Vilebrequin has always been at the forefront of reimagining swimwear. Ever since its founder Fred Prysquel produced his first pair of swimming shorts in St Tropez in 1971, the brand has been refining the process of producing the finest trunks and costumes in 32 meticulous steps. Swimsuit tailoring, the brand says, is an art in itself. This can be seen in Vilebrequin’s printing expertise, which results in patterns that look more vibrant, are executed with unparalleled precision, and last longer than those of most other brands.
So Vilebrequin has been the collaborator of choice for a collection of modern artists including Massimo Vitali, Alex Israel, Donald Sultan, Virgil Abloh and Derrick Adams. Now, it has embarked on a new venture with Swiss contemporary art publisher JRP|Editions. The Artists’ Editions collection, available from May 2022, is curated by Lionel Bovier, director of contemporary art gallery MAMCO Geneva and Arnaud Hubert, CEO of JRP|Editions, and brings together Vilebrequin with four leading contemporary artists: Kenny Scharf, Sylvie Fleury, John M Armleder and Deux Femmes Noires.
Lionel Bovier explains: ‘We wanted to curate a collection that would allow us to explore as many voices and designs as possible. This meant bringing together artists with radically different approaches. They are united by a common thread: the power of their work, the clarity of their artistic language, and the integrity with which Vilebrequin handled their projects.’
LA artist Kenny Scharf ’s cartoon-like prints adorn swimwear, beachwear, hats, bags and even a suitably playful bat and ball set. Scharf has produced two eye-catching patterns for the edit: “Faces in Places”, which is made up of boldly coloured psychedelic smiling faces melting into each other and “Tortues Multico Rainbow”, a pattern of cartoon-like rainbow turtles.
Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury has reinterpreted her “Hot Rod” pattern originally designed for wall paintings to work across a selection of men’s and women’s swimwear. The purple and blue flames nod both to the American subculture of car and bike customisation and the combustion engine itself – fitting considering Vilebrequin is named after the French word for crankshaft.
The “GRA” and “NOLA” patterns developed by Swiss performance artist, painter and sculptor John M Armleder show two different approaches. “GRA” references Armleder’s pour paintings – in which mixed mediums appear to have been combined haphazardly to splashy and appealing effect – and is seen across a bowling shirt and swim trunks, while “NOLA” uses a found image of a melting ice cube in a contrastingly regimented pattern across swim trunks.
Deux Femmes Noires – creatives Racquel Chevremont and Mickalene Thomas, who came together to promote artists of colour and queer artists through mentorship funding and exhibitions – will be part of the second drop of The Artists’ Editions, due for release in early 2023.
As Vilebrequin CEO and keen contemporary art collector Roland Herlory says: ‘Our swimsuit fabrics are an entirely new terrain for artists. With the know-how of Vilebrequin, we are capable of delivering printing techniques that reproduce an original artwork’s unique colour and contrast as faithfully as possible. Bringing art to the beach has always been the dream. This collaboration with JRP|Editions will push our artistry to new places over the coming seasons.’
The first The Artists’ Editions collection is available from select Vilebrequin stores and at vilebrequin.com