I have become a perpendicular fiend lately. The spirit leveller is my new best friend and I am constantly cursing the wonky walls of my newfound house for not co-operating with this 90 degree angled fixation. That said, my obsession with straight lines doesn’t even touch that of French artist Jean Pierre Raynaud, who is most famous for his investigation of space at La Maison in La Celle-Saint-Cloud in Paris. In 1969, he began to build this house, with an interior composed almost entirely of 15 x 15cm white tiles, evenly spaced out with 5mm black grout joints and so began twenty five years of fastidious study of space. The house was open to the public in 1974 but then as the artist entered into self-imposed “wilderness”, he closed it in 1988 and subsequently demolished it in 1993. The fragments of which, have since been exhibited in various installations in a strangely poetic continuation of La Maison’s lifespan.
Their continuity in the context of Raynaud’s work isn’t their only re-appearance though. Even if the name isn’t familiar, the distinct black grid lines in white space are more than recognisable. See Balmain‘s latest S/S 14 campaign starring Rihanna, shot in New York by Inez and Vinoodh. I was more struck by the contrast of the strictly linear background with the excess of Olivier Rousteing’s fabu-bling collection, than the subject of the campaign. For Rousteing though, perhaps it was a background device to ensure no attention is taken away from his superstar: “Rihanna embodies my vision of Balmain in this new campaign. In front of the camera, she makes you feel like she is the only girl in the world.”
Of course Raynaud’s lines have popped up in fashion before, most notably in Balenciaga’s F/W 11 campaign and on the floor of the runway, where Nicolas Ghesquière zoomed in on proportions of spongey black cable knits and exotic florals, which again acted as a contrast against those perfectly proportioned and evenly spaced lines. Better still that the Raynaud-inspired white tiles played off against the gothic curves of a church in Harlem.
Perhaps the biggest homage to Raynaud’s La Maison in fashion is French knitwear duo Piece d’Anarchive‘s S/S 14 collection. In fact sisters Deborah and Priscilla Royer went one better and managed to score a collaboration with Raynaud for their S/S 14 presentation at the Palais de Tokyo back in September. Against the backdrop of a composite video lookbook, Raynaud worked with the duo to install his arrangement of steel containers, filled with original fragments of his white tiled house. Piece d’Anarchive were lucky enough to learn about his creative process and whilst the pure surface of his work permeates their collection, it is also his rigorous obsession to detail that influences the way they create their beautiful knitwear.
This collection entitled “Chapter 05” represents something of a shift for Piece d’Anarchive as they begin to explore a younger and for want of a better word, more “street” inspired style. They avoid hackneyed cliches though because Deborah and Priscilla are so dedicated to technical perfection in their knitwear. Styling devices like baseball caps, platformed Nikes/Converses (yes, I want them OBVS!) and logo-ed elastic suspenders don’t distract you from the precise machine knitted grids in yarns that along with other new generation knittists like Brooke Roberts and Lucas Nascimento, take knitwear to another level.