Contextualizing Fashion

Founded in 1997, Bless is a fashion studio that resists definition. Its nonconformist approach to fashion design is inherent in its working process as much as its creative output. Designers Desiree Heiss, based in Paris, and Ines Kaag of Berlin, who have never lived in the same city, communicate daily through e-mail and Skype chats, meeting at key junctures in a project. Continually rethinking their output to keep it fresh, they embrace a multifaceted way of working, drawing inspiration from their predecessors, yet developing results that are categorically different. Their perceptive body of work is centered on the practice of tweaking or adding to existing objects to create new and often unexpected alternatives.

Just as punk designers fashioned garments from found materials held together with unconventional hardware in the 1970s, and designers like Martin Margiela made garments from recycled clothing in the 1990s, Bless creates pieces using do-it-yourself methods and readily available materials, reflecting a preference toward designs that have a familiar quality and appeal to a broad range of people. Whether clothes for playing in, garments that protect their wearers and keep them warm and cozy, or accessories that enhance daily activities, the inherent narratives that underscore the design duo’s work provide a rich context for exploring the role that fashion plays in our lives.

Displayed on a chainmail curtain that defines the gallery is a cross section of Bless’s often unexpected outtakes, produced over the last 15 years in numbered editions. The exhibition design exemplifies the studio’s approach, which favors unconventional methods over industry standards. Rather than presenting each season’s new collection with a fashion show, Heiss and Kaag create interactive installations. Similarly, this gallery design illustrates their idiosyncratic approach to recontextualization in the presentation of their work as a way to engage the viewer and incite dialogue and exchange.