Creative minds have a way of finding each other and responding. It can be a tiny, tiny bit like falling in love. And within Arles - which, despite its international appeal remains a big, small town - those lightning zaps can roll from one person to the next with pinball-like precision. So when the incredibly talented ceramicist Sophie Lassagne spoke to me of the arrival of a new company that she thought that I would appreciate, I listened, then looked to see.
And, knowing me well, she was right.
Aventures des Toiles is a fashion house founded in 1998 by François Gadrey. Their tagline is "Art à porter" and the concept, which I am crazy about, is simple. For each season, six artworks are chosen to inspire six different lines of clothing. There is a wide variety in the aesthetics presented by each artist and amongst the mediums used. For example in the Summer 2017 collection, "Twenty-One," a sculpture by the young Spanish artist Bruno Ollé, features patina-dusted paint test samples whose symmetry causes tension within the composition, while DangerDiesel by the Parisian-based painter Alione is a commentary on the effects of environmental changes in urban society. These are not trite themes, and yet nor are those developed in the more fanciful lines, such as "Garance", based on a sublime watercolor by Claire de Chavagnac Brugnon, where the stinging red used becomes a web of love throbbing with "emotional memory."
As the works themselves have such substance, so is there ample material to encourage the imaginations of the stylists who then interpret the originals in a range that can reach from literal towards abstraction. And to me, this is where the clothing is at its most interesting as, just like the pinball precision mentioned earlier, the creativity is passed onwards, transformed, until it reaches the woman who wears the final result. The most cutting-edge printing techniques are used to give a true vibrancy to the pieces (something I didn't realize until I actually touched the fabrics themselves) and each article is entirely Made in France. The quality is irreproachable. Aventures des Toiles has found a way to both celebrate art (and oh, how dearly we need that in our current society) and then to use their own spark to bring about something modern, elegant and unique.
Those are catchwords that can also describe the style in Arles. Not just presently, but historically as well. The Arlésiennes have always held great pride in their appearance and the "je ne sais quoi" of their beauty. Think of Bizet's eponymous opera or the words of hometown designer Christian Lacroix who so perfectly describes the spirit of the town as "baroque farouche" (baroque with a wild flair).
And so it is not surprising that the presence of art and artists have been a long-held tradition in Arles - from the sculptors of the Romanesque masterpiece on the facade of the St. Trophime Cathedral to Van Gogh and Gaughin battling over their canvases to Picasso's Zorro-esque slashings inspired by his love of bull-fights in the Arena. And now, there is a new artistic wave arriving as the Fondation LUMA houses exhibitions by superstars such as Annie Leibovitz while countless galleries are sprouting up in anticipation as this 2500 year old city is being willingly transformed into one of the cultural centers of Europe.
It is why that, although the company has boutiques in such metropolitan cities as Paris and Lyon, I am especially eager to see what will happen with their launching in Arles. To celebrate the opening of the boutique in true provençal fashion, Aventures des Toiles is giving a little apéro, a "pot d'accueil" in the early evening of June 16th and during the day on the 17th. I know that I will be there at some point, just to raise a glass, not only to say "bienvenue" but to continue to help spread the word about a company whose founding concept deserves a warm "merci."
Aventures des Toiles
3 rue de la Liberté
+33 (0)9 81 89 17 85
To look at their magazine (which includes interviews with each of the season's artists), please click here.
And to discover the artists featured in previous seasons, please click here.