covetable bathing suits, this season’s ones sparkle. The colors range from delicate pastels to deeper hues, all mixed with an artist’s touch.
Gossamer knits take on a ’70’s mood. Dresses, robes, tunics, and kimonos are are also done in a delicate palette.
Pattern, pattern, pattern. They are reinvented every season, and the art of the pattern is in the Missoni blood. The love of art and color lends itself to the collaboration. Known for their knits, Angela and her family work with the yarns’ producers to make technical yarns that in some cases create the patterns.
The artists released a record of their music called Earth to Mama, on display in the boutique. It sits here with summer bags and hats.
If the art on the screens and walls speaks to you, take some home in these creative thumb drives that contain video art showing the group’s performance pieces. An immersive experience.
The family also offers a collaboration with Adidas of clothing and sneakers. The collection was created to commemorate Tai Missoni, Angela’s father, who was an Olympian before he and his wife Rosita founded the brand in the 1950s.
Since the Missoni brand is a family affair, they also dress children in their signature patterns.
The family also produces a full range of men’s wear. The vibrant patterns have a different mood than do the women’s designs, but they too are full of texture and color.
Sneakers, beach shoes, bags, and more. All get the unique Missoni touch.
The store also has part of the Missoni Home collection, created by Rosita Missoni. The family signatures cover throws, rugs, pillows, furniture, vases, upholstery fabrics, sheets, and towels and whatever else you can think of. You too can live the Missoni life!
Why not shop where you can buy iconic, one of a kind clothing, and discover new artists and their work?Supporting the arts, and artists is one of the ways that some brands give back. The Missonis have embraced this philosophy for decades. The relationships have brought much joy into people lives, just as the clothes have let us live joyfully — and colorfully.
Missoni, 1009 Madison Avenue, or www.missoni.com
A short walk down Madison Avenue will take you to the new Gabriela Hearst boutique. This brand expresses its singular view with a much more restrained presentation. The designer hails from Uruguay, and is still closely connected to the country. The store’s clean lines were put together by Hearst and the architectural firm Zari using no synthetics or chemicals, just like their bags and clothing. Everything is cool and clean. Sustainability is the designer’s mission in life. The business began with a handbag; and they are a big presence in the shop. When the line launched, the bags were sold by request only and are still sold that way on her website. Very clever.
The bags are made in Italy, and come in a wide range of skins and exotic skins.
Some of the bags are dual purpose. This one is a functioning jewelry case. The drawers have magnets so if you choose to wear it as a bag the drawers stay closed.
The entire back of the boutique is devoted to handbags and to fine jewelry. The salon-like atmosphere is inviting and calming, and offers custom-made seating.
When the store was designed, Hearst and the architect threw away the rule book. When’s the last time you were in a clothing store that has no fashion on display in the windows, and that cedes valuable selling space to furniture covered in white cashmere, a Hearst family quilt dating from the 1900s, and displays of art? The boutique makes you feel as if you were shopping at the designer’s home.
The displays of clothing are spare. Luxe minimalism defines her look. Hearst believes in quality craftsmanship, and sustainability. The boutique showcases her beliefs. The wool used in suitings is grown on her family’s South American ranch, now owned by the Hearst family. The clothes are modern, but not trendy. Classically cool without being boring.
Fabrics are created using care and tradition. The coat above is an unusual jacquard developed by the designer. The display of clothing in the boutique is restrained, and garments are displayed discretely front and center.
Low key luxury is the message you take away when looking at the clothing. Not every piece of a collection is on display at any time, but an assistant will help you find other pieces that are tucked away in the back.
Knitwear is displayed in a custom case that faces the living area.
Shoes and boots are also past of the collection. This boot has an artistic gem-encrusted heel.
Men’s clothing was introduced this year.
The back of the store opens into the Carlyle Hotel. In the passage leading to the door is a case that is full of products from the French apothecary, Officine Universelle Buly. The Gabriela Hearst store is an artistic statement marrying architecture and fashion, with the passions that drive the designer’s creative life. Sustainability never looked so good.
Gabriela Hearst, 985 Madison Avenue or www.gabrielahearst.com
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.