Design, Art, Fashion, or Beyond? Jonathan Anderson Brings the Work of Patrick Carroll to Milan Design Week

Jonathan Anderson and Patrick Carroll.Photo: Courtesy of JW Anderson

“I think everyone’s on a search. What is design? What is art? What is fashion? Where does it all lie?” So said Jonathan Anderson last night at the opening of “Days,” an exhibition of new works by the Los Angeles-based creator Patrick Carroll.

The show was thrown in Anderson’s own-brand Milan store during Milan Design Week and so well-attended that the crowd spilled out onto via Sant’Andrea. When they could ooze their way in, visitors were greeted by an installation of 37 Carroll pieces, all of them lengths of hand-machined fine gauge knitwear in different yarns, different colors, and bearing different words. Each was displayed like a canvas, over stretcher bars.

Here at Milan Design Week the nature of “design” often seems conveniently opaque, in fact every bit as opaque as the Carroll pieces through which you could see the wooden bars they were pulled taut around. It is two years since Anderson first approached Carroll to show some of his pieces outside the fashion designer’s first Milan JW Anderson menswear show, although back then they were stretched over models and worn as clothes.

Inside the exhibition. Photo: Courtesy of JW Anderson
Inside the exhibition. Photo: Courtesy of JW Anderson

Said Carroll this week during a preview: “When I got back from that show, I immediately started making these pieces. Before that I hadn’t really done any pure “artwork” pieces, but that show felt very much like a pinnacle moment for the clothes making.” He added: “I reached a point where I felt as though the craft was sufficiently developed that I wanted to see how it would operate within the idiom of art.” In between that fashion show and this art show, Carroll has been exhibited in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Nebraska, but this week’s reunion with Anderson is his first pictures-on-walls display outside of the US.

One interesting aspect about Carroll’s work that resonates with Anderson’s is how subverting the notion of conventional categories, whether in gender, materials, or forms of craft, allows him to excavate new spaces from which to perceive creative actions. Said Carroll: “The difference between clothing and art is very strange and fascinating. It’s a question of labor, and labor rights, and it’s also a question of commodity and taxation and freedom of movement across borders. Clothing is in one category while art is in a very different category.”

But why? Carroll confessed he does not necessarily have an answer to the questions his works stimulate. He said: “a lot of what I’m talking about is just my own experience, and just kind of trying to figure out why it is that these things I was making are received as they are. And there’s all sorts of reasons. Part of it is presentation, part of it is context.”

A model outside the exhibition. Photo: Courtesy of Luke Leitch

There were certainly rich visual pleasures to be taken from Carroll’s intersection of text and texture presented in a provocatively conventional “art” format—especially in the context of the world’s greatest “design” jamboree. As Vogue Italia put it in an excellent article, the Carroll installation serves as an “explanation of how meaning is obtained from materials.”

Back to Jonathan Anderson, who was yesterday formally minted as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine (something you knew already if you read Vogue). “I find Patrick’s work very inspiring and compelling,” he said as he surveyed the milling crowd: “And anything I can do to help put anyone on the platform, I love doing. It’s one of my jobs.”

Photo: Courtesy of JW Anderson
Guests at the exhibition. Photo: Courtesy of JW Anderson

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