This summer, renowned artist Daniel Arsham made a serious foray into the fashion world with Objects IV Life. Shortly after the launch, we spoke with Arsham for this FRONTPAGE interview, where we dived into the brand and its ethos.
Daniel Arsham has made a career of making works that refer to remnants of our nostalgic culture, such as Pokémon, vintage cars and Bart Simpson. A show at Galerie Ron Mandos in 2019 featured plaster casts of a Mickey Mouse figure that had been wrapped in fabric and rope, while a 2018 show at Galerie Perrotin in New York featured a full-size plaster cast of Delorean from Back to the Future.
For his latest project, he has teamed up with Stefano Martinetto, CEO and co-founder of Tomorrow, to launch a fashion brand, Objects IV Life. In June, the brand released their first line (called Chapter 001), which featured various pieces of workwear made from dead fabric. In a way, by recycling workwear using deadstock materials, Objects IV Life is perfectly in line with Arsham’s work as an artist.
Arsham has been known as a frequent collaborator, having worked with people like Dior, Porsche, Rimowa and the design / architecture firm Snarkitecture – which he co-founded. With each of these collaborations, Arsham has sought to add something new and unique to the dialogue as opposed to using tags for name recognition. The sustainability crisis in the fashion world and the possibilities surrounding the use of deadstock were a crucial factor in convincing Arsham and Martinetto to start Objects IV Life.
Around the official launch of Chapter 001, we spoke with Arsham about his daring entry into fashion and its place in his artistic oeuvre.
How did the idea for Objects IV Life come about?
I have had a lot of overlap with the fashion universe and several people had told me I should start my own brand. I never felt it would be relevant if I was not able to add something that really carried the character of the rest of my practice in terms of materials and details.
How did you meet Stefano Martinetto?
About three years ago, one of my friends, Samuel Ross, introduced me to Stefano Martinetto. He wanted to talk to me about making a fire, something I had already told him I was not interested in going past. Samuel said, “Just have breakfast with him and just listen to him.” And the suggestion that he smartly understood was that it would be really important to think about materials. And he actually came to me with this proposal to create a brand that would largely use deadstock materials and fabrics.
How did you and Stefano concretely approach using deadstock materials?
Any brand that you can think of ends up sitting on a huge amount of fabric and materials that are not being used. Sometimes they are resold as scrap. So the first collection that I developed uses denim deadstock woven in Japan. The caps of the steel toes will patina and change color – this is in contrast to much of the way fashion thinks about itself, namely that it must be immutable. Especially in luxury, the basic idea is that things should be as they look when you see them on the stand forever, which of course is an impossible task. We are really considering embracing the idea of patina and wear, almost to the point where the longer you have these things, the better they will look.
It’s also something inherent in workwear, right? The idea that clothing will change because it is being used for a purpose. But I find the ubiquity of workwear interesting because it does not have the same applicability to everyone who wears it anymore. Where does your interest in workwear come from?
The materials and the first collection are largely based on things one could imagine are workwear. But such are not the collections of the future. There are outerwear, there is a whole collection that I work on that is based on gardening. I even look at suits. So it started like this because there is a use case for these objects. I literally wear steel boots in my studio for example. As for the denim, it was more about the material that was available. We just happened to find all this amazing deadstock Japanese denim.
What is the difference between making art and making clothes?
The artwork is made to last forever, whatever that means. And I think clothes are obviously not designed the way they are not designed to age. So there are certain signals that were put into the design of this clothing, in the hardware. The hardware has a natural patina finish, but (unlike the toe cap) it will not continue to stain to any noticeable degree. All the buttons were designed so that the jacket could be specifically taken off; if you decide that you do not want the buttons to actually stain the fabric over time, you can remove them. If you let them sit on, once the clothes are washed, they will leave a beautiful mark around the edge of the button. But the buttons will not stain the fabric as they do not rust. Detachability is designed for easy care to protect hardware in washing machines as well as easy recycling of the clothes when it is finished.
I also left a lot of variation in things like the brand that is on the clothes. They are not silkscreen. They are literally hand-stamped on the fabric at the factory. So there is variation in that. 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 have described Objects as a manifesto for change, what did you mean by that?
One of the things that we are also exploring is to develop a system where the clothes that people buy from Objects that they might eventually want to get rid of can return to us and be transformed into new clothes. It can also be things that get redecorated. So if a jacket comes back and it has cracks in it, or even if it just wants to go through the study cycle again, it can get something on that makes it more modern. We think about this in a time horizon of 5, 10 years.
Why did you find it necessary to start a fire in the first place? I think an artist in itself is a brand today and then one can just release things under the auspices of that brand.
Part of that is that I have a partner. Obviously I am not a designer, so I hired a number of amazing designers who have helped me realize some of the shapes and gone in depth with the material with me. Sometimes, as an artist, it is beneficial to have something that is not under your own name. It feels like you can create in this second box that is not applied directly to the work.
Can you tell me about the zine you started with Objects IV Life?
I was thinking of a kind of lookbook that we could give to people who would tease the ethos of the brand and the way I think about it. I have small children and you know the children’s books that have flat pages that are really thick, almost like a cardboard page? The book is designed like this. It’s only eight pages long, so it’s 16 pages, and the book actually becomes like a thick object in a way. The idea is that each chapter we publish comes with a book.
You also hosted a number of dinners around objects.
They were about gathering people and introducing them to Objects. The first was last fall before the brand had been announced at all, and it was really just getting a bunch of friends in an informal environment for their feedback. I brought out all my original drawings for objects and we had a few samples of things there where we tried to understand what people’s attitude was about it and also looked for their notes and thoughts about it.
Did you use some of the things you heard at these dinners or events?
Many of the interesting things that came out of these dinners were about graphics or photography and how the brand is conveyed. We worked with this amazing photographer who recorded the first campaign, Joshua Woods, whom I met through a friend at that dinner. I did not know him before. That’s one of the things that builds this network, because I’m not really working in that space before. Like when I worked for Dior, I did not work on the photo campaign or anything like that.
What will future chapters of Objects for Life look like?
It spans quite wide, but for the next chapter there is a little more color in it. One of the things about deadstock is that the weaving varies from piece to piece. There is a camo pattern I have developed that is based on the logo for objects. Usually when I make drawings, preparatory drawings for sculpture, I make notes. So I make a drawing of a work that I want to create. And I have notes written around the object, which are inside a kind of thought bubble, which has this irregular shape. The Objects logo comes from there. So I developed a vague camo-like pattern that is used extensively in the second chapter. And then there are some really, I would say, jackets with iconic shape and the kind that are also coming out early next year.
Are you planning to expand beyond fashion with Objects?
I could see that there were some smaller home items and that sort of thing. But who knows where it might go? It’s just another area to play in.
You can find CH.001 from the dealers below:
IT Hong Kong
Simple Caracters Mykonos
KITH LA & NYC
Machine-A Shanghai – from October