Written by JARED FLINT
Photography by MAX FARAGO
When James Brown, dripping with glandular masculinity, crooned his ode to chauvinism, “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”, the Godfather of Soul was most certainly not speaking about fashion. For just about all of recorded history fashion has been quite strictly a woman’s world. There are a few exceptions, storied French fashion house Hermès being one. While luxuriantly printed silk scarves and Birkin bags may immediately come to mind, Thierry Hermès set up shop in 1837 for the sole reason of making harnesses and saddles. One hundred and seventy six years later Hermès can stake a claim to the world of the Y chromosome far beyond equine restraints.
Enter artist Leandro Erlich. The Argentinian-born Erlich has made his mark by creating spaces that are just ever so elegantly… off. Think Saul Bass’ Vertigo credits reimagined by René Magritte. Erlich recently garnered praise stateside for his The Swimming Pool at New York’s P.S. 1 – an illusory piece he original showed at the 2001 Venice Biennale that created an underwater world that wasn’t underwater at all.
“I definitely found a relation with Hermès,” recalls Erlich. “I find Hermès subtle, humorous, clever, classic, innovative and unexpected.”
As an artist, Erlich exploits scenes of discomfort or potential danger in the quotidian or boring. Stuck elevators, reflections of non-existent people, and two-way peep holes all conjure up feelings of claustrophobia with a bit of paranoia. Yet, Erlich doesn’t describe these as surreal, saying, “My work deals with perception, with illusion, yet it is not surreal. I aim to create a narrative of fiction that hopefully increases our awareness.”
When Hermès men’s artistic director Veronique Nichanian wanted to build an exhibition for the brand, she wanted a sense of permanence.
After being mesmerized by Erlich’s The Swimming Pool, Nichanian knew she found her man. “I definitely found a relation with Hermès,” recalls Erlich. “I find Hermès subtle, humorous, clever, classic, innovative and unexpected.”
With only three months to prepare, Nichanian and Erlich turned Miami’s Moore building, nestled in the burgeoning Design District, into a world of elegiac French menswear. “The development of a project takes between six to eight months,” says Erlich. “Working on this cramped timeframe produced a result full of freshness.”
“ I usually feel that I close a book and start another but actually, all is related. I have no doubts this project will unexpectedly influence my future work.”
Erlich proceeded to create a lived-in world of masculinity, inspiring the pair to name the project A Man’s World. “It’s a concept that quite often has to be reviewed, updated,” explains Erlich. “We are not the same as fifty years ago. Not even five years ago. Yet we are men and there is an intrinsic aspect to this. A man’s world is associated to work, creativity, adventure and effort.”
Like much of Erlich’s work, interaction is encouraged. Visitors were able to make their mark, scribbling on clear walls and entering hidden crevices and semi-secret rooms. It’s a fitting collaboration that pays appropriate homage to the long, venerable history of menswear in the world of Hermès. And one that left a lasting impression upon the artist. “ I usually feel that I close a book and start another but actually, all is related. I have no doubts this project will unexpectedly influence my future work.”