WORDS Robyn Alexander PHOTOS Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes
You have previously stressed that collaboration is an important element of the Tiaan Nagel brand. Can you tell us a bit more?
The premise of the brand has always been about working with like-minded people in a sophisticated way. So far, I have been fortunate enough to work with amazing people in a relaxed environment, with nothing forced or contrived. From a creative-process point of view, it’s very important – it layers the conversation and enriches the thinking and possibilities. Then, from a product point of view, it forces a level of compromise where both people operate outside their comfort zone. It’s challenging, but the product ends up being more interesting.
What do you mean by “interesting”?
Not “more complex” – if we did that, we failed. Collaborations are not about making things more difficult; they’re about adding more flavour without distracting from the core ingredients.
What about Zander’s work made you want to collaborate with him?
This season is all about abstraction – large, colourful, abstract shapes and super-complicated techniques that end up making things look easy. With Zander’s work, especially the latest stuff that’s all about clashing collages, I was moved by the radical brush strokes, the confident and unapologetic mark-making, the fearless commitment to colour. I wanted to approach the making of the collection in the same way Zander’s paintings make me feel. So this was about keeping the spirit of Zander – something that felt chaotic and instant – but, of course, expressing it via clothing, while also making it considered.
How did the collaboration process work?
Originally we wanted to add Zander’s actual original pieces directly into pieces of clothing, but that became too theatrical. So we started with a shirt range – I’m obsessed with white shirts – and are playing with using the artwork in a very naive way, directly onto already-made clothes. It distorts into the negative spaces, folds over cracks and injects that insouciant approach that speaks to his work as well.
How is the collaboration expressed in the Tiaan Nagel store?
The store is more free, more energetic, with more colour. We have introduced a new playlist with music by Laurie Anderson, a rare collection of Rorke’s Drift ceramics from the 1970 and ’80s, and a few more brushed stainless-steel surfaces – so it’s an eclectic mix of materials and moods. I’m reminded by Zander’s approach to art – of making a mark every day and seeing where it leads – that retail is often boring, and that we are all scared of getting it wrong. This is a reminder to do it your way, and in a way that feels new and authentic.