Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
If the minimalist moment that persists in fashion has a parallel in the art world, it’s the paintings of Agnes Martin. More than a decade after her death, Martin’s pale bands of color resonate in the pastel pink and white packaging of Glossier products and in Solid & Striped’s simple prints; the women who shop Céline and Mansur Gavriel, of all people, will appreciate the richness Martin mined in extreme subtlety.
While brands like Hugo Boss and Shrimps have called out Martin as a source of inspiration in the past, Cos, a longtime proponent of ice cold simplicity, saw an opportunity in the unveiling of a retrospective of Martin’s work at the Guggenheim in New York. In addition to sponsoring the exhibit, which opens today, Cos has dropped a 12-piece capsule collection for men and women based on Martin’s paintings.
A gray linen jacket in a muted grid pattern ($150) and a white T-shirt with white stripes stitched across it ($89) are intended to evoke Martin’s spirit without replicating it exactly. In fact, Cos creative director Karin Gustafson says the Agnes Martin Foundation was initially concerned that the brand would merely take her art and print it onto a T-shirt, a lazy and rather lame way of interpreting it — not to mention one that could come off as predatory when a corporation as massive as H&M is involved.
Instead, Gustafson’s team pitched the foundation with a range of fabrics that used hand stitching, drawing, and watercoloring to create a similar aesthetic to Martin’s. With that, Cos got the go-ahead.
For the capsule’s silhouettes, Gustafson and Martin Andersson, the head of men’s design at Cos, drew on the way Martin herself dressed. Images of the artist, whose career was punctuated by a migration from New York City to the solitude of New Mexico, show her in practical, loose pants and sturdy-looking collared jackets.
“In most of the photographs I’ve seen, she dressed for work,” says Tracey Bashkoff, the senior curator of collections and exhibitions at the Guggenheim. “She cared about clothing, but in its practical sense.”
Cos’s capsule might have a particular pull for visitors to the Guggenheim, where it’s being sold in the gift shop. If they want to take home a rendering of Martin’s paintings, they’re going to have to buy it in book or fabric form: The microscopic grids and tonally similar stripes that cover her canvases are a complete wash on Instagram.