Daniel Arsham on his new chapter in fashion

This summer, acclaimed artist Daniel Arsham took a serious foray into fashion with Objects IV Life. Shortly after the launch, we spoke to Arsham for this FRONTPAGE interview, in which we delve into the brand and its ethos.

Daniel Arsham has made a career of creating works that relate to holdovers from our nostalgic culture, such as Pokémon, vintage cars and Bart Simpson. A 2019 exhibition at the Ron Mandos Gallery featured plaster casts of a Mickey Mouse figurine draped in fabric and rope, while a 2018 exhibition at the Perrotin Gallery in New York featured a full-size plaster cast of the Delorean Back to the Future.

For his latest venture, he has teamed up with Stefano Martinetto, CEO and co-founder of Tomorrow, to create a fashion brand called Objects IV Life. In June, the brand released its first line (dubbed Chapter 001), which featured various workwear pieces made from dead fabrics. In a way, Objects IV Life fits Arsham’s work as an artist perfectly by reusing workwear made from dead materials.

Arsham is known as a frequent collaborator, having worked with the likes of Dior, Porsche, Rimowa and the design/architecture firm Snarkitecture, which he co-founded. In each of these collaborations, Arsham has sought to add something new and unique to the dialogue rather than using brands to recognize the name. The sustainability crisis in the fashion world and the possibilities surrounding the use of deadstock were a key factor in convincing Arsham and Martinetto to start Objects IV Life.

To mark the official launch of Chapter 001, we spoke to Arsham about his bold foray into fashion and its place in his artistic oeuvre.

How did the idea for Objects IV Life come about?

I had a lot of crossovers with the fashion universe and several people told me that I should start my own brand. I never felt it would be relevant if I wasn’t able to add something that really carries the character of the rest of my practice in terms of materials and details.

How did you meet Stefano Martinetto?

About three years ago, a friend, Samuel Ross, introduced me to Stefano Martinetto. He wanted to talk to me about making a brand, something I had already told him I wasn’t interested in, on the side. Samuel said, “Just have breakfast with him and just listen to him.” And the point he wisely understood was that it was going to be really important to think about materials. And he effectively came to me with this suggestion to create a brand that largely uses materials and fabrics from stock.

How did you and Stefano specifically approach the use of deadstock materials?

Any brand you can think of ends up sitting on a huge amount of fabrics and materials that go unused. Sometimes they are resold like scrap. So the first collection I developed uses denim deadstock woven in Japan. Steel toe caps will patinate and change color – this largely goes against the way fashion thinks about itself, which is that it should be immutable. Especially in the luxury sector, the basic idea is that things should be as they look when you see them on the shelf forever, which is obviously an impossible task. We’re really considering embracing this idea of ​​patina and wear, almost to the point where the longer you have these things, the better they look.

That’s something inherent in workwear too, isn’t it? This idea that clothes change because they are used for a specific purpose. But I find the ubiquity of workwear interesting in that it no longer has the same utility for everyone who wears it. Where does your interest in workwear come from?

The materials and the first collection are largely based on things you can think of as workwear. But the future collections are not like that. There’s outerwear, there’s a whole collection I’m working on that’s based on gardening. I even look at suits. So it started that way because there is a use case for these objects. For example, I literally wear the steel toe boots in my studio. Denim was more about the material available. We accidentally found all these amazing Japanese denim from stock.

What is the difference between making art and making clothes?

Artworks are made to last, whatever that means. And I think clothes obviously aren’t designed that way, they’re not meant to age. So there are certain cues that go into the design of these clothes and into the hardware. The hardware has a natural patina finish, but (unlike the toe cap) it will not continue to tarnish noticeably. All buttons have been specially designed for the jacket to be removable; When you have decided that you do not want the buttons to soil the fabric over time, you can remove them. If left on, the garments will leave a nice mark around the edge of the button when washed. But the buttons don’t stain the fabric because they don’t rust. Removability is designed for easy care, to protect hardware in washing machines and to easily recycle the garment at the end of its life.

I also left a lot of variation in things like the branding marks on the garments. They are not screenprints. They are literally hand stamped onto the fabric in the factory. So there is variety. And in general, one of the biggest challenges with this brand was convincing the factories that no, that’s actually how I want it.

You described Objects as a manifesto for change, what did you mean by that?

One of the things we’re also looking at is developing a system where the clothes people buy from Objects that they might want to get rid of at some point can come back to us and be turned back into new clothes. It can also be things that are newly embellished. So if a jacket comes back with tears, or even if it just wants to go through the atelier cycle one more time, it can gain something that makes it more contemporary. We think about it in a time horizon of about 5, 10 years.

Why was it necessary for you to create a brand in the first place? I think an artist in and of itself is now a brand and so you can just release things under the aegis of that brand.

Part of it is that I have a partner. Obviously I’m not a designer so I hired a bunch of great designers who helped me realize some of the shapes and forms and went deep into the material with me. Sometimes it’s an advantage as an artist to have something that isn’t under your own name. It feels like you can create something in that other box that doesn’t directly apply to the work.

Can you tell me about the zine you started with Objects IV Life?

I was thinking of some sort of look book that we could give people that would tease out the ethos of the brand and how I feel about it. I have little kids and you know those children’s books that have flat pages that are really thick, almost like a cardboard page? The book is designed that way. It’s only eight pages, so 16 spreads, and the book actually becomes like a thick object in a way. The idea is that for every chapter we publish there will be a book.

They’ve also hosted a number of dinners themed around Objects.

It was about bringing people together and introducing them to Objects. The first was last fall, before the brand was even announced, and it was really just a matter of getting a few friends to give their feedback in an informal setting. I put out all my original art for Objects and we had some samples of things there to understand what people thought of it and also looked for their notes and thoughts on it.

Did you use some of the things you heard at those dinners or events?

A lot of the interesting things that came out of these dinners revolved around graphics or photography and how the brand is conveyed. We worked with this amazing photographer who shot the first campaign, Joshua Woods, who I met through a friend at that dinner. I didn’t know him before. It’s one of those things where you build that network because I haven’t really worked in that space before. When I worked for Dior, I didn’t work on the photo campaign or anything like that.

What will future chapters of Objects for Life look like?

It goes pretty far, but there’s a little more color in it for the next chapter. One of the things about deadstock is that the weave varies from piece to piece. I developed a camouflage pattern based on the Objects logo. I usually take notes when I’m making drawings, preparatory drawings for sculptures. So I make a drawing of a work I want to create. And I have notes written around the object that’s in some sort of thought bubble that’s this irregular shape. The Objects logo comes from it. So I came up with a vaguely camo-like pattern that’s used heavily in the second chapter. And then there’s some really, I’d say iconic shaped jackets and things like that coming out early next year as well.

Are you planning to expand beyond fashion with Objects?

I could see that there were some smaller housewares and things like that. But who knows where it may go? It’s just another area to play in.

CH.001 can be found at the following dealers:

Machine-A London

Selfridges

IT Hong Kong

SENS

Simple signs Mykonos

Maxfield LA

KITH LA & NYC

Machine-A Shanghai – from October

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