Harpers Bazar Arabia Interiors December 2022


Debra Franses makes her debut in Dubai, showcases her signature Artbag creations

Debra Franses makes her debut in Dubai, showcases her signature Artbag creations
The British artist’s month-long exhibition opened at THAT Concept Store in Mall of the Emirates on Thursday

by Joydeep SenguptaSupplied photo
Published: Thu 6 Oct 2022, 7:39 PM

British artist Debra Franses, who has lived and worked in New York, and is now based in rural Amersham, which is about 40-odd kilometres from central London, is making her debut in Dubai and the Middle East.

Her month-long exhibition Artbag opened at THAT Concept Store in Mall of the Emirates on Thursday.

She described Artbag “as a window into her soul”.

It was whilst studying at Central St Martins School of Art (2002-05) that the idea for these creations first materialised, when she took a beautiful handbag from a top couture house and adapted it into a silicone mould for casting.

The first bag was in heavy white plaster, but her next bag, catch, was cast in resin and featured a goldfish inside a tank of water, mounted on a plinth.

Her first pieces were highly autobiographical, as through these Franses visualised how she was feeling about the various areas in her life, even though the focus has shifted over the passage of time.

Her creations celebrate pop art in a fast-changing digital world.  She explores ideas centred on consumption and mass production and recognises the complex relationship that people have with material objects as consumable goods.

“The only constant in life is change and the freezing of time is a celebration of my creations,” said an effervescent Franses, known for her ready wit and wry sense of humour.

Her bespoke bags exude comfort, prestige and style.

“Resin is the medium of art for me because it preserves things. I want to hold things that are precious and must be handled with care. We must be kind to each other,” she said in her inimitable way.

The creation of an Artbag has been likened to mummification in a slick and chic resin coffin. Objects are selected to ensure that they won’t break or melt in the casting process; occasionally, delicate items need their own mould. The silicone mould of the handbag comprises two parts and an initial layer of objects is laid out in each half.

Liquid resin is poured in, in layers, with a day in between for each layer to cure and with further objects added to build up the layers. To remove any last traces of air, the completed handbag is then put into a pressure chamber. This is the most delicate stage of the process as bubbles can be created in the resin. Once cured, the handbag stays in the mould for several days and when removed it is sanded down, polished to a high sheen and lacquered.

Supplied photo
Franses, who was born in London, studied politics and economics and initially pursued a career in advertising, despite her artistic ambitions from the tender age of six years.

“My work takes its cue from the kitschy elements of popular culture, referencing both pop art and post modernism’s endeavours to embody these ideals,” she said.

She explained her fascination for the colour red. “Held in the resin-preserved moment of time on the lines of chaos in a moment of stillness. Red symbolises chaos, as each bag tells a unique story of human trials and tribulations,” she said.

She fell in love with Dubai at first sight on her maiden visit.

“Sun, sand and the vertical skyscrapers make me feel that Dubai is inextricably linked to my future. Dubai embodies my creations, which are a social commentary of the transient nature of human existence. For instance, my creation, aptly called 'Handle with care', is made of gold barbed wire containing a fragile white bird that celebrates the fragility of human existence,” she said.

Her first insight into Asia was India in 2003 where she “fell in love with the culture…initially through yoga and a spiritual connection with the beautiful innocent people”.

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“I love culture and studied social anthropology at university before going to Central St Martins School of Art to bring it all together in my own artistic language formed by objects. The handbag became an immediate and intimate language to carry all my memories and experiences of the world and the people whom I met in my artistic journey,” she added.

Franses’ ethnicity makes her a global citizen — her father, a Sephardic Jew, was a renaissance man, who could speak several European languages with consummate ease and was trained as a matador (bullfighter) before he ventured into his father’s hat business in London’s Maddox Street. Her mother was an Ashkenazi Jew from modern-day Belarus and was an art teacher.

Her Artbags have been exhibited in galleries around the globe and she also undertakes private commissions.

In 2015, she created works for the Coca Cola Museum to celebrate 100 years of the iconic Coke bottle design and her works were shown alongside pieces by some of her own personal art heroes.

