The performers behind the ribbon-filled ensemble at Loewe’s men’s show

In the summer of 2020, as Americans cautiously emerged from the first Covid-19 lockdown, multimedia artists Joe McShea and Edgar Mosa left New York for Fire Island, a long strip of land just south of Long Island, and started making flags. . McShea started out in photography while Mosa trained as a goldsmith, but the two, now partners in work and in life, have long been concerned with the interplay between fabric and the elements. In 2018, inspired by the baroque frescoes of the 13th century Palazzo Monti, in Brescia, Italy, where they were artists in residence, they developed a series of ephemeral sculptures by wrapping stone stairs in ribbons and photographing fabrics in water. Afterwards, they also created a flag made of ribbons attached to a cardboard tube with tape. Although it was simple, they felt it had power and, sure enough, things took off two summers later when the duo started sewing colorful hand-dyed silks, deadstock ribbons and tulle on lengths of ribbon which, when doubled, acted as halyards – or, as they call them, hoisting ribbons – and tying these with simple bows to salvaged bamboo poles, which they planted on the Fire Island Pines beaches.

Although the sticks never sat in the sand for several hours at a time, during sunny intervals with lots of wind (“We always looked to the sky to seize the perfect moment to let them fly,” says McShea), they turned out to be an invitation: An eclectic crowd begins to gather in the same place to see the couple’s latest creations unfold in the wind. “People were drawn to them,” McShea recalls. “They had a hypnotic quality.” The rallies, in turn, cleared up his and Mosa’s doubts about Fire Island, which is known as a party destination. “We discovered that there were a lot of creative people who were looking for quietude and who wanted to do work, says Mosa. “We were able to reunite a small family.

What did the facilities mean? Many people wanted to know. But McShea, a 36-year-old bleached blond Marylander and the more talkative of the duo, and Mosa, who grew up in Portugal, has black hair and is also 36, have repeatedly objected. Unlike the national flags McShea studied in his atlas as a child, these were not intended as symbols but as a call to contemplation. “Instead of telling you, ‘Go here, feel this, walk, fight, kill, whatever,’ they don’t respond to you,” he explains. “And when they’re stripped of that meaning, all that’s left is the physical object, which is this beautiful fluid textile interacting with light, water, air.” Plus, adds Mosa, “They’re often a really good vehicle for cutting short small conversations.”

The flags also cut through the noise on social media, which is how Jonathan Anderson, creative director of Spanish fashion house Loewe, met them. Brooklyn-based artist Doron Langberg, who is a friend of McShea and Mosa, ended up painting the couple One Afternoon in the Pines as part of a 2020 Public Art Fund commission. Anderson bought the painting and, curious to know more about his subjects, researched the couple on Instagram. In July 2021, he messaged the men asking for more information about their work. “I felt like [the flags] were such an optimistic symbol,” Anderson says. “I grew up in Northern Ireland in the early 90s so when I think of flags, I always think of negative connotations – both sides. These flags, on the other hand, seemed “a symbol of a better future”.

Last weekend, 87 of the pair’s ribbon flags captivated a new audience: attendees of the Loewe Fall 2022 menswear show, held at the Tennis Club de Paris in the city’s 16th arrondissement. . Dressed in looks rich with surreal touches, such as bodysuits with LED lights on just below the surface, conch-shaped handbags and coats adorned with round drain covers, the models made their way across a floor covered in sand – 40 tons of it, to be exact – and through an honor guard-style fabric formation. Suspended from a network of angled aluminum poles, each just over 21 feet long, were about 8 miles of silk ribbons in a spectrum of 13 candy-colored hues. Unlike Fire Island, there was no wind to move them. (A wind machine was considered but ruled out.) Instead, Mosa says, “we went with this tension—a flag that’s silent and asks, waits, for a little breeze to flutter it.” Indeed, there was a sense of anticipation every time the ribbons shook and a new model appeared below. And certainly the decor accentuated the sense of displacement evoked by the clothes – it was as if the men were walking through a forest into a strange but beautiful parallel realm.

McShea and Mosa arrived in Paris four months before the show to create the work in situ. After touring the approximately 15,000 square foot site and getting to know the Loewe team, they set about designing a layout in which they could unveil as many flags as possible. “From the start, we wanted to fill the space,” says McShea. (A short film by British director Stephen Isaac Wilson documenting the process, which included an artistic warm-up of sorts during a side trip to Ibiza in December, can be viewed on Loewe’s YouTube and Instagram channels.) It was an experience. significant for McShea and Mosa’s practice and relationship. After all, creating art has always been their preferred method of communicating with each other — their second date was a photoshoot, held in McShea’s Williamsburg, Brooklyn, salon of jewelry that Mosa had designed. Anderson, too, feels driven by artists and makers – in 2016 he helped create the Loewe Craft Prize, which supports craftspeople around the world with a 50,000 euro (about $57,000) prize and a exhibition – and, more than most fashion designers, often collaborates with them. “I feel that my job, what I do, is ultimately [to create] a platform for people,” he says, “and to come up with things that have creative integrity.

In about six months, when the men’s collection begins to decline, the McShea and Mosa flags will be installed in Loewe stores around the world. By then the artists will be back in New York and hopefully planning their next project. For now, however, they pinch each other. McShea, a poetry lover who tends to underline passages that resonate with or contextualize the duo’s work, quotes a few lines from Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges: “The flags were singing their colors / and the wind is a bamboo shoot between the hands / The world grows like a shining tree.

About Julius Southworth

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