The Sarabande Foundation is sowing the seeds for a New York outpost.
“We are here because we have many friends here, we are looking at New York City as our second home,” said Sarabande CEO, Trino Verkade, as she welcomed guests to the event. The organization, founded in 2012 by the late Lee Alexander McQueen, was in town during the unofficial New York Met Gala Week to host a cocktail and showcase some of its talents to promote the charitable initiative that supports a cross-section of creatives in pursuing their art free of commercial concerns.
Held at the Standard Hotel, a partner Verkade said was “generous and demonstrative of slightly bonkers creativity,” as well took place on its indoor-outdoor Plaza and included two of the program participants, American Andrew Davis, a fashion-designer-cum-artist and Rosie Gibbons, a sculptor, fine artist and performance artist, who were on hand as examples of the kind of creativity they foster.
“Lee left us his estate to court the next generation of artists. We judge our artists from 37 countries, they can be any age, from anywhere, or any discipline,” she explained. Speaking to FashionNetwork.com exclusively, Verkade expanded more about the program and the ambition to expand in New York. Verkade herself was the late McQueen’s first employee and later worked for Thom Browne, the CFDA chairman, who was also in attendance.
“We don’t think of ourselves as just fashion; Sarabande is multidisciplinary and encourages creatives not to have to stay in one lane. People should be allowed to take photos, create art, or be in the fashion world but not in the traditional sense for some people. We are all doing the same thing; it’s a crowded market. We should look forward to different ways of working,” she said, adding, “Thom is probably a good example in America of art and fashion colliding.”
Browne chortled at the idea of Sarabande needing a partner such as the CFDA. “Trino doesn’t need any help; she is a force of nature. She is the one everyone should aspire to,” he said affectionately, stressing the importance of an organization like Sarabande.
“It’s pure creativity, a commitment to just creating from a pure point of view as opposed to a commercial point of view. If you do something important in regard to it being creative, something will happen,” he suggested adding, “Creatives have too much of a commercial expectation sometimes, especially in here America. In Europe, houses have the luxury of 70 or 80 years of heritage to rely on in regard to not always feeling so commercial. New American designers just starting have to commit to something more creative and focused long-term to become important enough to become commercial,” he told FashionNetwork.com. This kind of sentiment about creativity proves the need for organizations like Sarabande.
The organization helps in one of the more practical aspects of creating art in high-expense cities like New York and London. (A recent New York magazine referred to an 875-square-foot live-work loft on Great Jones that would advertise for $229 in 1973 or $1,580 in today’s money. It would cost three times that in New York today if you could still find it.)
Nancy Chilton, formerly of The Met Museum, Sarabande’s public relations director also furthered Verkade in the events rasion d’etre “Ideally, we want to introduce New York City to Sarabande and to bring young creatives out to see the work of the young artists we support like Andrew,” she said.
His gaggle of statue men on display was made entirely of Scotch tape during the pandemic at his home in Colorado. Verkade affectionately referred to Davis as “slightly strange, and why we love you.”
While Chilton couldn’t confirm a location for a space in New York, she also hoped the event would bring attention to the foundation and garner financial support through its donor programs, either in real estate or cash.
Sarabande’s US chair Francesca Amfitheatrof, also in attendance, spoke to FashionNetwork.com. “Like London, New York City has such an incredible hub of different interesting people who come here with creative thoughts, and there isn’t a pure place where it’s just about being creative and supporting each other,” she said, adding it’s not an art school “Everyone who has come out of Sarabande is completely unknown; that’s the whole point is finding and giving space to creatives. “We provide mentors, a massive support group, and amazing people to connect with to believe in yourself and get confidence.”
She stressed the impact of a free art workspace. “London’s rent is prohibitive like New York. The practicality of it all can be impossible. Ideas, when born, are so fragile; without people around you to support what you want to do, you might give up. That is the moment that you need the Sarabande family.”
Currently, the group of Sarabande ambassadors and creatives who offer mentorship, which includes Naomi Campbell, Tim Blanks, Andrew Bolton, Sam Taylor-Young, Katie Grand, Nicholas Kirkwood, and Daniel Roseberry, who selected Davis for a Central Saint Martin’s scholarship through the foundation, and Craig Green, who was a former participant in the program. Corporate sponsors include Burberry, Thom Browne, Ridley Scott Creative Group, Souvenir, and Baker Mckenzie. Another representative confirmed that the brand Alexander McQueen supports the foundation’s efforts but is not affiliated.
As far as a wishlist of stateside mentors to join a second location in New York, Amfitheatrof rolled off some impressionable names. “Jack and Lazaro from Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne, of course, Gaby Hearst. Also, younger designers like Emily Bode. It would be good to have some real New Yorkers who created their brand here and bring young creatives together and have a place where they belong,” she added.
Afterward, guests enjoyed a performance by Rosie Gibbons, who demonstrated somewhat torturous ways of hair and make-up beauty routines done using power tools and household appliances. Her work, according to Verkade, is about the sexualization of creating female desire, also pointing out a series of Gibbon’s lipstick prints which point out the highly suggestive names geared at young women.
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