Fred Tomaselli is no fashionista. “I’m the kind of guy who just goes to the Gap,” says the New York artist. “I know what size I am. I grab a T-shirt and pair of pants, buy them, and leave.” Despite his utilitarian personal style, Tomaselli’s kaleidoscopic paintings and collages have moved to the runway, reimagined as the intricately printed silk dresses, cashmere sweaters, and gold-flecked high-top sneakers that make up this year’s autumn/winter collection from Mother of Pearl.
The fashion label is the creation of Maia Norman, a California native who studied jewelry design in Paris before settling in London with her husband, Damien Hirst. A skilled surfer, Norman started Mother of Pearl with an eye to beachwear. In 2009, she relaunched the line, finding a more glamorous niche in printed fabrics made with artists Mat Collishaw and Walton Ford. Seasonal collaborations with Carsten Höller, Jim Lambie, Keith Tyson, and Fiona Banner followed.
“What’s so great about working with the artists is the ability to cherry-pick from such great work, to get inside their ideas and vision but at the same time to create something completely new from it,” says Amy Powney, design director for Mother of Pearl.
Tomaselli gave the fashion house “a pretty free hand” to isolate details from his works and even to adjust the backgrounds. “They were inventive with it,” he says of the designers’ witty transformation of Gravity’s Rainbow—his 1999 photocollage of leaves, pills, and flowers — into printed necklaces on a dress of black silk. “I’m a collagist, and I repurpose existing imagery that’s out in the world,” he adds. “I felt like I wanted to throw my work back into that kind of process and let other people remix it and see what they would do with it.”
Next up for Mother of Pearl is a resort-wear collection with Gary Hume. Norman’s wish list for future artist collabo- rators includes Gabriel Orozco, Ed Ruscha, Wangechi Mutu, and even conceptual sculptor Tom Friedman. Would she consider tapping Hirst for a future collection? Indeed, she says. “I’m waiting for just the right time.”