On a beach in Mexico, Thomas Erber met a woman named Francesca. She was making perfumes and candles for Coqui Coqui perfumery, and he ended up buying several for himself. In Munich one Sunday afternoon, Erber passed by the shop of German shoe brand Half’s. He loved the windows, but the shop was closed so he noted the phone number before walking on. Ostensibly, encounters like these are exactly what they look like: a passerby taking interest in his surroundings. But the Parisian journalist-and-brand consultant hyphenate is indeed on the job.
It takes a full year of travel to curate the pieces for Le Cabinet De Curiosités Of Thomas Erber, his annual exhibition showcasing the work of independent artist and designers that launched at colette in Paris in 2010. As the title suggests, many of the brands he ends up choosing for the exhibit have—just randomly—piqued his curiosity at first. Francesca created an exclusive candle for Erber’s latest installment of the cabinet; after a phone call, the founder of Half’s agreed to produce a unique pair of shoes. Of course, there’s also relationships he’s carried on for years, like with American menswear designer Michael Bastian. “It was a diligent effort on my part to have him included,” Erber recalls. “He finally agreed and created an amazing scarf.”
Erber has known Gildas Loaëc and Masaya Kuroki, the co-founders of ultra hip French retailer Maison Kitsuné, for 12 years and is teaming up with the brand to host the upcoming Cabinet De Curiosités in New York—its U.S. debut. On view starting December 2 at the Avant/Garde Diaries project space on Broome (pictured below) and the Maison Kitsuné boutique, the fourth edition follows Berlin’s Andreas Murkudis exhibit last year and London’s Browns exhibit the year before.
“London was a learning experience,” says Erber. “It was our first version abroad and there was a lot of new elements to undertake. Berlin’s edition was a lot like its host city: abstract, foggy, a moodier version. And thus far, New York is intense! You need a high energy and motivation to have it work perfectly.”
About 50 high-end, contemporary artists, designers and brands are being featured this time around. Among their limited-edition pieces: a Vulcain watch, jewelry by Le Gramme, a painting by Nick Devreaux and an aviator jacket Kitsuné. According to Erber, each contributor “offers savoir faire, independence, enthusiasm and integrity,” meaning to say, don’t expect the mainstream.
“I’ve learned that it’s a tough mission to defend independent thinkers and artists,” Erber says. “Our world is growing more and more conventional, and I’ve always liked to side with the mavericks—the rebels who fight for their ideas and stand by them. The more I do this, the more I realize how important it is to form a team, to support each other and grow stronger together. Working with Maison Kitsuné was an essential part of this teamwork for the New York edition.”
Next year, Le Cabinet De Curiosités Of Thomas Erber heads to Bangkok, but for now Erber is excited to present the exhibit in North America’s fashion capital.
“New York has always fostered an endless curiosity for new designers and artists, without any judgement,” he says. “I love the open-mindedness of the city. As a Parisian, we have a very close connection to and fondness for New York. I couldn’t imagine introducing Cabinet de Curiosités in the U.S. for the first time in any other city but New York.”
Click on the gallery above to view pieces from this year’s exhibition.
View Le Cabinet De Curiosités Of Thomas Erber Hosted by Maison Kitsuné from December 2 to 23 at the Avant/Garde Diaries (372 Broome Street) and at the Maison Kitsuné boutique in NY (1170 Broadway) and available for purchase here.