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Behind the Exhibit: Rachel Hayes at Missoni

The textile artist and fashion house share a strong family resemblance

By now, mimicry between artists and designers—perhaps best exemplified by Yves Saint Laurent’s 1965 Mondrian collection patterned identically off of Piet Mondrian’s modernist color grids—is a natural and celebrated phenomenon. At first glance, the works of knitwear empire Missoni and textile artist Rachel Hayes, both emphasizing ecstatic color and stripes, may seem like another case of fashion imitating art. But in fact, according to creative director Angela Missoni, who recently installed a piece by Hayes in her Madison Avenue flagship as part of her “Surface Conversion” series, the strong family resemblance is more thanks to social media-induced serendipity than to mimicry.

“I found her on Instagram,” says Missoni. “I thought maybe I should call her up… but it’s a new era. So instead I private messaged her. I said ‘I love you and are you willing to work with me?’”

© 2018 Scott Rudd

It’s not hard to see the attraction; the Tulsa-based Hayes’s large-scale Technicolor textiles clearly evoke the zigzag patchworks that define Missoni’s oeuvre. Missoni, whose father founded the house in 1953, swiftly snagged Hayes for her Spring/Summer 2018 show last year, which celebrated her 20th year as creative director. The parachute-like textiles also made a cameo in Missoni’s ad campaign alongside Kendall Jenner. “It’s one of those things—you don’t know how it happens. I was very strongly inspired,” Missoni says of sliding into Hayes’s DMs.

Shot by Harley Weir in the White Sands National Monument in the New Mexico desert, the campaign sees Jenner and model Filip Roséen wearing the collection and canopied in color and shadow by Hayes’s massive fabrics—conjuring a tapestry that is about more than just a colorful trademark, according to Missoni.

“It’s not [all] about color. Yes, we love color. But we work with color because we’re a certain kind of person,” says Missoni. “We do our work with joy. We enjoy sharing our work. So I think there is more about the two personalities.”

The latest Surface Conversion installation, which features a patchwork by Hayes pitched over the Missoni flagship’s staircase to cast colorful shadows over the SS18 collection, reflects these two personalities in full Technicolor glory. Visit between now and June 30 to see it for yourself.