The fourth collection from I AND ME found a home in the small desert city of Marfa, Texas. Hundreds of miles down an almost straight freeway through the Chihuahuan desert, the sleepy art hub made famous by Donald Judd and Prada thrives on a heady mix of local spirit and imported artistic influence. “It is an extremely beautiful place," says Creative Director Jessica Gebhart, "totally unlike anywhere I’ve ever been."
We spoke to Jessica about her love affair with the desert, the way she develops her stories, the artists who inspired Las Casas most, and how moving to a new house indirectly shaped the new collection.
Thomas Hawkins: Las Casas translates as Houses. Tell us more about the name.
Jessica Gebhart: I've always been obsessed with artists' studios. I find myself absorbed by the workings, almost as much as the work itself. The iconic pictures of Picasso in his vast studios surrounded by canvases, or the Frida Kahlo show at the V&A, the contents of her locked room - I’ve always loved that behind-the-scenes insight.
"Where things come from" was a key start point for the new collection: investigating the processes at play in studio settings and how clothing and art respond to and rely on one another. The relationship between studio space and domestic space and living within one’s work also had an Influence. The fusion of domestic settings and creative space, and ultimately, what clothes best suit these conversations are points of Interest for me.
Having a home studio is something that I’ve always wanted and we’re in the process of putting the finishing touches to our new home out in the sticks, which definitely played its part in the shaping of the story.
TH: Can you elaborate on this move? What impact did It have on your work?
JG: The process of moving house had a big effect on the development of the collection. The interplay between domestic and creative space has always fascinated me. Where we were before, space was at a premium, and removing ourselves from that and relocating to a place of simplicity felt like we were living out our explorations in real time. We've inherited space to think and create. I can both sit in my studio and reflect in my home. I live with my work but on my own terms. Our new home changes every day, it is a project in itself, it will probably be that way for the next ten years.
TH: You mention travel is key to the development of your Ideas. How did your travels inspire this collection, and what were you hunting for?
JG: A start point was an Apartmento magazine feature on Donald Judd’s two children, Flavin and Rainer. Tales of growing up with Judd in various places across Europe and North America, before settling in Texas, convinced me that I needed to travel to the desert. I was struck by the phrase “good things go with good things”. I returned to this throughout.
I went to New York to visit The Judd Foundation, Judd’s former home and studio in Soho. Aside from the beauty of the five floors, I was struck by the way he presented both his own work and the work of others with their very own "resting places:" designated and highly considered spots to sit and appreciate key pieces.
Judd needed huge spaces to work in, he was also a firm believer in artworks finding permanent homes. That requires huge accumulative space. The Spring Street space is spread across an entire apartment block, it expertly showcases the way Judd lived within his work, for example, in almost every room Judd installed a bed, in case he needed to take a nap when working on something. After that trip I turned my attentions to the desert because I wanted to see more of Judd’s empire.
TH: So you travelled to Marfa?
JG: I started in Santa Fe, I visited Georgia O’Keefe’s home studio in Abiquiú, which has become an institution. Her collections of rocks, skulls, objects, cacti, baskets, and incredible sculptures further fuelled the “good things go with good things" discussion. I also visited the Ghost Ranch set among some of the most iconic paintings from her New Mexico body of work. Good denim and the Wild Wild West are inseparable. There are countless iconic portraits of O’Keefe in the most incredible selvedge denim, on the back of a motorbike. She definitely inspired the collection as both an artist and style icon.
The desert is so inspiring, and Marfa is a living, breathing outpost of the feeling I was searching for. It is the perfect mix of old and new. Marfa was on my radar ever since I read Donald Judd’s essays on the place. I didn’t know quite how I was going to get from Santa Fe to Marfa, but I always knew I was going to end up there.
TH: I AND ME is seasonless and genderless. Tell us more about this approach.
JG: "Good things go with good things." This really feeds into what I am trying to achieve with I AND ME. The clothes are appropriate for all seasons, they are not defined by seasonal trends because they are functional, well made, they layer well and sit among a wardrobe as staples. The collections are predominantly key wardrobe staples complemented by statement pieces. The collections are standalone, but are designed to blur into one another, from the colour palettes to the silhouettes; my aim is to build individual collections that fit within a much bigger story.
TH: The desert being the last instalment?
JG: Exactly. Life is all about necessity out there; the desert is gripped by such extremes. You are so remote, and the elements are harsh: boiling sun in the daytime and freezing cold at night. What you need to live is far more obvious. Las Casas is a reflection of this simplistic approach. The sensitivities of studio space, the staple pieces that become hugely important are part of a creative process: deciding what works and why; reducing the distances between being and making; realising what you can’t live without and why. In short, Las Casas is a workwear collection. It is tactile, durable, reliable, but also light and breathable.
TH: And this comes back to "Fabric, Function and Form…"
JG: As always, the fabric choices were the base of the design process, which define the collection: "workwear" as a concept, and letting It shine through in its most simplistic functional form. This was the aim, both aesthetically and functionally.
The new Japanese selvedge wide leg shape is the key jeans staple in Las Casas. With a mid-rise and loose-leg, it is the perfect shape for the changing seasons. Raw, breathable Italian selvedge linen mix fabrications in loose silhouettes allow for movement and in time it will wear down into softer versions with unique fades. Layering pieces are a great way to tackle the ever-changing elements and as always, they are designed to work across all collections.
The "worker" inspired pieces are up-specked with styling details built for function. The ‘sun bleached’ indigo colour pays homage to the relentless heat of the desert. The beautiful, unique violet indigo fabric and the soft, battered and worn feel add to the story the garment.
I love the idea that pieces get better with age. The fabrics running through Las Casas were all selected with an eye on precisely that. This reflects back to the brand's mantra: "Buy Less, Buy Better."
Words: Thomas Hawkins
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu
Cover Image: Mildred Cheng