A natural evolution...
Just a glance at Daniel Arsham's body of artwork will show you that, as an artist, he has long straddled the lines between art, architecture and performance. In designing his first clothing line, he further blurs those lines between object and audience. Each piece intends to "get the audience to think about clothing in a different way, trying to get them to think about it in a more sculptural way."
The name of the label, Objects IV Life, is very much an extension of his existing artistic thought processes. "A lot of my work is in sculpture; I've always thought about these sculptural works like an object, something physical," he says.
As for Objects being a fashion brand – for Arsham, the focus was on the wearer's experience. "[It's] really just about the way that clothing makes you feel. Look at footwear and sneakers in junior high school and in high school; they kind of create an ambience around you, and there's a collective understanding that you might build with people based on a shared interest in things. That sense felt very familiar to me as an artist."
The artistry behind the brand...
"The idea of patina and ageing and attention to materials is present in a lot of what I do."
MACHINE-A: What was the inspiration behind the brand?
That's a big question. I've been asked many times to work on a clothing brand, but my conversations with Stefano (Martinetto) about dead stock and the investment in research for materials changed things. I'm focused on the fabrication of the apparel – this was something that was paramount in the creation of the brand. The thought process behind the design, you know, thinking about each collection as a chapter designed around specific use cases.
The first chapter was really inspired by working in my studio. I need functional workwear, right? Things like steel-toed boots and heavy denim pants. As the brand evolves, there will be other frameworks of need that I can wrap a collection around.
Can you explain the union between artistry and ethics in the brand?
One of the ideas around the brand is certainly the notion of using as many dead-stock materials as possible, things that already exist, as within my own art. I've always thought about the notion that I'm not really creating an entirely new experience. Most of my work is a re-imagination or a reconfiguration of something that people already know. And this is useful to me as an artist because I can allow the work to be accessible. People can enter it quite easily once they get there. The notions around it are complex and can be troubling sometimes. There's a sense of the uncanny, you know, that creates intrigue around these objects.
What led you to create a genderless/unisex fashion brand?
I've noticed a lot of women wearing or buying "men's" clothing, and I think part of it is the comfort, the relaxed fit. There may come a time when Objects may design things specifically for women. But unisex seemed like an interesting place to start for the brand.
What's your favourite piece from the collection?
I think I would have to say it's the boots I'd been using a pair of English mining boots for many years, which were functional in nature, with a steel toe – so if you drop anything, you're not going to injure yourself. I wanted to create a pair like this for Objects: something functional that would also integrate some of the styling cues. So, we created the sole, while the upper is made from heavy linen. The steel toe itself is untreated, so it will rust and patina. You can always polish it back if you desire, but the ageing quality is a part of the style. I made sure that the boots were very comfortable as well.
The marriage of sustainability and fashion...
"The idea of it being for life plays into this notion that the ethos of the brand is really about longevity and creating something that will last a long time that is designed to patina."
Objects has been called a "brand for the future" – how important is sustainability to the brand?
I think it's impossible at this stage to create an entirely 100% sustainable brand. However, we set out to create new techniques for using things even beyond the dead-stock fabric. All of our metals, for instance, are recycled metals. And they're uncoated, so there's no chemical paint or treatment over them.
I find that fashion, in general, has this notion of looking the same way forever. That when you see something on the shelf or on the rack in a store, it will remain the same. The buttons are treated in a certain way; the fabric is designed to look the same – it's an impossible task. Nothing will remain unchanged, especially with use and wear.
I think that use and wear actually tell the history of your experience with clothing. You know, I have a number of vintage pieces from the '90s from designers that I love that really feel like part of an era, and the only reason I still have them is that they were made with a certain level of care. It didn't matter that they aged and that they changed.
What does the future of Objects look like?
We've designed the first three chapters already. So there'll be an evolution of the design. There are some patterns that I'll be introducing, and in the second chapter, there are some other colours that we'll introduce. I've really taken my time with it to try to figure out shapes and forms that I felt – a timelessness.
On partnering with MACHINE-A...
Daniel Arsham's previous collaborations read like a who's who of innovative creatives. From Merce Cunningham Dance Company to Ronnie Fieg, he's continuously sought out alliances with people who break conventions, finding inspiration in the way that "varying creatives build meaning and a kind of universe around their work".
In partnering with MACHINE-A, he takes his place in a bastion of contemporary fashion designers – it's an astute choice. Representing more than just a fashion boutique, MACHINE-A is, in Daniel's opinion, "a great place where people know they will experience something new".
For an immersive experience of Objects IV Life's collection, visit MACHINE-A in London. The store currently features an original installation, designed by Arsham's team and finished with bespoke fittings.