Jean Prouvé plus G-Star? The coupling at first seems an unlikely one, and not just because it is partially posthumous. But the fashion forward Dutch company, best known for its high-end jeans, counts the self-taught French architect and designer (1901-1984) among its inspirations. Two years ago G-Star called Vitra, who has owned the manufacturing rights to Prouvé’s furniture since 2001, and asked if the designer could come out to play. The result is Prouvé RAW, the latest edition in G-Star’s Crossover Series, design experiments that pair G-Star with designers outside the field of fashion. Prouvé classics like the 1951 Direction Office Armchair No. 352 (above) are reimagined as formal replicas in contemporary materials.
The collection was first unveiled on June 15 at Art Basel but makes its New York debut today, marking the start of a two-week preview (and pre-purchase) period before the line officially goes on sale in October. The launch was timed to coincide with the tail end of New York’s Fashion Week, with the idea that denizens of the runways might also be lured by a different kind of G-Star model, now posing in Vitra’s Meatpacking showroom.
From the full collection of seventeen pieces, including chairs, tables, lamps, screens, and storage furniture, only the nine now on view at Vitra will be available for purchase.
Amelie Znidaric, a curator at the Vitra Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, said that, ultimately, the new collaboration is a fitting one. “Both Prouvé’s furniture and G-Star jeans are in essence very industrial and in that sense rough, but each of their final products is actually very refined and elegant. That shared sensibility is why the two go well together. G-Star didn’t impose crazy fashion design ideas onto an already perfect piece. They chose neutral colors, like brown and beige, and materials that only enhanced the Prouvé.”
A few notable before and afters: the sheet metal tractor-style seat of the Tabouret No. 307 stool gets a smooth red or white plastic seat in the new edition; the lacquered metal table top of Table S.A.M. Tropique becomes stainless steel; the leather upholstery of the Direction Office Armchair No. 352 is translated into charcoal cotton twill giving it a more practical appeal and, in today’s market, price: the new chair will retail for $3,600, while the 1951 original has recently sold at auction for $80,000.
As with any re-edition, the patina of the classic version has been replaced with a shiny newness that can be disarming. But Catherine Prouvé, the designer’s daughter and manager of his estate, gave Vitra the go-ahead to work with G-Star, and in a short film about the project produced by Vitra, comments that her father would have enjoyed the opportunity to revisit his designs with fresh eyes. Indeed, the designer’s dedication to the idea of durability and portability in furniture, which also extended to his architecture, somehow jibes with the go-everywhere role of jeans in contemporary culture.
Joris Aperghis, G-Star’s chief marketing officer who was in New York for the launch, said that the goal of G-Stars collaborations–others have included Range Rover and Cannondale bicycles–was to bring “high-end, luxury quality items to a mass audience.” When luxury goes mass, how does it retain cachet? Limited availability. The Prouvé RAW collection is only on offer through November 2012.