ArtKōrero partners with Franses
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“We’re beyond excited to partner with THAT Concept Store in the creation of our first retail X art pop-up space. THAT Concept Store understands the power artists have to transform a retail space into an immersive and culturally relevant environment. They’ve been instrumental in bringing this collaboration to life. Over the coming months, ArtKōrero will present both International and UAE-based artists within the ArtKōrero X THAT pop-up, starting with Nat Bowen and now our second show featuring Debra Franses. We can’t wait to share her incredible bag sculptures with visitors to the store and Mall of the Emirates,” said Chimere Cisse, founder of ArtKōrero.

ArtKōrero, which has offices in both London and Dubai, seeks to engage galleries, private venues, luxury brands and public spaces with the art world. James Goldcrown, Kico Camacho, Anchorball and Rabab Tantawy are some of the creative sparks who are collaborating with ArtKōrero.




Designer Handbags: Live Your Dream In Virtual Reality!

Getting your hands on an authentic designer handbag is not always an easy business. Even if you can justify the price tag, there is often a long waiting list for the most sought-after versions. However, Elle Magazine reports that virtual reality platforms have recently spotted a gap in the market, by offering users the chance to carry a designer bag in the metaverse. 

Even the most famous designer bag of them all, the Birkin handbag, has seen a piece of the action. The cult handbag was originally created for the British born but Paris based actress, Jane Birkin. In 1981, she happened to find herself sat on a plane next to the then Chief Executive of Hermès, Jean-Louise Dumas.

What happened next has been woven into myth and legend, but one version goes that the actress accidently spilled the contents of her bag onto the floor, including her Hermès diary. Dumas suggested that Birkin acquire a bag with pockets suitable to carry all her belongings more securely, and Birkin remarked that such a bag was not to be found.

In a happy creative accident where style, form, and function fuse together, Dumas took out his pocketbook and drew a sketch of the prototype Birkin bag. Contrary to popular belief, it was not an overnight success, but its cult status slowly built up over the following decade, and now they can be worth up to an eye watering £145,000.

In the early 2000s, the bag received the ultimate accolade of being featured in an episode of hit US TV show Sex and the City, when Samantha found herself on a five-year waiting list for the elite status symbol. 

For users desperate to jump the queue, virtual reality offers the chance for an online alter ego to spend the day walking around with a designer bag of their choice, whether that be the classic Birkin, or perhaps a Burberry or Gucci. 

3 Inspirational Retail Interior Designs

The world of retail interior design is bolder and braver than ever before, as stores look for ways to transform themselves into a destination, rather than just a functional space. With customers now able to purchase almost anything online, in-person stores are reinventing their purpose.

Here is a look at some of the most exciting and inspiring retail interiors from around the world.


Fluffy pink all over at Balenciaga, London

To celebrate the recent launch of its new Le Cagole bag, the high end fashion brand Balenciaga covered its entire Mount Street store with pink faux fur, including the floors, selves, and support pillars. The temporary installation was then stacked with the new bag, and a new launch of shoes and accessories.

Vogue magazine have described the Cagole as the new ‘it-bag’, similar to the original Birkin bag which has now become a fashion icon. The brand explained that the bright pink fluffy store was in line with their over-the-top ethos, and the word ‘Cagole’ is taken for the French slang term for this.

Balenciaga said: "The line, which now includes multiple bags, wallet, and shoe styles, reinvents Balenciaga codes in the tradition of maximalist It Bags of another era. Le Cagole pop-ups are in keeping with this spirit, covered entirely with bright pink fake fur. Shelves, displays, floors, seating, and even racks in the open-plan kiosks are lined in pink."

It added: "Each Le Cagole pop-up fixture base was made of reused metal from previous projects. After the faux fur is removed, the metal will be reused again for future projects. We are currently researching the best way in which we can donate the faux fur so that it can be reused in manufacturing toys, for example.”


