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April 19 2014

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Jay Ahr’s Embroidered Tale

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It was practically a bestiary at London’s Couturelab boutique and gallery yesterday. Swarovski-sprinkled monkey skulls, a gold-beaded buffalo, and a fiery coral sea spider were just some of the haute experiments in embroidery that Jay Ahr designer Jonathan Riss presented at Evolution, an exhibition of 14 tapestries crafted from such unusual materials as turquoise, mandrille shells, and sequins. Riss creates both ready-to-wear and eveningwear, but he’s best known for the latter, often detailed with the kind of intricate embroidery on display here. “I’m the kind of person that likes to keep all of my treasures in a little box. But with these tapestries, I thought, if I can put them out in public, why not?” said the designer, who was in town from Paris not only for the opening of his show, but to shoot a new campaign featuring Poppy Delevingne.

It was art, not fashion, that was on display last night, but that didn’t stop the style set from stopping by. The campaign’s creative director, Julia Restoin-Roitfeld, spent most of her evening admiring Riss’ marble elephant skeleton. “I want the campaign to be quite glamorous, young, and fun,” Roitfeld said, tugging at her vintage Helmut Lang blazer. “I don’t want to tell you what to expect because I want it to be a surprise!” added the campaign’s stylist, Mélanie Huynh. On deck for the stylist for the rest of the summer? A trip to Corsica, where she’ll go “hippie chic,” she said, in Pucci, Altuzarra, and Isabel Marant.

“Projects like these are a great way to nurture new creativity,” said Couturelab’s founder, Carmen Busquets, of Riss’ exhibition. “Couturelab doesn’t do ‘fashions’ or ‘seasons.’ I want to create a community where value and creativity are sustained.” Judging by her store, which, two years ago, launched as a pop-up extension of the Couturelab Web site and has remained packed with handcrafted jewelry, hats, and homewares ever since, Busquets has done just that.

Just as the shop was emptying, a 16-year-old boy in a plum velvet tuxedo jacket passed by the storefront. “Did you do these, man? They’re sick!” he asked Riss, pointing to the tapestries in the window. The designer just smiled.

Photo: Courtesy of Couture Lab

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    This shows the beauty of art and the way it defines fashion

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