Repossi’s Tribute to Robert Mapplethorpe
About a decade ago, Gaia Repossi, the creative director of her family’s namesake fine jewelry label, purchased a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of a palm tree swaying in the wind, its sharp black fronds caught against a blank sky. She felt the cool, elegant image shared the same aesthetic with her own minimalist-leaning work, and found herself turning to Mapplethorpe’s pictures — particularly to his self-portraits and his architectural still lifes of flora — more and more. “It’s not cute. It’s very sharp, very serious,” the designer, 33, says of the artist’s body of work. Then, in 2016, came the opportunity to collaborate with his estate. The result — a 24-piece tribute collection comprising necklaces, pendants, bracelets and rings — will launch later this year, three decades after the photographer’s death in 1989.
The design process began when the Paris-based Repossi delved into Mapplethorpe’s archives at both the Getty in Los Angeles and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in New York and uncovered a side of the artist she hadn’t previously known. In his early 20s, while living in the Chelsea Hotel, Mapplethorpe supported himself by selling talismanic jewelry he made from scavenged ephemera — dice, nails, feathers, coins, empty crab claws swiped from restaurants. Enchanted, Repossi, who holds a master’s degree in archaeology, sifted through the copious remnants of his jewelry (around 25 pieces, along with hundreds of additional fragments, remain), as well as Polaroids of a young Mapplethorpe and his friends modeling his wares, making sketches as she went.
Some of Mapplethorpe’s creations, like a chain made from horseshoe nails, aligned with Repossi’s penchant for abstract, recurring shapes. To recreate it, she cast nails in white and dark gray gold, looping them into stacked, graceful rings, some with pavé diamonds. A chain-link and cord necklace threaded with red and black ribbon, meanwhile, was rendered as a multilayered choker featuring dark red gold as well as steel, a new material for the brand. Other finds — namely necklaces strung with crab claws, shells, animal figurines and skulls — were a welcome challenge. Repossi ended up commissioning a maître d’art to carve molds of some of these figurative elements in wax, which were then cast into steel pendants and, in some cases, coated in bright colors like magenta and bottle green.
Like Mapplethorpe, Repossi is eager to upend convention — for one piece, she raided the jewelry house’s collection of vintage pearls, purchased in previous decades by her father, and paired them with beads of black gold, quartz and steel — and she isn’t shy about enlisting friends. To shoot the digital and social media campaign for the collection, she hired Juergen Teller to take 1970s-style Polaroids of Mapplethorpe’s circle (Cindy Sherman, the model and artist David Croland) and fans (Virgil Abloh, the curator Flavin Judd) wearing pieces from the collection, which, in addition to an ongoing exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York and a recent biopic by Ondi Timoner, is the latest evidence of a Mapplethorpe renaissance.
On the other hand, “Mapplethorpe mania,” as the New York Times critic Andy Grundberg put it in 1988, has never quite waned. “He’s an artist that spans centuries,” says Michael Ward Stout, the president of the Mapplethorpe Foundation and the artist’s lawyer during his lifetime, citing recent exhibitions that placed Mapplethorpe alongside Michelangelo and Caravaggio. Early in Timoner’s film, Patti Smith, played by Marianne Rendón, asks the photographer, “What will become of the world when no trace of you remains?” “I think there’ll be some traces,” he replies. For Repossi, helping to uphold Mapplethorpe’s legacy gives her work a deeper meaning. “Then the design has its own narrative,” she says. “It becomes more than just a simple object.” — MEARA SHARMA
Taiwan’s Spring Fever