Bamboo waves at Loewe, Barcelona

The Spanish fashion brand Loewe reinvented its flagship store in Barcelona with an intriguing bamboo art installation. While the rest of the store was kept to a very minimalist white, the woven bamboo tubing undulated around the pillars, shelves, ceilings, and floors of the store.

The luxury ready to wear clothing and accessories were displayed alongside art collections, to emphasise the sense of a blended gallery and clothes store. The creative director, Jonathan Anderson, explained that the aim was to highlight the relationship between excellent craftsmanship and the brand’s products.

The store/gallery included sculptures by the winners and finalists of the Loewe Craft Prize. The centrepiece tiger bamboo installation is titled ‘Yūgo’ and was created by Japanese artist Tanabe Chikuunsai IV.


Parisian Chic at Hedi Slimane

Hedi Slimane, fashion designer and creative director at Celine, brought classic French chic to the flagship London store when it opened earlier this year. The designer sensitively worked with the elegant Edwardian building, to create the stylish and sophisticated interior, which perfectly blends the old and the modern.

Art pieces are suspended from the ceiling, and positioned by mirrors and cabinetry. The marble and stone interiors also showcase the brand’s ready to wear and fragrance collections.


If you are looking for contemporary resin art, please get in touch today.

How To Start Collecting Pop Art

Pop Art is a movement that first emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain, and soon spread to America. It represented a radical break with the traditional art world, which younger artists found to be stale and stuffy. The new ideas struck a chord, and the movement flourished worldwide during the 1960s and 70s.

Pop artists took their inspiration from the world around them, including the burgeoning popular music scene, films, and comic books, as well as everyday items such as product packaging and advertisements. It was designed with a young mass audience in mind, and reflected the emerging transient consumerism of the era.

The non-elitist approach of many Pop Artists means that collecting their work is more achievable than acquiring other types of artwork. Of course, very famous pieces by Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein still sell for millions at auction. However, with some research, there are plenty of other amazing artworks at more affordable prices.


Decide what you like

Art is of course highly subjective, so unless you are collecting purely for investment purposes, it’s important to actually buy something that will bring you joy! There are usually plenty of Pop Art exhibitions going on in the UK at various times of the year, so it’s a good idea to really familiarise yourself with the genre before making an investment.

The Tate, which has galleries in London, Liverpool, and St Ives, has a large permanent Pop Art collection. In the Midlands, Wolverhampton Art Gallery has one of the biggest Pop Art collections outside of London. It has pieces by leading artists of the movement, such as Andy Warhol, Peter Blake, Roy Lichtenstein and Richard Hamilton, and many lesser-known artists.

Remember that it is not all about paintings and screen prints; many artists produced sculptures, figurines, installations, textiles, collages, and more. There are also plenty of books and websites where you can learn more about the wider cultural and historical context of the artworks.


Look for editions

Pop Art is often available in limited edition prints, which may have been signed by the artist. As a starting point, you could buy custom prints which are usually sold at affordable prices in gallery shops. Also look out for multiples, replicas, and reproductions.


Confirm the authenticity of the work

Pop Art pieces have often been deliberately produced with a relatively low-cost method, and this means that they can be easy to fake. Therefore, the work should be authenticated by the artist or their estate, and have documented evidence of its history.


Keep an eye out for emerging artists

One of the best and most affordable ways to collect any art is to keep an eye out for up-and-coming artists. Visit the end of year shows for art schools and colleges, go to exhibitions even if you haven’t heard of the artist before, and read cultural press and publications.

Word of mouth is another great way of finding out about upcoming talent, both through online and offline networking.


If you are looking for contemporary resin art, please get in touch today.

Why Innovative Retail Interior Designs Matter

In 2022, retail interior design matters more than ever. As the competition from online sales has soared during the past few years, brick-and-mortar stores have been keen to enhance the customer experience, to make the store a real destination. A major part of this involves creating a unique environment that sets the store apart from the rest of the street.

The window display may have fallen out of fashion with some retailers, but this is where the customer’s first impression will come from, and it should tell the brand story. It doesn’t necessarily need to display the goods on sale; some intriguing items, such as a piece of contemporary resin art, are often more effective.

