Gagosian Quarterly

February 22, 2021

Fashion and Art:Hank Willis Thomas and Chitose Abe

Artist Hank Willis Thomas and Chitose Abe, the creative director and founder of Sacai, speak with the Quarterly’s Wyatt Allgeier about their recent collaboration.

Left: Hank Willis Thomas. Photo: Emmanuel Sanchez-Monsalve. Right: Chitose Abe. Photo: © Victor Demarchelier

Left: Hank Willis Thomas. Photo: Emmanuel Sanchez-Monsalve. Right: Chitose Abe. Photo: © Victor Demarchelier

Wyatt Allgeier

Wyatt Allgeier is a writer and an editor for the Gagosian Quarterly. He lives and works in New York City.

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Wyatt AllgeierChitose, Hank, thank you both for taking the time to answer these questions. To begin, as were an art magazine, Id love to know what role art plays in your approach to Sacai. Chitose, are there particular artists, museums, or art movements that inspire the Sacai aesthetic?

Chitose AbeThere are many incredible artists, museums, and art movements that I am inspired by and revere. My creation is about searching for new things and that mindset has always been ingrained in my design process. From the very beginning, when I started Sacai, embracing one’s individuality has been at its core.

WAHank, Im curious to hear about your relationship to fashion, generally. Likewise, when did you first become aware of Sacai, and what about the clothing drew you to the brand?

Hank Willis ThomasFashion is a tool of communication and of self-expression. I was first drawn to the brand because of Chitose’s complex design language. I admire her creative vision of integrating streetwear and high fashion, as this dissolving of boundaries factors into my own artistic practice. Art, fashion, design all have the ability to transcend cultural barriers.

Fashion and Art: Hank Willis Thomas and Chitose Abe

Rujeko Hockley in the “Love Over Rules” campaign for Sacai. Photo: Emmanuel Sanchez-Monsalve

WAHow did the “Love Over Rules” collaboration originate?

CAI was first introduced to Hank’s work a couple of years ago when I received a book of his work from a friend. Since then, I have been following his work and felt that the words “Love Over Rules,” the title of one of his works, perfectly evoked the ideas of peace, love, and unity with which I associate the Sacai collection. We draw inspiration from those who have broken the rules and pushed boundaries to defy society’s expectations regardless of their race, culture, or sexuality.

HWTYes, it was a very natural and beautiful evolution. Chitose’s themes of peace and unity in the collection are in direct conversation with my piece Love Over Rules. We are both inspired by this idea of love as a radical, simple act and by people who have broken the rules and pushed societal boundaries. From there, we talked about integrating my art in subtle ways throughout the collection. For instance, we incorporated patchwork quilting—an emblem of African American folk-art practice—and mixed media into denim and outerwear. We wanted to quite literally weave in these themes from my work, such as truth and equality, and the final result really achieves that.

Fashion and Art: Hank Willis Thomas and Chitose Abe

Hank Willis Thomas, Love Over Rules, 2017, permanent installation, San Francisco, commissioned by Sites Unseen. Photo: Mariah Tiffany

WAIm interested in hearing about the collaboration process. How did the designs progress from sketches, fabric samples, mood boards, etcetera? How were you able to collaborate during this difficult time of COVID?

CAIn some of the designs I took cues from the graphic patchwork-like elements of Hank’s mixed-media photographic works and used materials that have been important to me throughout the years. But generally speaking, I don’t work with sketches. During this time, I was able to work in my studio, but with Hank, we worked over video conference.

“Love Over Rules,” a collaborative film by Hank Willis Thomas Studio with Equator Productions

WACould you tell me a bit about the creation of the campaign for the collaboration? Who took the photographs? How was the concept arrived at?

HWTWith my collaborators, including Albert Ignacio, we wanted to create a manifesto around the core idea of “Love Over Rules,” how it manifests in art and in simple everyday actions. The campaign was created in partnership with Equator Productions to feature individuals who inspire us from our creative community—artists, activists, and others. The cast includes trumpeter and composer Keyon Harrold; movement artist Mizuho Kappa; artist Zoë Buckman; designer and advocate  Céline Semaan-Vernon; jazz pianist Jason Moran; artist and activist Chella Man; as well as my wife, curator Rujeko Hockley.

Emmanuel Sanchez-Monsalve photographed them wearing the collection and Anthony Prince Leslie and Ashley Cimone directed a film that integrated music, movement, and interviews with the cast discussing what “Love Over Rules” means to them.

The goal was to create an emotive film that captured the essence of the collection’s theme: reimagining intimacy and virtual community while exemplifying the power of choosing love over fear.

Photos and video: courtesy Sacai

Gerhard Richter’s Helen (1963) on the cover of Gagosian Quarterly, Spring 2021

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2021

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