Francesca DiMattio and Tory Burch on their shared passion for porcelain
With the Spring/Summer 2021 fashion season currently underway in New York (albeit virtually for the most part), amongst the city’s more high profile labels who have decided not to stage a fashion show under the present conditions is Tory Burch.
‘Even before the pandemic, I had decided not to have a show in the traditional sense of it. We were [going to open] a store on Mercer Street and I thought it would be interesting to have an all-day thing, where people would stop by and see things in a personal way,’ recalls Burch. ‘As the pandemic developed, I wanted to be respectful to the world and not show. For us, I just felt that was the right thing to do.’
Instead, Burch is celebrating her collaboration with the New York-based ceramic artist Francesca diMattio for the label’s Fall/Winter 2020 collection, which launches this month. The two first met back in 2012, when Burch, an avid ceramics collector, bought one of diMattio’s first sculptural pieces, created shortly after the artist had moved away from painting to create sculptural work.
‘We have a mutual friend, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, who owns the gallery Salon94 [that represents Francesca],’ shares Burch. ‘I loved Francesca’s take on the idea of something traditional, [which she] then certainly puts her own spin on it. The subject matters aren’t always easy. They confront this idea of femininity and what it means to be feminine. Our whole company’s foundation is about supporting women and so I really liked that [aspect] of Francesca and her work.’
‘I’ve showed with [Salon94] since 2006, but I predominantly showed paintings until that 2012 show,’ adds diMattio, ‘Tory actually bought the first piece - a tiny little vase in that show, but it was the first sculptural piece during that transitional time that I sold. So that was always memorable to me as it was also on the night of the opening.’
Since those early encounters, Burch and diMattio have toyed with the idea of collaborating. Burch says, ‘We had first talked about it almost seven years ago, and in fact, Francesca worked on a print for our foundation. I’ve always been drawn to Francesca’s use of colour and the way she shapes different ideas, whether it’s masculine/feminine, old/new, high/low.’
DiMattio agrees. ‘There is a lot of confrontation of opposites, whether it be opposing sexes, opposing cultures in terms of reverence or kitsch things. Through the making of [the piece], I try and build these perverse objects that fuse these [together] so that while in the beginning [despite] feeling so different, in the completion of the piece, they are inseparable. This can either be through certain formal relationships or something as simple as colour sometimes. A play of colour can unite two different elements that began with very little in common.’
For the collection, diMattio created a selection of prints that are featured throughout. The boisterous, gestural prints, which often reference one of the artist’s sculptures, range from fluid florals to abstractive interpretations on Sèvres porcelain.
‘[I started] looking at traditional French porcelain; these very tightly rendered floral patterns with gilded edges, almost like little vignettes, and I repainted them until my hand could almost do them from memory,’ she shares. ‘They became looser and looser and in doing so, the colour and everything became quicker and it had a tougher hand to it. Instead of having this clean, careful, sweet touch that you would find, it’s a bit more bold, tough and empowered, which speaks more to the kind of woman that I identify with myself.’
Applied onto pieces as varied as knitwear, handbags, sandals, fluid silk dresses and knife-pleated skirts – one of diMattio’s favourite pieces, the result is a reinvigorated portrait of sophistication and femininity, that certainly makes no apologies.
In taking on the responsibility of translating diMattio’s work into garments, Burch and her team sought to reinforce those feelings of strength and courage in the collection. ‘We worked on the ideas of proportion and scale, how things translate on the actual fabric,’ Burch reflects. ‘Some of [Francesca’s] sculptures are really extraordinary – some parts look like a hand-woven sweater and when you get closer, you realize it’s just textured porcelain. To interpret that without being so literal and have that be part of the design and drape, it was really interesting.’
Burch and her team did multiple rounds of trials for each garment to ensure that each design was just right. From assessing the colours and finishes of the actual prints, fine-tuning their proportions and then finding the best fabric or combination of fabrics that would complement them as well, the goal was to imbue each piece with as much of the spirit of diMattio’s original sculptures as possible.
‘I really believe that people still want to experience joy, optimism and want to celebrate. In a way, whatever you can celebrate is so much more meaningful because we now see what it means not to be able to do things,’ Burch concludes. ‘People are investing in pieces. They’re probably buying less, but they’re going to buy pieces that they’ll wear and wear and wear again. These prints are joyful, when you see them and when you wear them.’ §