Design concepts which embody the ethos and tone of the brand are especially important for flagship stores. For example, Lavazza’s flagship store in London is designed to evoke the essence of the Italian lifestyle, where coffee is a part of the culture, rather than the more grab-and-go event it tends to be here in the UK.

The ground floor is designed in the shape of a coffee bean, and the materials incorporate used coffee grounds and brass. Meanwhile, a chandelier that has been painstakingly assembled from 700 coffee beans hangs from the ceiling. The floor has the more leisurely and laid-back feel of continental hospitality.

There is also an interactive feature which allows customers to taste different varieties of coffee, much as a wine seller would offer testing sessions. The whole concept was inspired by Lavazza Museum in Turin, which is dedicated to telling the story of the iconic 128-year-old Italian coffee brand.

Interactive experiences, unique artworks, and local community engagement are all ways that food and luxury goods retailers are enhancing their visitor experience. In the post-pandemic retail environment, it is now imperative to make the in-person shopping trip memorable and unique.

3 Stunning Art And Fashion Collabs

When the words of art and fashion collide, the results can be magical, and are highly sought after as collectors’ items. There is a long history of artists and fashion designers blurring the boundaries between these two glamorous worlds. Here’s a look at some of the most outstanding examples from recent decades.


Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who has earned the nickname ‘princess of polka dots.’ She works across a variety of media, from paintings, sculptures, and performance art and installations. She first came to prominence in the 1960s after attending art school in New York, and has worked prodigiously ever since.

Whatever the media, her work always has a polka dot theme, so it was no surprise that her collaboration with Louis Vuitton in 2012 featured a range of dotty fashion wear, including bags, clothing, and accessories. The Infinity Dots collection has a striking red and white palette.

Kusama said that her work is inspired by a childhood hallucination she had in a field of flowers. She says: ‘Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment’.


Damien Hirst and Alexander McQueen

Hirst was known in the 1990s as the bad boy of the Brit Art scene, due to his uncompromising representations of life and death. This seems to make him an unlikely choice for a fashion crossover artist, but this is what happened in 2013 when he teamed up with the iconic British fashion brand Alexander McQueen.

The result was a range of scarf designs with skull and butterfly motifs, arranged in geometric patterns. Hirst said that his inspiration for the designs was Dante’s Inferno, and it led to 30 designs which were adapted from his Entomology series. The kaleidoscopic patterns feature spiders, butterflies, and other insects arranged in symmetrical patterns.

The scarves were made in chiffon, pongé, twill and cashmere, and are highly collectable items today.


Yoshitomo Nara and Stella McCartney

For her spring/summer 2021 collection, British designer Stella McCartney teamed up with the acclaimed Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara to create a genderless capsule wardrobe. The artist’s trademark mash up of cute anime drawings and punk attitude featured on a range of unisex clothing and accessories, including outsized sweaters and tote bags.

Nara’s work has always crossed cultural boundaries, and his designs have featured on the album sleeves of bands such as REM, Shonen Knife, and Bloodthirsty Butchers. He said that the punk rock music he grew up listening to has influenced his art.

Stella McCartney is one of the world’s most successful fashion designers of recent decades, and she has collaborated with a series of leading international artists, including Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons and Olafur Eliasson. Her designs are known for combining wearable pieces with high concept ideas.


If you are looking for contemporary resin art, please visit our website today.

Why The Birkin Handbag Is A Design Classic

When it comes to designer handbags, the Hermès Birkin bag is the top of any collectors’ list. The elegant simplicity of the design, combined with outstanding craftsmanship and the highest quality materials, are part of the reason of course. Maybe the rest can be put down to that elusive je ne sais quoi. Here’s a look at how the iconic bag came to be.

The story begins in 1984 with a chance encounter between the English singer and actress Jane Birkin, and the boss of Hermés fashion house, Jean-Louis Dumas. Birkin, a long-time French resident, has starred in films such as Blowup, and Kaleidoscope. She also sang on the controversial duet Je t'aime moi non plus with former partner Serge Gainsborough.

