Calvin Klein’s hayrolling display of quilted Cassina Feltri armchairs at Design Miami/ Basel
This year, a change of structure at Design Miami/ Basel allowed visitors to navigate from the fair to Unlimited, Art Basel’s exhibition displaying large-scale artworks. Marking this structural change and connecting the two shows was one of this edition’s most special projects, serving as a gateway between art and design, celebrating both.
Calvin Klein made its Design Miami debut with the project, titled ‘An Expansive International Landscape’, featuring a combination of design, culture and craftsmanship curated by chief creative officer Raf Simons. For his installation, Simons focused on Feltri, an armchair created by Italian designer Gaetano Pesce for Cassina in 1987 as an ironic take on a royal throne.
The chair’s shape features a thin wool-felt structure, created using a special technique that allows the base (infused with thermosetting resin) to be structurally firm, while the top is soft and enveloping, two flaps of the material sticking out into a now-renowned shape. Simons made great use of the chair’s fluid and soft structure, combining it with a series of one-of-a-kind American heirloom quilts that date to the 19th and 20th centuries, that create what he calls a ‘cultural correspondence’: an eclectic icon of contemporary design meets an emblem of American craft and culture.
Since joining Calvin Klein in 2015, Simons has been on a mission to explore the different guises of the quintessential American spirit. His collection’s have made reference to tropes of US culture, like Hollywood startlets, cartoon characters, masculine heroes and prairie maidens. Quilts have featured predominantly, being used as linings on parkas; carried by models on the catwalk; their graphic motifs replicated on shirts and flowing dresses.
The 50 pieces are shown in a vast open space, the chairs scattered across a purple carpet anchored by a large-scale barn, concepted by Simons for the CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC A/W 2018 runway show, and reconstructed from reclaimed 19th-century wood. Large-scale images of artwork by Andy Warhol feature prominently on the barn’s walls, part of the brand’s ongoing collaboration with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The multi-faceted project is evidence of Simons’ ability to merge cultural references and aesthetics, and a perfect fit for Design Miami/Basel: so much so, that all 50 chairs were snapped up on day one. §