LONDON — Men’s wear designers and tailors including Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Paul Smith and Richard James asked their favorite artists to pick up a needle and thread. And their collaborative works are on display at Esquire magazine’s “Singular Suit” exhibition at Somerset House here.
“Our readers are very interested in art and fashion, and bringing the two worlds together for this exhibition seemed like a very exciting idea,” said Jeremy Langmead, editor of British Esquire, who commissioned the works more than six months ago. “This year, men need their battle dress and what better way to face the slings and arrows of 2009 than by wearing a suit?”
In one room, Donatella Versace and the light artist James Clar have created a charcoal single-breasted Versace suit sprouting meter-long UV light sticks. Their idea was to mimic a still frame from a big-budget action movie.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana worked with Ron Arad to create a teddy-boy-like tuxedo jacket with black sensors that sound an alarm when the personal space of the wearer is invaded.
“It’s the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes,’” said James of his cheeky, single-breasted, organza “naked suit,” designed with the American artist Spencer Tunick, who is known for his installations of naked crowds. “We wanted to do something a little bit provocative and naughty,” said James at the exhibition’s launch Thursday night. “When you think about what a bespoke suit does, it makes the wearer look better, but this is the model making the suit better.”
As guests including Grayson Perry, Christopher Bailey, Henry Holland, Stephen Jones and Amber Le Bon sipped Champagne and raspberry vodka cocktails, Aquascutum designer Graeme Fidler mused over his choice of Antony Gormley, the British sculptor whose work he admires.
“He understands the body and the silhouette,” said Fidler, “and that is something a designer in my position has to think about.”
The duo created the exhibit’s only freestanding sculpture, a wool and mohair suit, which has been coated in copper through electroplating.
“Clothing is the intimate form of architecture, here transformed through an industrial process that makes the suit both more durable and more organic: The ‘place where man might dwell’ is rendered self-supporting — and useless,” said Gormley.
The suits will appear in the September issue of British Esquire, which hits British newsstands Aug. 6. The exhibition will run through Aug. 31.