After Birkin expressed dissatisfaction with her travel holdall on the flight, Dumas decided to create the ultimate marriage of form and function in a handbag. The result was the design classic that is universally regarded as a luxury lifestyle accessory today, as much as a piece of travel luggage.

The rarity value of genuine Birkin bags adds to their exclusivity, and they change hands in the auction houses of the world for thousands of pounds. They are available in a range of sizes and materials, and they can be custom-ordered to include special details, such as diamond fixtures, or bespoke colours.

There is apparently a six-year waiting list for the highly desirable handbag, and its sister, the Kelly. The latter is named for the beautiful Princess Grace of Monaco, formerly the actress Grace Kelly, who tragically died in a car accident at the age of 52.

However, for those who want to pay tribute to this celebrated fashion item, there is an opportunity to commission your own resin Artbag sculpture. These beautiful hand-crafted items take the clear resin as a blank canvas to display the contents of the bag.

Kanye Buys $275k Birkin Bag For New Girlfriend

Kanye West proved he is one of the Hermes Birkin’s biggest fans, after buying his new girlfriend a bag from the designer worth $275,000 (£220,000).

The rapper gave the “very, very rare” Birkin that is no longer in circulation to his current girlfriend Chaney Jones, according to an exclusive from Page Six.

Not wanting to miss the occasion when the accessory was handed to Chaney in Houston earlier this week, the 44-year-old watched it on FaceTime.

The silver metallic bag is made from Chevre leather and features palladium hardware,  making it certain this exclusive handbag will stand out from others.

This isn’t the first time Kanye has bestowed Birkin gifts to friends and family, as he recently bought five Birkins for his previous girlfriend Julia Fox, as well as her pals.

He commissioned personal shopper Michell Lovelace to purchase the bags, with the stylist telling the news provider: “The next day, they were like, ‘Wait, we actually want to get more,’ because he wants to gift all her close friends one too. I was like, no way. I couldn’t believe it at first.”

The 32-year-old actress recently showed off her Birkin bag, thought to be worth $45,000, after a photoshoot for Vogue in Paris.

Speaking with the New York Times, Fox said: “I don’t know if you know about owning a Birkin when you’re not a rich person, but it’s like the most anxiety-inducing thing ever. You’re checking the Birkin, making sure it’s still there … It’s a lot of pressure.”


Immortalise your Birkin bag by turning it into contemporary resin art. Find out more by clicking here.

Queen’s Favourite Handbag Designer Launches Jubilee Edition

The favourite handbag designer of the Queen is celebrating the Jubilee by launching a new collection based on Her Majesty’s classic accessory.

Launer is releasing a retro-style handbag reminiscent of the style they launched in 1972, which Queen Elizabeth II herself has long been a fan of.

Gerald Bodmer, chief executive of the handbag brand, was reported by Hello! magazine as saying: “The Queen is a style icon and always looks remarkable, we are therefore proud and delighted that she has used Laune bags so prominently for more than 50 years.”

Therefore, there is no better way to celebrate the royal’s 70 years on the throne than with a Jubilee Collection, which while being based on the Queen’s favourite structured design, has also been updated with a contemporary finish.

For instance, the suede interior has been replaced with a retro-feel fabric, and each bag features a leather plaque with ‘Platinum Edition Jubilee’ in embossed gold foil.

There are five colours of the limited-edition accessory, including Monarch Purple, Ebony Black, Tangerine, Cloud Blue and Fawn Brown, and are available for £2,500.

Bodmer told People: “It’s a beautifully finished product – we stick to what we are good at, which is making structured bags.”

Over the last 50 years, the Queen has been seen with six different styles of Launer bags, with her most recent choice being the Turandot, which is smaller and lighter to carry.

Due to its popularity among the royal family, Launer has been given the Royal Warrant, which is the “ultimate seal of approval and prestige”.

For another historic handbag that you can also put on display, consider an art bag. Find out more by taking a look here.