Mother of Pearl impresario Maia Norman is out to curate your closet. Each season, the brand creates a collection that adapts the work of a different artist: Recent seasons have seen MoP taking on Jim Lambie, Keith Tyson, and Fiona Banner; next year, with the launch of pre-collections, Norman is set to invite emerging artists into the fold. This time out, the artist in the house is Fred Tomaselli—a smart choice, given that Tomaselli's hallucinogenic collage paintings practically beg to be turned into prints.
This Mother of Pearl did with verve, turning Tomaselli's ornithological murder spree Birds into pretty silk prints and cashmere intarsia knits and extracting rich, kaleidoscopic patterns from his Millennium Phosphene Bloom. Tomaselli's Hang Over and Night Music for Raptors got some play here as well, and more generally, the glittering surfaces of his wood panels inspired the collection's well-judged crystal embroidery. A cashmere sweater that was intarsia-knit to look strung with gems, for instance, took on extra punch courtesy of the addition of crystals and pearl beads, while bronze dresses and gauzy blouson tops were topped, chicly, with a crystal choker.
The artist focus at Mother of Pearl has a way of distracting from the fact that this brand is increasingly well designed. There's a savvy strategy at work: Season to season, the actual look of the clothes stays reasonably consistent, with sporty pieces and simple yet refined tailoring providing a canvas for endless reinvention. It's worth noting, though, that while a pair of slim track pants looked terrific in a print from Tomaselli's Phosphene, they were pretty sharp in plain plum-colored silk, too. Ditto the unadorned leather jackets and wide-leg trousers. To exit the realm of art, for a moment, and employ a music metaphor, the Mother of Pearl signatures operate as a kind of rhythm section, and a very good one, that sets the beat and the bass line for the melodies you remember.