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Guests of Design Miami/ can see one-of-a-kind design pieces from the collaboration, like furniture reupholstered in fabrics from a 1980s Fendi beach bag; a Karl Lagerfeld-inspired chair collaged in archival imagery from the house, taken from vintage books and magazines; a yellow rattan peacock chair, refinished in yellow acrylic paint and plaster; and a selection of Peekaboo bags reimagined with a distorted Zucca monogram print. For the collaboration, Coleman also reinterpreted the house’s iconic FF and Pequin logos for a new design with the FaceTune app, which now wraps the exterior of the brand’s Miami Design District boutique.
Whitewall spoke with the artist to hear how she embraces unconventional design, and how she went from repurposing diapers into hats to working with Fendi.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us a bit about your collaboration with Fendi for its Miami Design District boutique and its Design Miami/ presentation?
SARAH COLEMAN: The pieces I made for Miami were made during a process of exploration for me. The only instruction I was really given from Fendi was “be disruptive,” but it was kind of hard to figure out exactly what that meant to me. In the end, it meant creating freely and without fear—to have times of planning and sketching and brainstorming, but more importantly, times of free experimentation where I could let my process play out without worrying what it would turn into.
The thought of reinterpreting so many icons of the Fendi house was intimidating to me because I’ve always been such a fan. But working with Silvia and her team, and seeing how open they are to breaking the mold and trying new things, encouraged me that my ideas would be accepted without judgment. I even pitched a live poodle grooming window display with FFs shaved into dog fur. Still shocked they didn’t go in that direction… Next time ;)
WW: We've seen your career skyrocket with the rise of social media. How has this tool impacted your creativity and this collaboration in specific, as you were approached by the house on Instagram?
SC: I found a community of supporters on social media that have engaged with me in such an inspiring and loving way. Especially in a time when we are so disconnected in society, it’s always refreshing to receive an uplifting message about how someone has been inspired by my work in their own, or someone congratulating me and expressing how they’ve watched me from the beginning on social media. I’ve experienced all of the negative aspects of social media, but the positive definitely outweighs the negative for me.
When Silvia reposted my Fendi chairs, I couldn’t believe it. She is a fashion hero to me, and it meant so much to have her vote of confidence in my work. The collaboration was born from there via DM, and most of our planning meetings took place over video conferencing. I’m so thankful that all of these virtual platforms exist to help everyone connect, even when times are difficult, and also for the inspiration it gives me to create in new ways and new spaces.
WW: You were given access to archival elements from the house. Which were used? How did this aid in your creative process of mixing old and new details?
SC: I’m so in love with Fendi and have been looking through their history in my own ways for such a long time, so going through their archives felt like saying “hi” to so many old friends. These memorable moments in Fendi history, especially the drama of the ‘80s, and the way the ‘70s were recalled through the lens of the ‘90s and early ‘00s were very inspiring to me.
Karl Lagerfeld’s process in general—the sketching and the collaging—sparked something in me. Even though he is undoubtedly a genius, his unpretentious nature of creation made his work more accessible to me and inspired a collage chair made of vintage books and magazine pages, printed over with Fendi prints and images from the archive.
WW: How have your past roles—like working with Peter Marino and as the art director of the Mercer Hotel—shaped your creative voice?
SC: Working in interiors made me understand spaces differently, especially how they look on paper. This was a big part of planning the Fendi Miami space, made even more important by the way the pandemic made it impossible to visit the space itself.
Peter is a master of taking brand icons and interpreting them subtly into a space, so perhaps it doesn’t shout the brand’s name at you, but you feel the history and identity of the fashion house you’ve just entered. I learned a lot from that, but as you can probably tell from my designs, I’m not much for subtlety and I’m not afraid of being loud—visually, I mean.
WW: When did you first discover your DIY spirit?
SC: In diapers. My first “repurposing project” was making diapers into hats. Not sure it’s great for the Instagram era though.
I always see objects as very transformative in use; I don’t always use objects the way that one is supposed to. I like the idea of having a purse that can be used as a pillow, if you need. If you get rid of the boxes and meanings society has placed so rigidly upon objects, anything can be repurposed into anything. Some people are afraid of being laughed at for using an object in a way that is considered wrong, but I prefer to embrace the laughter and forget about the word “wrong.”
WW: What are you working on next?
SC: I love working with brands. Working with Fendi in the luxury fashion sector has been incredible, but that’s not the only thing that inspires me. I’d love to work with any kind of brand—from a cereal brand to a furniture line or a toy company.