On her trip to Paris last fall to see the collections, Baby & Company owner Jill Donnelly not only found pieces for Spring Summer 2014. She also made a chance discovery that has been the seed of her unfolding inspiration for a new season at Baby & Co.
Donnelly goes to New York, then on to Paris twice a year to view the collections for the store. While in Paris, what she saw for spring and summer had incredible texture, striping and bold primary colors, which seemed harmonious with graffiti that she often saw on walls near or on stores such as Collette, Paul Smith and Commes des Garçon. The graffiti fascinated and inspired her, and its linear quality seemed to align with looks she had seen on the runways.
At a sidewalk café on her last day in Paris, a woman walked by Donnelly and caught her attention because—as Donnelly says—she just “had something.” (I think anyone that has had the good fortune of simply watching the people of Paris go by knows exactly what she means; they are fascinating and beautiful, but in a way that cannot be captured in words—the je ne sais quoi.) The woman returned a few minutes later and greeted Donnelly, wondering if they had met before. The woman was Catharine Cary of La Tagueuse Élégante, a painter and graffiti artist who has been working with likes of Balenciaga and making her mark, literally, throughout Paris. Through this serendipitous meeting, a collaboration was born.
Cary is originally from America, and spent ten years running large-scale urban development projects in New York. Taking a break from that, she went to France and ended up staying for six months, studying at the Beaux Arts. She continued her studies back in New York at the Art Students League and the New York Studio School. She then returned to Paris in 1998 where she has been based since. She showed her first work in 1999 and moved into her own studio in 2000. She has lived and traveled all over the world, working on humanitarian, industrial, social and artistic projects throughout her career.
Graffiti itself has transformed as an art form over time. Its acceptance by galleries and museums (including a major exhibit at LA’s MOCA in 2011), designers (remember Marc Jacobs’ collaboration with Stephen Sprouse and the graffiti designs for Louis Vuitton in 2001?) and patrons of the arts has changed perceptions of it over time. A broader understanding of it—that it is sometimes a vehicle for sophisticated messages, not just a random act of defacement—has allowed the form to be embraced and expanded by artists of all stripes, revealing the beauty of words themselves.
The chance meeting with Donnelly has turned into what will be the debut of Cary’s graffiti art in the United States. Cary has been invited to help launch Baby & Co.’s Spring Summer Collection by covering the walls and spaces of Baby & Co. with an explosion of elegant words, and Baby & Co.’s clients have the opportunity to be part of the creative act, too. The project will take three days, during which customers can come in during store hours and have words, poems, thoughts and feelings added by Cary to her graffiti art installation. Beginning on Tuesday, February 11 to Thursday February 13, 2014, you can stop by and have an opportunity to be a part of the beauty of Cary’s work.
I was struck by Jill Donnelly’s passion for bringing different communities of Seattle together: art, fashion, architecture, music and literature. Her enthusiasm for bringing a fresh and dynamic art form to the city is paralleled with her vision for Baby & Co. and the customers that she says are the heart and soul of her business. It is her Valentine to her city and a way for her to continue to support creativity in all its forms.