strange phenomenon invades the world of fashion; designers are increasingly obsessed with furniture – and especially with rugs. Hermès, a long-time incubator for all things artisanal, asked Argentinian artist Alexandra Kehayoglou to produce a series of four installations made from her iconic rugs, tapestries and rugs. Unveiled in its Bond Street windows earlier this month, they represent a “slice” of Hampstead Heath. Its wide form is depicted in various ways in a rolling hill, a wooden child shelter, a swing with a scarf and hat perched on it, and a fallen tree beside a chattering stream – all recreated in its textured weaves. brand.
“It reminds me of my childhood garden in Buenos Aires,” Kehayoglou explains of the work, which she named Locus Amoenus, which means “an ideal place of comfort”. “It was designed by an Englishwoman who once owned the house and has lots of secret places to explore and the Heath, too, has that wonderfully new feel.”
But Kehayoglou and Hermès are not the only ones to merge haute couture and rugs. At this year’s Salone del Mobile Milano, influential furniture fair, Maison Christian Lacroix, Bottega Veneta and Missoni all showcased rugs and woven textiles that intelligently expand their brand’s reach in the home. Meanwhile, Scottish designer Jonathan Saunders – who started as a textile artist at Glasgow School of Art and is now Creative Director at Diane von Furstenberg – recently launched his second interior collection for The Rug Company. He sees his geometric prints in wacky, contrasting colors translate seamlessly onto cushions, rugs and runners. Vivienne Westwood has also worked with the brand and Calvin Klein Creative Director Raf Simons collaborated with Danish brand Kvadrat on a line of textiles.
What the hell is happening ? Why is fashion suddenly so concerned with what we trample on? The fascination seems to have started on the podium. For his SS15 parade, Dries Van Noten commissioned Kehayoglou to create a mat for the runway – the result was an epic, mossy meadow. Over the following season, kilims and jacquard weaves covered the catwalks and garments of Isabel Marant, Tory Burch and Etro, and swathes of rich upholstery were spotted on the catwalks of the fall-winter 2016 at Loewe, Gucci and Miu Miu. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before the influence of craftsmanship and tradition spilled over into our homes. More than an antidote to fast fashion, well-crafted textiles are an expression of individuality in the age of normcore and athleisure.
And it turns out that there has always been an element of synchronicity between the worlds of fashion, art and furniture. The couturier Jeanne Lanvin presented his collection at the 1925 International Exhibition in Paris in a sumptuous decor of specially ordered fur rugs. At the same time, artists like Sonia Delaunay, Anni Albers and Omega Workshop of the Bloomsbury Group place weaving at the center of their work. They would undoubtedly approve of the cultural cross-pollination that is currently taking place at the Northern Ballet, where Richard Nicoll’s artist and muse Linder Sterling has designed a hand-tufted spiral rug that winds and unrolls as the dancers carry it across the stage. Produced in collaboration with the legendary Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, it is part of the British Art Show, which is on tour across the country until January next year.
Meanwhile, the commission for Hermès seems like a natural progression for Kehayoglou. Admittedly, there is a pleasant affinity between the artist and the 2016 annual theme of the French house: “Nature at the gallop”. It was the uncultivated and hidden corners of the moor that most attracted Kehayoglou during his field trips in April; she often portrays the Pampas, the vast grassy plains that stretch across central Argentina (and are the source of her 100% natural thread), in a commentary on our relationship with the land.
Kehayoglou and his team of 10 studios in Argentina worked their way through more than 100 rolls of thread in Hermès’ creation, completing the intricate shapes, which normally take six months each, in a fraction of the time. Shipping the works from Olivos, near Buenos Aires, proved to be a challenge. For Kehayoglou, the process of making these tapestries and rugs is intrinsically linked to craft traditions, not least because it comes from one of Argentina’s most famous carpet-making families. His workshop is next to the El Espartano factory, founded by his grandparents.
“Rugs are not a medium typically associated with art,” says Kehayoglou, who exhibited at Frieze Art Fair last year. “Yet we connect with them so easily. When you take off your shoes and walk on a mat, it’s very sensory. It is this innate physical response to textiles that she hopes will trigger a transformative, childlike state in her audience. “Whether you are in London, Buenos Aires or any city, nature has the power to take you out of your usual perspective. It makes you forget where you are. And, after all, what could be more luxurious than that?
Locus Amoenus is on display at Hermès Bond Street until November 7