It wasn’t the gallery’s air-con that had people piling outside of Chelsea’s CATM gallery in ninety-degree New York last week. There was no air-con. Instead, Zana Bayne’s leather harnesses attracted quite the crowd. Robed aptly for the event in their obscure labels, black ensembles and heavy Rei Kawakubo influences, the 50 strong crowd packed in to the tiny (and temperately tropical) gallery to support the Brooklynite’s fall 2012 collection.
Combining the words ‘harness’ and ‘leather’ conjure up images perhaps only for XXX websites, and are synonymous with the social taboos of S&M and bondage. The less said the better, and as far as both style and social go, they have for a long time been confined to cults. Unfastening conventions, Zana Bayne’s harnesses are nothing less than beautiful. Primarily presented through the means of photography, with the aid of contributing friends Char Alfonzo, Maxime Buchi and Adrian Wilson, pieces appeared soft and delicate, and sensually elegant, whilst maintaining their subtle senses of eroticism. Scoring inspiration for the line from the Kutna Hora church in Prague and the Dia de Los Muertos decorations in Mexico, the pieces come from a beautiful place. Skilfully and abstractedly she transfers the iconography on to an array of leather accessories with fine straps and heavy buckles, referencing to the body’s anatomy with a recreation of the full skeleton and another that echoes the vertebrae.
In addition to the harnesses she’s developed as a stealthy signature in the industry — seen in Prabal Gurung’s previous two collections, on Madonna and Lady Gaga, and featured on the leaves of i-D, Interview and Karl Lagerfeld’s portraits book — wide crafted belts and organically simple conical bras made their debuts to her collection. Whilst the connotations are dark and the collaborative works are eerie (a video installation witnessed a tormented male, unable to break free from his reigns), Zana herself is no creature of solemnity. “I’m sick of wearing flowy dresses—I want to have a waist.” The pieces are hard-edged, they do derive from fetish-encounters and Day of the Dead edifices, and the skeletal ink-blank body prints which outlined the harnessed imprints which hung from the walls were haunting; nevertheless, they appeared completely wearable. More to the point, they were, by a good handful of loyal attendees.
You can see one of the evening’s art installations, the bondage themed photo shoot by Adrian Wilson, by clicking on the thumbnails and browsing through the gallery.