Last night in Florence, something spectacular happened. At 9pm I boarded a bus that drove through the snaking streets in the hills above the city to the magnificent Villa Grand Petraia, where the boys from Proenza Schouler — Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez — staged a fashion-meets-art-world spectacular. The event was held to debut their 2010 pre-spring collection and to launch the new issue of A Magazine the designers guest-edited. And while their traditional fashion shows held in New York every season may be the hottest tickets in town, the duo opted to present their collection with a multimedia extravaganza as they took to the international stage for the first time. Working in conjunction with Pitti Immagine (the organization responsible for Florence’s fashionable trade fair that takes place twice a year) and with Art Production Fund, the designers invited three of their favorite artists to present their collection using various mediums.
First up was an installation by acclaimed artist Haim Steinback in the main hall of the villa. Steinback arranged their latest accessories amongst a neatly organized collection of his found objects — a bed frame here, a pair of strappy flat sandals there. It was a terrific, sparse, modern piece of work smack dab in the center of the most Baroque of rooms with walls covered inch-by-inch by the preexisting frescos. “I was playing with the idea of a layout of a classical garden,” says Steinback, who describes the work as an indoor version of land art, a medium McCullough and Hernandez have always draw inspiration and interest from and that they explore throughout their issue of A Magazine for which they commissioned photographers and artists to create special projects at sights like Spiral Jetty and at the Judd Foundation in Marfa, Texas.
Past the adorned walls, in the sprawling gardens overlooking the Renaissance city, came the camp factor. Performance artist Kalup Linzy created a music video featuring Chloë Sevigny and model Liya Kebede, who were also among the evenings revelers. “I feel good about the art that is happening here,” said Sevigny, whose face shot by Richard Burbridge graces the cover of the magazine project. “We are showing Italy how it’s done. We’re killing it.” The real star of the video was Linzy himself, all dolled up in drag (Proenza-style, of course) and singing the chorus to his own song that mainly consisted of two words, “Fuck You.” Linzy’s film was accompanied by a series of portraits he photographed of Kebede wearing the Preonza Schouler prespring collection and reinterpreting poses from classic Renaissance works of art.
And as if this all wasn’t enough entertainment, the climax came with a performance by Kembra Pfahler, aka the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. Face painted, teeth black, hair dreaded, and tightly corseted, Black entered the gardens with a clone army of backup dancers from the Ballet Academy of Florence. Of course, they had forgone their little pink tutus for a more sinister-but-sweet makeover. Songs included “Tarantula” and a heavy metal cover to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” The concert left audience members mainly pumped but a few were sprinting for the gilded doors (this is a city with a church on every corner, after all). Whatever the reaction, it didn’t stop Kembra from feeling optimistic after the show, “I feel the most beautiful I’ve ever felt in this outfit,” she said with a sly grin. “The world is about to change for the better tonight.” Well put.