This week, Barneys New York unveiled the limited edition Rob Pruitt x J Brand collection, which was conceived in partnership with creative consultancy firm Leitzes&Co. The range draws inspiration from Pruitt’s iconic gradient paintings, which have been shown in museums and galleries internationally. In addition, men’s and women’s oversized denim jackets that have been hand-painted by Rob in his studio and are signed by the artist will also be available. Here, we speak with the artist about his foray into clothing design.
Life+Times: You recently teamed up with J.BRAND jeans on a limited edition collaboration. How did this idea come to light?
Rob Pruitt: I’m always looking for opportunities to cross-pollinate with fashion and design (I recently collaborated on a line of shoes and accessories with Jimmy Choo). In this case, the J Brand collaboration was the result of some matchmaking efforts by a friend of mine, Cary Leitzes, who specializes in pairing artists with brands for special projects.
L+T: There are a few items in the capsule collection. Tell me a little bit about this.
RP: J Brand is producing jeans and jackets featuring gradient color treatments inspired by a series of paintings I’ve been making for the past four years. Additionally, there’s a very limited run of denim jackets that were hand-painted in my studio in Brooklyn. The collection will be sold exclusively at Barneys New York on Madison Avenue and in Beverly Hills as well as on their website.
L+T: You said you’ve always had an interest in blue jeans. Do you remember your first pair?
RP:My family had a strict budget for clothing so I ended up with JC Penny’s Plain Pockets, but I always really just wanted a pair of Levi’s.
L+T: How did the creative process differ when working with articles of clothing?
RP: When the paintings are made in the studio you’re dealing exclusively with a perfectly flat, two-dimensional surface, but when working with clothing you have to consider a three-dimensional surface – how it will look, move, and feel on the wearer. You also have to be sure that everything is non-toxic, so there’s a lot of testing for paint that’s safe for the wearer but retains the right color as well. Beyond that, though, there’s the social aspect of collaboration. As an artist, the studio practice is often a very isolated, private domain. Working with J Brand gave me the opportunity to sit down with some brilliant minds and tap into their expertise on everything from color trends to the history of denim, all of which is so inspiring to me.
L+T: There’s also a bespoke on-site element that you’re going to be doing in Barneys Stores. What can we expect?
RP: For Barneys LA and Madison Avenue we constructed special plexiglass spray booths in store so shoppers could come and witness the creation of their jeans and jackets. The creative process if often out of the public eye, so it’s a unique opportunity for everyone involved.
L+T: Looking back, what have you learned about yourself as an artist throughout this experience? How were you creatively challenged?
RP: I think it’s just like switching hats. For instance, thinking about how to design a hangtag for a jacket and a pair of jeans instead of thinking about how to frame a painting. I have to say I didn’t feel creatively challenged, but it was just a different experience, which is fun. And I think it’s going to be extremely satisfying to be caught off guard one day and see the jeans walking towards me on the street. I can’t wait.