The SS10 campaign for cult UK luxury optic and eyewear brand Cutler & Gross was art directed by the brand’s Creative Director Monica Chong, inspired by the paintings of Tamara de Lempicka. She chose to work with the photographer David Byun – who often photographs covers for W magazine- because she was attracted to his particular skill at lighting. Why soon becomes clear: she has turned her attention to painting, and the paintings of Tamara de Lempicka in particular.
The arresting series of images created by Byun and Chong working in close collaboration are primarily for use in retail and promotional displays announcing the new AW10 collection available from Summer 2010 onwards. They are at once immediately identifiable as reinventions of the work of the famous painter.
As an artist, of course, de Lempicka is problematic. Her florid personal story is a double-edged sword. She was undoubtedly a feminist icon before Feminism even existed. On the other hand, her persona sometimes overshadows her painting talent. Yet, regardless of one’s critical position on Tamara de Lempicka as a painter, what is undeniable is the skill with which Monica Chong has linked her instantly recognisable works with the current zeitgeist, emphasising the retro-moderne sensibility of the eyewear with a current generation’s rediscovery of the Utopian idealised vision of a sturdy handcrafted technology and production. It also cleverly plays with the current trend for a certain type of 1980’s revival. It’s notable, for example, that Tamara de Lempicka’s work was reappraised in the 1980’s, contemporaneous to that era’s veneration of all forms of Modernism. In homing in on De Lempicka’s penchant for drawing on influences from a full range artistic movements, Monica Chong places Cutler & Gross’ current season within the frame of De Lempicka’s signature vernacular. She intuitively connects it with all of the ideas present in the body of work ranging from society portraits of debutantes to lifting from Neue Sachlichkeit’s implicit approval of the dashing men of science.
In her role as Creative Director, Monica Chong has frequently taken this quintessentially English brand’s handcrafted products and constantly reinvented its identity, being careful to both maintain its distinctly British sensibility and yet to constantly renew its narratives; to broaden its international market appeal.