Georges Rousse and Thomas Tait: Fashion’s warped perspective

The Parisian photographer creates a suite of anamorphic architectural interventions for the London-based fashion designer

By Hettie Judah

Georges Rousse for Thomas Tait, installation view, 2014 Georges Rousse for Thomas Tait, installation view, 2014 Georges Rousse for Thomas Tait, installation view, 2014 Georges Rousse for Thomas Tait, installation view, 2014 Georges Rousse for Thomas Tait, installation view, 2014

Ephemerality, dysmorphia, trouble retaining a sense of perspective: all are familiar syndromes during the biannual round of international fashion weeks. For the invited few at Thomas Tait’s presentation in London (15 September), such issues become the focus, rather than by-product, of the event, at which a trio of large-scale anamorphic paintings commissioned by the designer from the venerable French photographer Georges Rousse form the backdrop to his Spring Summer 2015 collection.

On an upper floor of a dusty, eviscerated office block on the Strand, Rousse’s interventions lick across the existing surfaces of the interior as well as newly-constructed planes built into the space; close inspection reveals tongues of unfurled lining paper lolling down walls under heavy coats of matt anthracite paint, multiple unpainted apertures and newly constructed columns, all of which fade from view once the image leaps into focus at the dictated perspective point. For the fashion show, the cameras for each of three major streaming channels will be placed at the perfect viewing point for each of the three paintings, revealing them as they were intended to be viewed: through a lens.

Rousse creates installations in derelict and condemned buildings, using the viewfinder of his camera to direct the creation of an image that only pops perfectly into view through its wide-angle lens

Montreal-born Tait, who this year was laureat of the first LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) award has built his reputation on highly structured garments that display his virtuoso cutting technique and an individual aesthetic set apart from the trend-bound mores of mainstream fashion houses. Unusually among designers he did not – previous to his ongoing interest in Rousse - work from moodboards or identifiable points of reference. Studies toward unified geometric motifs carried across multiple panels of a garment were core to that award-winning Autumn Winter 2014 collection, and his submission for the LVMH judges concluded with his plans for Rousse’s direct involvement in the presentation of this new collection, which was completed in June, and from which the artist derived the colours of the London paintings.

Since the 1980s, Rousse has created installations in derelict and condemned buildings, using the viewfinder of his camera to direct the creation of an image that only pops perfectly into view through its wide-angle lens. Once captured, the on site works are intended to be destroyed – regarded as tools en route to the resulting photograph. For the twenty-something Tait, Rousse’s illusions represent a beguiling pre-Photoshop era, the achievements of which he feels his generation ill-appreciate: to those raised on CGI and casually manipulated photographs, Rousse’s images could too easily appear the result of digital trickery. With this in mind, Tait has requested that Rousse’s new London paintings (his first in 15 years) remain in situ for a few months, available for public view. 

Online exclusive first published 15 September 2014