Entire Japanese towns have been built around onsen, or hot springs, and springside ryokans have drawn visitors since at least the 17th century, when they served weary samurai and traders traveling along the Tokaido highway. Taiwan didn’t see its first hot-spring inn until some 200 years later, and only recently have developers there taken a real interest in the state’s vast network of mineral-rich waters. This summer, the Japan-based hotel company Hoshino Resorts will open the 50-room Hoshinoya Guguan in Taiwan’s Guguan valley, a lush expanse on the edge of the industrial city of Taichung, 100 miles south of Taipei. “I wanted to recreate the traditional ryokan outside of Japan,” says Yoshiharu Hoshino, the company’s C.E.O., but in fact the property is a melding of the two cultures — in addition to tatami floors and a restaurant serving kaiseki-style meals, there are textiles by an Atayal weaving artist and, in the gardens, paper sky lanterns that mimic those that hang in Taipei’s night markets. The main appeal, of course, is the water, which flows down from Xueshan, or Snow Mountain, Taiwan’s second-highest peak, and into granite soaking tubs in each room. The hotel’s zigzagging structure, meanwhile, is meant, the architect Rie Azuma says, to “make you feel as though you’re walking through an alley in a small Taiwanese village” — one surrounded by springs and trails, a bamboo forest and mountains in the distance. — LANE NIESET
Fashions From Pepperland
Last summer, at a small theater in Covent Garden, the designer Stella McCartney joined the rest of the extended Beatles family for a 50th-anniversary screening of “Yellow Submarine” (1968), the trippy animated film inspired by the band. McCartney, daughter of Paul, was born three years after the initial release and had only seen it once before, as a child. This time, though, was different. “The colors were incredible: the liquid watercolors, the handmade cels,” she says. “It’s just a menagerie of madness.” The film’s anthem, “All Together Now,” was also newly striking. “As a woman, as a mother, as someone who considers herself an activist, it felt very relevant,” says McCartney, who decided that same night to respond to the work with some of her own.
McCartney’s All Together Now fashion collection translates the freewheeling, bolstering energy of “Yellow Submarine” to printed silks, checked tweed and embroidered denim clothing for women, men and children. Among the 85-piece collection is a flowing tunic patterned with sparkling figures from the “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” sequence and a faux fur coat in a kaleidoscopic swirl of red, purple and blue. That this is McCartney’s first professional comment on her father’s legacy is not an accident. “I’ve felt for so long like I’ve had to prove myself,” she says. “For me to do this and not have it seem like a crutch — I think it shows a level of confidence. And it felt like therapy.” — MERRELL HAMBLETON
Tasked with creating an installation for T’s fete at last month’s Salone del Mobile fair in Milan, Alessandra Covini and Giovanni Bellotti — the partners behind the Rotterdam-based Studio Ossidiana — started experimenting with geometric piñatas. Papier-mâché pendants might seem a surprising choice for an avant-garde design and architecture firm, but Studio Ossidiana has a knack for imbuing spaces with a sense of whimsy. For another recent project, it constructed a 20-foot-long, 1-foot-high imaginary cityscape complete with pastel-colored gypsum structures and a miniature mountain cast in soil. That display, for which Covini was awarded the prestigious Prix de Rome prize, was on view at the event inside the Villa Necchi Campiglio, the grand 1930s-era Rationalist-style home designed by Piero Portaluppi, while outside, the duo assembled an open-air steel-and-wood pavilion lined with beds of snapdragons, forsythia, thistles and daisies. The idea was for guests to pick their favorites — and leave with handfuls of blooms. — ROSALIND PARRY
A Diamond Brooch With Wings
Van Cleef & Arpels opened its first store, on Paris’s Place Vendôme, in 1906, joining a clutch of high jewelry stores that included Boucheron, Chaumet and the nearby Cartier. From the start, the French-born Alfred Van Cleef and his wife, Estelle Arpels, ventured beyond the belle epoque style of diamond-encrusted platinum filigree and into the brightly colored kingdom of flora and fauna. Their bird brooch became a trademark, culminating in a storied 1972 custom piece for a client who was a new mother: The bejeweled creature carried in its beak a 69-carat yellow briolette diamond, like a stork delivering a baby. These days, Van Cleef’s whimsical aviary feels newly relevant: Who among us doesn’t dream of grabbing the valuables and winging away? Recently, the company continued its tradition with this scarlet sunbird alighting on a flowering branch. The brooch is crafted from nearly 1,000 stones, more than 20 carats in total, including rubies, pink sapphires and black spinels. At the bottom, a pear-shaped diamond dangles, as delicate and transfixing as a drop of early morning dew. Price on request, vancleefarpels.com. — NANCY HASS
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