One Designer Got Jemima Kirke

Designer Stacey Bendet took an unusual approach to this edition of New York Fashion Week. In lieu of the traditional runway show, Bendet enlisted a cadre of female artists—including Girls actress and painter Jemima Kirke, British sculptor Lucy Sparrow, and sisters Tallulah and Scout Willis—to create work for an interactive art and fashion gallery for her brand Alice + Olivia, held this afternoon.

“I feel like female artists are hugely undervalued and underexposed today,” said Bendet in an email to artnet News. “I asked multiple people to name three living female artists with name recognition and no one could do it—in this era of proposed equality and equal pay, women in the art world are some of the most disadvantaged. I wanted to show some of the young female artists I consider the most talented today.”

Admittedly, Bendet is spotlighting a group of women who have gotten a bit of a head start in terms of finding art-world success. Even predating her Girls fame, Kirke is the daughter of famed British drummer Simon Kirke, and the Willis sisters are, of course, the progeny of Hollywood royalty Demi Moore—who was in attendance—and Bruce Willis. The show also features illustrator Angelica Hicks, whose father is literally the second cousin of the UK’s Prince Charles, heir to the throne.

They are joined by Lola Schnabel, daughter of ’80s art star and film director Julian Schnabel, and Francesca DiMattio, a ceramics artist represented by Salon 94 whose elegant style has been profiled in the pages of Vogue. Rounding out the mix are fashion illustrator Blair Breitenstein, also known as Blair Z, and Sparrow, who famously Kickstarted her hit 2017 New York exhibition 8 Till Late.

Despite the privileged upbringing of many of these artists, Bendet envisions the collective presentation of their work as a modern-day take on the famously gritty Chelsea Hotel, a refuge for struggling artists and musicians throughout the second half of the 20th century. Among the hotel’s residents were legendary women rock stars Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, and Janis Joplin.

“I’ve always been so enamored of the history of the Chelsea Hotel,” said Scout Willis to artnet News. “It’s interesting with Stacey’s question about women artists and name recognition because I can list all the female artists who lived there.”

Bendet, who held one of her first photo shoots with Mick Rock at the Chelsea Hotel, was inspired by the creative ferment that grew up there. “I began to think of who would live there today and the ideas just started flowing from there,” she said.

The exhibition takes place about 20 blocks south of the Chelsea Hotel—at the Skylight Clarkson in the West Village. For the presentation, each woman built an art-filled room at the venue, and the spaces were occupied by models wearing Alice + Olivia’s designs. A selection of Kirke’s portraiture was on display in the “lobby,” while Blair Z painted on the walls of the “bedroom.” Fittingly, Sparrow took over the kitchen. (Earlier this year, the artist hosted a pop-up bodega featuring her felt food sculptures at New York’s Standard hotel.)