Some artists make for better clothing collaborations than others. Uniqlo’s series of Sol Lewitt fashion, with the artist’s geometric diagrams and angular patterns covering up entire T-shirts, worked particularly well: Lewitt’s Minimalist formulas could cover any surface. But the same brand’s Basquiat collaboration — not to mention the strange Brooklyn Nets uniforms inspired by the artist — clash both in composition and concept. The artist’s work feels cheapened by its slapdash reproduction.
There’s no such problem with Josef Albers. The clothing company Vestige has launched a new line with the estate of Bauhaus artists Josef and Anni Albers, reproducing Josef’s work but also allowing wearers to remix his signature forms. Josef Albers is most famous for his “Homage to the Square” series that he began in 1950, with endless combinations of smaller squares inside larger squares of different colors. The works were about color theory as much as non-objective abstraction, exploring how hues vibrate against each other.
Vestige allows you to choose your own color composition for new Homage to the Square T-shirts, but it’s impossible to do better than the artist himself — maybe choose one of those. ARTnews asked Vestige’s founders Kyle Derleth and Mark DiMuzio about the origins of the project and how the manufacturing process resonates with Albers’s work.
How did the collaboration with the Albers Foundation come about? Were they immediately enthusiastic about it?
We’ve long been admirers of the work of Josef Albers. When we met Lucy Swift Weber, the director of licensing for the Albers’ foundation, we half jokingly said “We should do a collaboration!” It’s just one of those things you say when you’re excited that you don’t actually expect to happen, but Lucy was thrilled with the idea. Our style works so well with Albers’s aesthetic, and weaving it together feels like a natural merging of the contemporary and the classic.
Do Josef Albers’s ideas about color theory intersect with this concept of customizable t-shirts?
Albers’s classic composition was all about playing with color — how colors interact and make you feel when they’re next to each other in a space. Josef Albers was first a teacher and we believe a customizable “Homage to the Square” is a continuation of his desire to teach people about color and let them play in its sandbox.
How did the team design the interactive interface that allows buyers to choose their own colors?
Josef always painted from the center and worked his way out. His father taught him this technique to avoid getting paint on his shirt cuffs. Our customization walks you through the same sequence. Users start from the center square and work their way out to stay true to Josef’s art and teachings.
In addition, we worked closely with the foundation to curate color palettes based off of specific “Homage to the Square” works, such as Wide Light, Full, Day and Night and the SP series. Great care was taken to match the colors of Josef’s works digitally to produce precise colors.