Artist Kris Knight's floral 'remix' for Gucci

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 November, 2014, 4:44pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 November, 2014, 11:07pm

Canadian artist Kris Knight had a shock one morning on his way to work when all of his fashion friends texted him simultaneously. The reason? The painter's impressive body of work, characterised by a pastel colour palette, was announced as a major source of inspiration for one of fashion's most illustrious brands, Gucci.

"I'm based in Canada, and I've had lots of interviews in art magazines in the past few years. But I never thought that my work was being noticed to that degree, especially by Gucci," Knight says.

"It was a huge surprise and honour. A month later, I was invited by Gucci to go to Rome to meet creative director Frida Giannini, and that's when our collaboration began."

Using Knight's print, Giannini applied the new pattern to a variety of pieces for Gucci's 2015 cruise collection, including ready-to-wear, accessories, handbags, luggage and leather goods.

Fans of the brand will have the chance to view the limited edition products featuring Knight's floral prints at Gucci's pop-up shop this season.

Launched at the beginning of November, the collection will be on display at the IFC Mall in Central.

The artist says that his time in Rome with Giannini had a profound impression on him. Armed with an impressive array of research material on the original floral print, as well as access to Gucci's mood board, he was immediately struck by a picture from the 1950s. That's when the initial spark for his work occurred.

To say Knight was intimidated by the task of reinventing one of fashion's most iconic prints is an understatement. The original floral print, created by Vittorio Accornero, dates back to 1966, and was applied on a silk scarf.

The work was presented as a gift to Princess Grace of Monaco on her trip to the brand's store in Via Monte Napoleone.

Giannini rediscovered the historic print in 2005 in Gucci's archives, and reapplied the work to her modern-day interpretations of the brand.

Since then, the floral print has become a mainstay staple of the Gucci aesthetic, alongside other elements such as the horse-bit detailing, bamboo handle, and interlocking double-G monogram.

"I was totally out of my element," Knight says about the creative process.

"I don't have a fashion background, and I've never done a traditional floral painting. But I see myself as a storyteller, whether it is portraits or floral patterns.

"I care most about the narrative. Once I figured out what kind of story I wanted to tell, everything else kind of fell in place," he says.

Knight's floral print pays tribute to the flowers popular in ancient Rome. In particular, he paid homage to plants that blossomed in the darkness, dawn and dusk, and those that represented strength and persistence.

These flowers include belladonna, datura, clover, dandelion and nightshade; plants favoured by women for their seductive qualities.

"I saw this project as a remix," says Knight. "I used Accornero's symmetrical composition, but I skewed the delicate nature of his work. I wanted to create a strong feminine, magical, quietly dangerous world of my own."

The process has opened Knight's mind to a new way of working. "I've been a studio loner for years. But my experience at Gucci has taught me to trust other creative types. Everybody has something that can elevate ideas to another level," he says.