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On Aug. 19, Doug Abraham uploaded an image to Instagram. The post is a pastiche of Stella Schnabel, culled from her fall 2014 Vivienne Westwood campaign, provocatively splayed across an Oriental rug, a strategically placed handbag dangling between her open legs; on top of that Abraham spliced in two pairs of hairy male legs midcoitus. It’s one of the few posts that hasn’t cost him his account (he’s been kicked off the platform several times due to its strict censorship policy).
Abraham has earned a cult following under his Instagram-alias @bessnyc4 (at press time, his followers tallied 40,717) through his art, a signature style of collage that is both potent and abstract, vulgar and beautiful. He juxtaposes images, often with a fashion skew, to reexamine views of sexuality, beauty and consumerism — another recent post shows a Céline Luggage tote with Céline-branded fast food spilling out of it (Photoshop really does make dreams come true). The result can be hypnotizing as the eye tries to make sense of collective gestalt. “Because everyone’s just scrolling so fast [on Instagram], one thing I try to do is to get everyone to stop and look at something for a minute,” Abraham says.
Abraham was nominated for the CFDA Fashion Instagrammer of the Year award this past May and now his hobby, which he does alongside owning edgy SoHo boutique Bess and designing ready-to-wear and jewelry for the store’s label, is expanding beyond the confines of Instagram.
Next Management has tapped the artist to give its spring 2015 show package (freshly printed model cards to hand out at castings) the Abraham treatment. Next’s roster of top girls — Aline Weber, Suvi Koponen, Lily McMenamy, Arizona Muse, Meghan Collison and Binx Walton among them — each get a pair of images: one sliced, rearranged and artfully obscured with cutouts of editorial images from Abraham’s personal archive; the other is the original model shot with her measurements printed across it.
“Everyone in the industry is familiar with agency show cards and how it works, but I wanted to create something a little more arresting than just [the typical] model Polaroids,” Abraham says. “It was about finding some way to create an original image without completely taking away the focus from the girl.”
Faith Kates, the founder of Next and a longtime fan of Abraham’s, had been eager to spruce up her agency’s show package for some time. “We kept going back to Doug’s images,” she says. “They’re so powerful and intelligent. Most of the images that he uses are taken from iconic [editorials] that we all have admired over the course of time.”
Next’s packages, which will be sent out this week, are sure to leave an impression on clients. As for Abraham, what started out as a side project seems to be paying off: He’s believed to be fielding offers for other collaborations.
“It’s changing the trajectory of what I do every day,” he says.