Pier 17 on the Southside Seaport offers mesmerising views of downtown New York. To the north, the Brooklyn Bridge stretches over the East River like a concrete serpent; in the other direction, skyscrapers rise towards the heavens, indomitable columns of glass and steel. It would have made for an impressive backdrop, but, alas, on the morning Michael Kors was due to present his spring/ summer 2019 collection, fog hung over the city like an impenetrable blanket.
Maybe it was prophetic. Or precognition on the part of Kors. But inside a vast hall that doubled up as his runway, the designer had placed floor-to-ceiling installations featuring bold, colourful artworks by Christina Zimpel. Juxtaposed against the gloomy weather outside, they were a welcome feast for the eyes. “The world can be dark sometimes, so I wanted to transform Pier 17 into an escape where people could dream of sunny beaches and clear blue waters,” Kors offered.
An accomplished graphic designer and art director before she switched to painting full-time, Zimpel was given free rein to interpret Kors’ vision of a getaway. “I just took in what Michael was saying, the feeling of freedom and happiness he was trying to convey, and I tried to embody that in the drawings. We discussed colours, his favourite summer destinations, music, art and memories,” the Australian-born, Brooklyn-based artist explained.
Zimpel let her imagination take her places, and the results were paintings of technicolour dreamscapes that looked like they came straight out of a children’s storybook. She added: “I try to be very human. I love my drawings to be mysterious, even a little weird. I like emotion in the eyes. I don’t like a dead gaze or an overly pretty image.”
The collaboration extended beyond the murals that lined the show space—Kors saw the possibilities in Zimpel’s illustrations and splashed them across a series of tote bags. “That was very exciting and unexpected,” she said. For a collection of breezy cotton suits, sultry crochet dresses and graphic floppy hats that conjured up the irresistible allure of sunshine-filled days, Zimpel’s art lent an added sense of optimism, naivety and charm. Kors said: “The broad brushstrokes and pops of colour in Christina’s art make you smile, which is something we could all use right now.”
Clockwise from top: It was a riot of colours, textures and patterns backstage at the Michael Kors Collection show. Kors showed a range of bag designs that included totes decorated with Zimpel’s art. Bag, Michael Kors Collection. Zimpel’s artwork dominated the show space at New York’s Pier 17. Welcome summer in a fun and ﬂirty dress