‘Hers is a countercultural pursuit.’
Long before the fashion industry co-opted art, there was Agnès B.
By Loïc Prigent
Photographs by Dominique Issermann
Why Agnès B.? Why now? Simple: she’s a pioneer.Because if fashion and art, the cultural and the commercial, today seem like such a natural fit, then that is partly thanks to Agnès B.’s vision of how a fashion label should be a central part of a larger cultural matrix; that it is a brand’s duty to use its position to have a wider cultural impact. It is a belief she made real by doing what she does best: following her instincts. So, not for her a multi-million-dollar art foundation or the odd high-profile sponsorship of a blockbuster exhibition. Instead, for over 40 years, she has given continuing (often under-the-radar) support for (often avant-garde) artists whether up-and-coming early masters or once-nearly-forgotten living ones.Between the art galleries, film-production company, environmental research ship, foundation to coordinate her cultural initiatives, and an ever-increasing art collection, the world of (lower-case) agnès b – the brand – is as far reaching as it is lovingly curated. And she has created it without ever being in hock to the banks or having spent a single centime on advertising. For Agnès B., it’s about doing, not showing (off).
So with the symbiosis between fashion and culture now reaching global ubiquity, it seemed the right moment to reassess Agnès B.’s career and lasting influence. With this in mind, System asked French writer and filmmaker Loïc Prigent to spend an afternoon with the designer at her Parisian apartment near the Louvre. Their free-flowing conversation reveals a designer at odds with fashion’s current imperatives, uncomfortable in the industry, and one, who by being true to her ideas, has created her own community: a professional and social family of artists, filmmakers and kindred spirits.
We then invited three of those people – Jonas Mekas, Ryan McGinley and Harmony Korine – to share their own thoughts on Agnès B., the woman who has in turns been their collaborator, muse, producer, financial backer, facilitator, co-conspirator, and trusted friend.
Discover their world in System No. 11. Click to buy.