A plush seat is clasped at its four corners by the elegant brutality of what seem like burnished femurs. From one corner rises the chair back, a thick column of three vertebrae, the three sets of ribs reaching out like parentheses to embrace They who will be seated. The anatomical ambiguity is beguiling, are those knuckles at each corner of the seat, are those hooves at the foot of each chair leg? These enormous bones appear to be from a species unknown to earthly zoology, perhaps the throne is constructed from the hunting souvenirs of a tribal warlord from another galaxy. A black table borne on its own, even larger, skeletal limbs stands in bovine conference with the chair in a sun-bathed Atelier office.
Welcome to Maison Darré, a glimpse backstage at the opera of the absurd that is haute couture and high design, an opportunity to walk through the prolific imagination of Vincent Darré. Feted and famed as a designer at some of the grandest of the grand fashion houses, Prada, Chloé, Chanel (working personally with Karl Lagerfeld), Fendi, Moschino, and the House of Ungaro, Darré also has an extensive background in theatrical and cinematic design. After his graduation from the famous Studio Bercot, he worked with Enzo Cucchi at the Galerie Art Modern in Rome, designed costumes for Alfredo Arias, and was a collaborator on a number of works of theater with Martial Beraud and Pierre Le Tan, and as the costumier on the Valérie Lemercier film Quadrille. He also dressed Arielle Dombasle for both stage and screen.
It is this association between cinema and fashion that seems to inform Darré’s approach to design. Many of the rooms at Maison Darré are like movie sets and prop departments for mind-blowing celluloid fantasies that sadly never reached the silver screen. These exquisitely rendered pieces -rugs, lighting fixtures, consoles, furniture- which assume a simultaneously prior and alien sensory vocabulary are numbered and intended for sale as unique works or as a run of limited editions of ten or twenty. Whilst Maison Darré is his commercial gallery, it is as an apartment -one that the visitor is invited to secretly explore- that it really functions. Led from room to room, each one a menagerie of beautiful curiosities, they are left to form a personal connection with Darré’s objets and, like an envious house guest, choose which they would take home with them, if only they were permitted.
In his search for ever more precious and rare materials, Darré has journeyed from Venice to India and beyond, returning with such delights as the Vietnamese lacquer and hand brushed steel which lend an otherworldy sheen to an already sensual experience.
By recreating himself as the fictitious occupant of this apartment, an anarchist curator of his own possessions, Darré reveals a contagious sense of urbane Parisian humor, which brings us back to the vertebral chair. Skeletons are beautiful because of their function. The bones of an animal that does not exist have no biological function, so their savage beauty arrives only from their function as furniture “legs”. They are saved from obsolescence purely by their function in a piece of high concept interior design, itself light years from the functional quotidian.
Such is his notoriety that Darré’s unique vision has been sought by as eminent contemporary figures as André Saraiva, Olivier Zahm and Jean-Yves Le Fur, whose joint venture Le Montana, rules ultra-cool Paris party circuit.
This pristine chaos will continue this September as Vincent Darré unveils his new collection. Titled “A L’eau Dali”, it will be inspired by Salvador Dali and Captain Nemo and will present the latest creatures to prowl around this extraordinary safari through an incredible mind.
- Benjamin Stewart
Address: 32 Rue du Mont Thabor
Tel: 1 42 60 27 97
Photo Credit: Vincent Darré´s Portrait by Alexia S.