Sapar Contemporary, one of our favorite Tribeca galleries, delves into the creative process of fashion designers in its current exhibition, Ideas Get Dressed. The exhibition presents a range of designers highlighting their individual processes from preparatory sketches by couture designer Zac Posen to handmade dolls by Geova Rodrigues and humorous drawings and garments by printmaker Sara Zielinski.


When we asked gallery director Nina Levent why the gallery decided to feature the process of fashion in an art gallery she replied, “As a gallery we are interested in crossing the boundaries of disciplines and industries: A number of our artists work on the intersection of art and science, art and design. Some are involved with textiles and patterns, some have background in fashion design, product and graphic design. So, the idea of looking into the artistic aspect of fashion designers’ practice seemed very logical.”


The exhibition was curated by Emma Kathleen Hepburn Ferrer (granddaughter of Audrey Hepburn). Ferrer, an artist and model, has been working with the gallery as a liaison for international artists and readily embraced the idea of curating the exhibition. Levent told us “We were looking for a variety of preparatory works and diversity of styles. I was thrilled when Emma showed me the dolls of Geova Rodriguez that are so different from more technical fashion drawings or sketches. Similarly, bringing into the exhibition Posen’s draped mannequin allowed an intimate look at the “sculpting” of the gown, and helped anchor his 2D sketches.”


Upon entering the gallery, we were greeted by Brazilian born designer Geova Rodrigues’ voodoo doll-like maquettes hanging on the front wall. The maquettes, which have never before left Rodrigues’ studio, are his way of exploring fabrics, textures and silhouettes for his designs. They are charming little figures that stand on their own as works of art. Rodrigues worked as a painter in San Paulo before turning to fashion and opening his shop Geová Atelier at 208 Ave. B in the  East Village in 2001. Rodrigues considers his “dolls” his preparatory fashion illustrations. He says, “my technique entails “breaking down” garments and piecing them back together in elaborately beaded, custom-made combinations, a skill I learned from my mother, who reconfigured hand-me-downs for ten siblings. Rather than sketching, I sew directly onto a mannequin.”


Geova Rodrigues


The centerpiece of the show is Zac Posen’s draped dress form which was created specifically for this exhibition. The dress form is draped with elegant fabric that is tacked and safety pinned together. The draped fabric showcases how Posen works out form and volume for his designs. He said, “I enjoy coming to my office on the weekends, where I can fully concentrate on draping. This process allows me to explore new shapes and silhouettes on the female form. The partial drape and detailed sketches, that are included in this exhibition, are the preliminary vision of one of the main gowns from my Fall Winter 2018 collection.”


Zac Posen


On the wall are Posen’s beautifully rendered drawings for a gown he designed for Katie Holmes. The drawings, on his own stationery, show Posen’s masterful fabric rendering skill and his attention to detail.  In contrast, on a nearby wall, are spontaneous-looking preparatory sketches by Raquel Davidowicz. Davidowicz’s drawings have a quality that reminds us of the cliche of sketching out moments of inspiration on cocktail napkins. The drawings look fresh and energetic with scraps of fabric sewn to the paper. They appear to be drawn at the very moment of inspiration for the garment. Nearby, are Roland Nivelais’ elegantly intricate designs that are beautifully rendered in ink on paper. He believes that, “No matter how intricate the construction of my designs may be, they always appear to have an elegant simplicity.” Born in the Loire Valley, he studied at The French Couture School in Paris. Nivelai credits his sense of style to his parent by saying that his elegant mother found a wonderful escape in dressing up, “mother was always slightly overdressed.”


Across the gallery are the whimsical drawings of shoe designer Manolo Blahnik that reminded us of the early drawings of Andy Warhol. Blahnik was originally encouraged to design footwear by Vogue editor Diana Vreeland in the 1970’s. Three of his drawings in the show pay homage to Ferrer’s grandmother and are titled appropriately The Eternal ‘Hepburn’ Look and Homage to Miss Hepburn. The titles are playfully incorporated into the works.


Manolo Blahnik sketch


Sara Zielinski, a fine artist and printmaker, considers herself an outlier in this exhibition. She told us, “For this exhibition, I used my printed dresses as the inspiration to create COMFORT, a unique installation on the gallery’s back wall. The work began as drawings on paper, turned into ready-to-wear fashion, and is now a wall installation. COMFORT reveals women in various states of undress. Zielinski painted her original drawings directly on the wall of the gallery and hung her hand-printed garment nearby. Zielinski’s humorous drawings are of ordinary women with a variety of body types and in this context seems to comment on the pressures put on women by the fashion industry that emphasize very tall, very thin women. Zielinski states, “For me this work is about finding one’s own space, finding one’s own personal comfort.”  She allows “for each person to put their own projection onto the characters.”


Sara Zielinski


Part of proceeds of exhibition sales from Ideas Get Dressed will go to USA for UNHCR, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to which curator Emma Ferrer is an ambassador.


Ideas Get Dressed is on view at Sapar Contemporary, 9 N Moore Street in Tribeca, New York through April 19, 2018.

all images // courtesy of Sapar Contemporary