LONDON – Daniel Arsham has become an art celebrity with a concept he calls “fictional archeology,” using materials such as sand, selenite crystals and volcanic ash to make objects from the recent past into eroded relics from a lost civilization. Populating his postmodern Pompeii are icons of pop and consumer culture – from Ninetendo’s Game Boy to Pokémon characters to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’s Ferrari – reformulated as timeless artifacts.
The approach helped make Arsham the go-to fashion artist. For the past five years, the multidisciplinary creator – whose work spans art, architecture, design, film and performance – has collaborated with the likes of Dior, Tiffany, Rimowa, Adidas and Uniqlo, often lending their products the gravity of geological time. , as well as limited edition buzz.
Now, Arsham is launching its own fashion brand, Objects IV Life. Its debut launch, a collection of unisex workwear, will land today at Kith’s Paris flagship and online. The clothes reflect Arsham’s personal style. “Things I’d wear in the studio,” she said. “I designed them for myself.”
Fashion labels regularly line up with artists to elevate their brands. But Arsham’s projects stand out for the way they perfectly combine the credibility of the art world and mass appeal.
Arsham, born in Cleveland and raised in Miami before moving to New York, is often compared to Virgil Abloh. His work is both high-concept and deliberately accessible. He is sold by the streetwear store Kith and the blue-chip gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin. “Art is for everyone,” Arsham said. “I’m trying to create a diverse range of price points.”
Artist and entrepreneur in equal parts, Arsham is a marketing expert. He is friends with celebrities like Jay-Z and Pharrell and plays well on Instagram, where he has attracted 1.2 million followers, making him one of the most popular artists on the platform. In 2020 he became the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first ever creative director.
“Tradition and modernity are things we try to marry and Daniel helps us to do so,” said Alexandre Arnault, scion of LVMH, who commissioned Arsham to create Rimowa suitcases and Tiffany boxes in his unmistakable style. “Plus, it’s very powerful on social media and being a part of this conversation has been successful for us. He helped us reach a new customer base. “
The new brand is a joint venture with London-based brand accelerator Tomorrow, providing investment and access to shared services, from manufacturing to distribution, to a stable of emerging labels, including Martine Rose, Charles Jeffrey’s Loverboy, Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer’s A-Cold-Wall by Coperni and Samuel Ross.
It was Ross who first introduced Tomorrow’s CEO Stefano Martinetto to Arsham. Martinetto was looking for new perspectives to broaden his portfolio and saw an opportunity to harness Arsham’s vision and reach the power of a new brand, informed by the artist’s wardrobe, the reduced palette of neutrals and pastels of his sculptures ( Arsham is, in fact, color blind) and the potential use of deadstock materials.
Arsham wasn’t a stylist, but Tomorrow’s contestants had seen success supporting non-traditional creative directors. New Guards Group’s most famous designer, Virgil Abloh, started out as a fashion outsider. The group also launched a line with DJ Peggy Gou. Meanwhile, Comme des Garçons has collaborated with the likes of Gosha Rubchinskiy and Honey Dijon.
At the end of 2019, Arsham and Martinetto formed a joint venture (Arsham owns the intellectual property) and began building a small but skilled team that includes Julie Gilhart, Tomorrow’s chief development officer, Matthew Grant, former design director of Acne Studios and Judy Collinson, former Burberry chief merchandising officer.
The first “chapter” of the brand is classic without being boring. The collection includes functional jackets, jeans, t-shirts and hoodies. There is also a practical boot, a cap, a canvas tote bag and a key ring. Everything is manufactured in Portugal, New York and Los Angeles, with custom hardware sourced from Italy. The denim and the bag are made with deadstock. Prices range from € 180 for a graphic T-shirt to € 850 for a utility jacket.
Distribution is evenly split between direct-to-consumer and a handful of retail partners, including Selfridges, Ssense and Kith. The drops will be anchored to real-world seasons, as well as artistic events. The team has already developed a second and third “chapter” inspired by hiking.
“The opportunity is huge,” said Martinetto. “The audience is really large, from serious collectors to children.” Martinetto believes the label can scale up to compete with cult designer brands such as Jacquemus, Dries Van Noten and Ami. “This isn’t a hype project,” he said.