The last, and likely only, time Miami received praise from the high-fashion establishment, it came from the late Gianni Versace, who declared in the 1980s, “Here in Miami, I finally found what I was looking: the center of my circle.” However, if our experience earlier this month at the 12th annual Art Basel Miami Beach is any indication, the city is once again exacting its magnetic pull, and on a grander scale. Heritage fashion houses and mold-breaking independent brands are giving Miami a second look, taking the fair as an opportunity to illuminate the parallels between fine art and style.
To begin with, Hermés’ collaboration with Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, who is featured in the current issue of Dossier, was on display. The exhibition presented 20 scarves titled “Couleurs de l’Ombre,” or the “color of shadows,” as they are the outcome of Hiroshi’s comprehensive study of light, prisms and the color and shadows that result from the interaction of the two. An extension of Sir Isaac Newton’s over 300-year-old color experiments, Hiroshi’s original works were Polaroid photographs, which Hermés transferred onto feather twill: a light, shiny twill developed just three years ago. Victor Borges, the brand’s commercial director of silk, who was down in Miami to present the collection, noted, “As a maison, part of what we do is put people in a good mood and color does that.” He added, “[Hiroshi] knows Hermés quite well—craftsmanship, tradition, quality and making an object perfect and as long-lasting as possible—and he shares the same values. He has a sense of humor; he likes to play. It’s a good marriage for us.”
Meanwhile, Fendi commissioned Maarten de Ceulaer, the whimsical Belgian minimalist, to re-imagine the house’s signature Penguin motif, using supple leather, into a furniture installation. Titled “Transformations,” the artwork featured smoothed tree trunks topped with cushioned planks, which formed portable seating reminiscent of those by the Modern masters: Wiener Werkstätte, De Stijl, Futurism and the Bauhaus.
Exacting creativity is clearly in the house’s bloodline, as fourth-generation Fendi Delfina Delettrez presented her own eponymous witty-cum-edgy jewelry, including four exclusive creations and a number of never-before-seen-in-America pieces, in a solo exhibition at the Antonella Villanova gallery’s booth at Design Miami/. “I like taking risks and having total freedom,” explained Delfina, who counts Surrealism as an influence, “and to create pieces without any boundaries.” The collection on display comprised a confluence of pavé rings of dismembered fingers, a pregnant amber honeycomb collar and a diamond-and-pearl scorpion brooch. The pieces were presented on mirrored pedestals, which, the designer explained, “make you feel like you’re looking into a different world, and it is a more personal way of looking.” That intimate feeling is essential to her collection says Delfina, elaborating, “I’m the first one to wear the designs—I’m the crash tester. I love to see the reaction. It makes you understand the piece a little more.”
Perhaps understanding Miami is a bit like Delfina’s experience: As more and more industry leaders and innovators plant themselves in the midst of the annual artworld event, the city known for tacky fashion is quietly evolving into an incubator—or at very least an admirer—of fresh new ideas. And while these ideas may not be native to Miami itself, there’s no denying it is the host that allows them to play.