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The John Edwards Lecture: Peter Marino in Conversation with Marc Jacobs

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This year’s John Edwards Lecture held in Tate Modern’s Starr Auditorium, presented a dialogue with leading Architect Peter Marino. The lecture, the Architectural Foundation’s noteworthy annual event, aims to create a conversation between a leading architect and an influential figure from a different creative industry, opening up a discussion on how the two disciplines interact and “connecting architecture with other discourses to extend the dialogue around what architecture is, and can be.” This year, fashion designer Marc Jacobs was invited by Marino to join him in conversation.

The duo worked alongside one another throughout Jacobs’ reign as Creative Director of Louis Vuitton from 1997-2013, when he launched the brand’s now thriving ready-to-wear label and during which time Marino was regularly commissioned to design commercial spaces for the LVMH brand and other influential fashion houses. The conversation strove to investigate how these two art forms intertwine. Penny Martin, editor-in-chief of The Gentlewoman magazine, chaired the discussion impartially and informatively.

Courtesy of Guillermo Sola

Marino took to the podium to reflect on his architectural career clad in leather bondage gear – a badge of his success – now able to unrestrictedly express his own identity. The architect hinted at earlier years spent hidden behind a suited tweed mask. Self-aware, witty and dry, Marino described his residential work as catering for a select crowd, that of “Swiss bankers and Dutch Hedgefund Operators,” and discussed his move to commercial properties.

Marino was revealed as a supporter of the fashion world, not merely designing the buildings of Old Bond Street but, within that, directly referencing the creations of the designers: “I believe fashion designers are the antenna to the zeitgeist,” he asserted, and architects follow in their wake. Marino revealed how the weave of the classic monochrome Chanel jacket was referenced through latticing on the façade of his buildings and how the Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle could be seen injected elsewhere in his work for the brand. He doesn’t create buildings for these companies; he houses their very inspirations.

Courtesy of Guillermo Sola

Marc Jacobs, conversely, gains his inspiration from low culture. Taking the audience on a journey through his past, he spoke of his penchant for grunge music in the nineties and his desire to elevate the banal, the commonplace to a position of high art in a Duchampian merging of genres. He spoke of his collaborations with artists including Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami, and Richard Prince. It is difficult to remember a time when it would have been considered sacrilege to graffiti a Louis Vuitton Speedy Bag, as Jacobs created such an iconic piece, but he equated it to Duchamp drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa and it was indeed an apt (if not modest) comparison.

Both men spoke of their distaste for the display of fashion or architecture in museums, Marino pontificating that buildings were to be experienced from all angles as opposed to static on a gallery wall. Jacobs, similarly, believes fashion should be “left in the gutter or on the dance floor or at the foot of the bed, taken off for some guy.” These are living, moving pieces of art and they should be experienced that way. The inspiration both men gained from the art world was undeniable, both regularly visiting galleries and collecting art wherever possible – notably Cindy Shermans and Damien Hirsts – and referencing their style in their creations.

Courtesy of Guillermo Sola

The discussion was intended to explore how fashion and architecture interlink but much was left unanswered. Marino’s honest statement that “as high end fashion companies have been championing good architecture in recent years [his] career has risen in tandem with the bar of luxury corporations,” revealed a dependence on his part on the fashion industry but it didn’t appear to be a mutual dependence.

There’s no denying the close bond between the two artists, who interacted animatedly and recalled witty anecdotes from their early careers, but the overall effect presented a reunion rather than a discourse on the interaction of fashion and architecture. What was, in fact, most fascinating about the dialogue, was having the opportunity to listen to two leading contemporary creatives – hearing their fears (Jacobs’ nervousness about venturing out to focus solely on his eponymous brand) and gaining a tiny glimpse into the workings of their ingenuity.  The most humbling comment came form Jacobs who candidly stated: “We don’t need fashion, we don’t need beautiful, expensive buildings but without them, the world would be unliveable.”

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Kelly Wearstler

THE WINTER EXPERIENCE ISSUE
2023

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Go inside the worlds
of Art, Fashion, Design,
and Lifestyle.