Culture and society (both past and present) have influenced fashion for as long as it has existed. This intersect between the two worlds has always fascinated me; learning about the cultural inspirations behind designers’ creations adds another level to your affinity with a brand. As well as this, fashion labels have become lifestyle brands in their own right, offering loyal customers the opportunity to not just wear their clothes but to share an interest in art, music and literature by creating additional content for them to consume like Spotify playlists, blogs and social media posts that encompass more than just their own product. In some cases, brands even create a physical space where fans can convene and embrace the lifestyle and meet like-minded people, take for example Mansur Gavriel’s café in LA or The Apartment by The Line in New York.
The concept for this shoot started with one bag with its origins in art and architecture. Enter Danse Lente (meaning ‘slow dance’ in French) a London-based accessories label. The brand’s founder Youngwon Kim says she is inspired by contemporary aesthetics, modern architecture and artists such as Picasso and Joan Miró. Although Picasso-inspired pieces are ten a penny, this correlation spoke to me when I was doing my research on the brand before buying the bag in December. On a trip to London last year I had a chance to visit the “Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame Tragedy” exhibition at the Tate Modern. I had admired Picasso’s works for a long time but this was the first time I had seen an entire exhibition dedicated to the artist and it just blew me away. The colours and shapes he used are so powerful and I find it fascinating how you can find meaning in even the most abstract of paintings. After analysing Picasso’s works and later looking at Danse Lente’s handbags the influence was undoubtedly there; Kim had taken Picasso’s cubist shapes and warm tones and translated them into something entirely fresh and very now. (The bags are catnip for Instagram with their modern aesthetic and bright colours – throw in an affordable price point and you’ve got a winning combo.)
Danse Lente’s handbags also feel like more than a bag; they feel like tiny scuptures that are made to be worn. Last year I visited Atelier Brancusi in Paris and got to see the artist’s collection of work in its entirety. Dotted around the studio, the pieces collectively told the story of the artist. An organised chaos, each one had its place; Brancusi donated his life’s body of work on the one condition – that they would be displayed exactly as he left them when he died. My own little orange sculpture now holds court in a corner of my living room sitting on a vintage chair when I’m not wearing it, further emphasising this interlink between fashion, art and interiors and the ease with which they interweave. Which is why I thought it would be fitting to shoot these pictures in the National Gallery of Ireland.
I also revel in the therapeutic benefits of visiting a gallery. We shot these images on a Sunday morning. At times you would find yourself completely alone in a room with only the characters on the walls for company, and next thing a room would swarm with people. But it was this ebb and flow of the crowd that gave time for thought and reflection. The feeling that you can be entirely alone one minute and the next in a sea of people. The act of wandering around a gallery or museum for an hour is an underrated cure for anxiety and a racing mind, offering you time to get lost in something other than your own thoughts. I’m not the only one who feels this as The Guardian recently published a piece echoing my sentiments. And while you may take your phone out every now and then to snap a picture, it’s a great way to escape the screen and the fast pace of everyday life, if even just for a little while.
But back to the bag, admittedly it’s not the most versatile piece in my wardrobe but its uniqueness is what makes it special. For that same reason I chose the Phoebe bag in the terracotta colour instead of the ‘safer’ black version. Terracotta felt more authentic to the brand and makes more of an impact when paired with a neutral palette as shown in these images, and also looks strong when paired with all navy or black for a pop of colour. I won’t wear it every day, but when I do I’ll feel safe in the knowledge that I’ve got my very own little work of art on my arm.
Danse Lente is at Brown Thomas and www.danselente.com.
Photographs by Liadh Connolly.