ART/CRAFT: The Designers Creating Gallery-Worthy Clothes

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ART/CRAFT: The Designers Creating Gallery-Worthy Clothes

Words by Mr Chris Elvidge | Photography by Mr Benjamin Lennox | Styling by Ms Otter Jezamin Hatchett

20 September 2021

Clothes, by and large, are pretty prosaic things. Sure, they’re nice. Some of them are very nice. But you’d be hard-pressed to describe them as anything more than that. Occasionally, though, you come across a piece of clothing made with such extraordinary skill, care and creativity that you’re not sure whether to wear it or hang it on your wall. In these moments, you’re reminded that while clothes are essentially functional items, in the right hands, they can be so much more: something closer to works of art.

At MR PORTER, we’re celebrating these moments – and hopefully giving you many more of them to look forward to – with the launch of our latest exclusive multi-brand capsule collection, ART/CRAFT. As the name suggests, it’s a deep dive into a world of menswear, jewellery, homeware and accessories that blur the line between art and craft, showcasing both the creativity of the former and the skilled handiwork of the latter.

The group of designers we invited to contribute to this collection, which includes The Elder Statesman, KAPITAL, Gallery Dept., REESE COOPER® and many more, represents a small but increasingly influential sector of the fashion industry. What connects them is not an aesthetic, a subculture or a place – although, as we’ll discover later this week, there is a strong Los Angeles contingent – but an ethos. Through their respect for the importance of the human role in the manufacturing process and their steadfast refusal to accept the limitations of mass production, they’re reshaping our understanding of what craftsmanship means in the 21st century.

The concept behind ART/CRAFT was simple: we asked each of the featured designers to do something that showcased craftsmanship in their own unique way. In their responses to the brief, we can see a picture emerging of the sheer variety of skills in the creative arts. From one-of-a-kind patchwork garments hand-stitched by BODE and PROLETA RE ART to jewellery crafted with recycled metals and lab-created stones from Bleue Burnham and VADA, ART/CRAFT is packed with distinctive, conversation-starting pieces.

In keeping with the principles of our Craftsmanship Code, a planet-first pledge we made earlier this year, many of the processes on show are designed to make better, more efficient use of materials. There’s Gallery Dept., a fashion design project from Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Mr Josué Thomas, which specialises in paint-splattered, upcycled vintage workwear; or Mr Reese Cooper, also from Los Angeles, whose “RCI Tints & Dye” range is constructed from recycled fabrics dyed with natural fruit and vegetable dyes.

Mr Jonathan Anderson, who has helped transform LOEWE into a fashion powerhouse through his inventive use of fabrics, has contributed a range of 100 per cent upcycled camp-collar shirts, T-shirts and knitwear from his own brand, JW Anderson. Then there’s Mr Greg Lauren, who has used recycled and scrap fabrics to create two limited-edition peacoats, and Mr Greg Chait of the cult cashmere brand The Elder Statesman, who has also used old or deadstock fabrics in his line of sweaters and fun homeware products.

The ART/CRAFT collection is also a showcase for traditional hand-based craft. Take Carhartt WIP’s range of Cowichan sweaters, for instance, which are made using a knitting technique indigenous to the Cowichan people of Vancouver Island in western Canada. And of course, no discussion on craftsmanship would be complete without mentioning Mr Yuki Matsuda, one of the fashion industry’s longstanding champions of traditional craft. His brand, Yuketen, has been handcrafting shoes in the US since 1989, and contributes an exclusive range of bandana-print sandals to the collection.

Some of the finest examples of handcrafting come courtesy of the jewellery brands included in the ART/CRAFT project, which range from the intricately engraved pendants of the east London jeweller Duffy Jewellery to the spectacular, diamond-encrusted chain-link bracelets of the Los Angeles-based mother-daughter design duo SHAY and the colourful baguette diamond rings and bracelets of Suzanne Kalan.

And that’s just a highlight reel: there is so much more to talk about, to lust after and to buy. We’ll be getting into some of it in more detail later this week when we take a closer look at the influence of Los Angeles on the craftsmanship movement, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you need us, we’ll probably be shopping.

Shop the ART/CRAFT collection