Hugo Boss is celebrating the “spirit of not following” with an interactive art exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery.
The exhibition has been created to celebrate the fashion brand’s 20th anniversary and while it is supported by a fashion collection – which is available online and instore - the exhibition itself does not include any clothing.
The brand worked in collaboration with twenty international artists to create the "Red Never Follows" project, which aims to celebrate “the adventurous and unpredictable path creativity takes.”
The “leading creators and inspiring inventors” were tasked with showcasing the brand’s “spirit of not following” and have created a collection of interactive and boundary pushing installations.
From paintings and sculptures to interactive visual and sound installations, the exhibition features work such as: ‘Electric Stimulus to the Face’ an interactive sound installation by artist by Daito Manabe, which features people responding to impulses that make their muscles twitch in rhythm, ‘The Pulse of London’ by Macro Barotti and Platstique Fantastique is a giant red plastic sphere that visitors can climb into and listen to their heartbeat reverberate around the space.
There is also ‘Emerging Colorspace’, a robotic drawing installation by Sonice Development, which resembles a large scale Spirograph that climbs along the wall creating a giant squiggle, and ‘Proximity/Repulsion’ by Felix Bonowski, which is an interactive video projection, featuring a constant flow of particles, which react and interact with visitor shadows.
The exhibition, which runs throughout August, is supported by an online site, showcases the exhibition pieces and the artists behind the show.
The site also showcases a special Hugo Boss Fashion collection, which includes 20 special iconic items which aim to showcase the brand’s timeless and contemporary style and enhance the spirit of always looking forward and looking progressive.
"Red Never Follows" is a collection of boundary pushing interactive and progressive installations. There’s paintings, experimental materials, interactive projections, immersive experiences and fascinating video artworks.
As an exhibition it is compelling and enticing. Hugo Boss has engaged cutting edge artists and inventors and they’ve responded with wonderful pieces.
The use of technology and the level of interactivity gives the exhibition a very modern and innovative vibe. This coupled with the dominance of the colour red in the majority of the works helps ensure there is no confusion that Hugo Boss is picking up the tab on this.
This is important too. Launching a month long exhibition in a major London gallery in the middle of summer is a big deal. This exhibition is being pushed to a mainstream audience and is guaranteed to get plenty of visitors, so it's important that these visitors understand Hugo Boss' connection to the exhibition.
Trawling through reviews of the exhibition further confirms this as “Red Never Follows” is apparently crawling with children, (it is school holidays after all) who are interacting with the installations along with their parents and generally having a good time.
Clearly the strategy for this exhibition is to position Hugo Boss as an innovative brand and an enabler and supporter of progressive and innovative art.
Hugo Boss already has form in the art world through a legacy of support and sponsorships, in addition to The Hugo Boss Prize, an art prize administered by the Guggenheim Museum.
The Hugo Boss brand is all about the unconventional and the people who choose not to follow.
It’s clear that Hugo Boss views artists and creativity as core to the brand and this exhibition is a celebration of that and therefore is a fitting way to mark 20 years of the brand. As the hype video says: “20 years ago HUGO was born to be unconventional and innovative like the people who choose the brand. Now we present an anniversary collection of 20 iconic pieces to celebrate the adventure of creating your own path."
The strategy for Hugo Boss is to take these innovative and unconventional artworks to a mass audience and enable people to engage and interact with the cutting edge and the spirit of not following.
It’s a lovely idea and I really like the exhibition, it aligns the brand with art and creativity and perhaps most significantly with innovation, which is clearly what Hugo Boss has hoped for.
“An exhibition that goes beyond the brand” is how one reviewer described the exhibition.
However, when I go online to see how this innovation plays out on another platform, things get a little underwhelming.
The website is slick and the artworks are interwoven with the product line that Hugo Boss designers have created for the anniversary. I can't help but feel that the site needed to be more innovative and provide a better showcase of the artworks to really live up to the physical show.
And then there's the products - There’s beautifully cut blazers, timeless classic cut suits, a black handbag, lace up men’s shoes: The clothing is classic, timeless, iconic and stylish. It is in keeping with the view I’ve always held of Hugo Boss… classic timeless style.
However, the thing about classic timeless looks is that they serve to outlast all the unconventional fashion trends in a very conventional kind of way. So what was all that stuff about Hugo Boss being unconventional?
After seeing the exhibition I was sure the website would be brimming with fashion forward innovative looks that perhaps worked with different textiles or even digital prints, instead I was met with timeless style.
Prior to sitting down to research this piece, I wouldn't have called Hugo brand "unconventional and innovative". If I was to create a list of innovative and unconventional fashion brands it would more likely feature the likes of Vivienne Westwood or Alexander McQueen.
So I was surprised by the premise of the exhibition and this unconventional legacy of the brand. Particularly becuase the unconventional element seems to be all about being anti-fashion and not following the crowds and the trends.
This brand is all about classic timeless pieces that serve as the staples of your wardrobe to enable you to be creative and innovative around them. These are the people that march to the beat of their own drum, they express their creativity through other means while wearing iconic Hugo Boss fashions.
As the Hugo Boss Facebook page says: "True icons will never be out of style"
Clearly I'm not very fashion and I found this really interesting, but my concern is does the average gallery visitor get all that from the exhibition? In fact what is it that the average visitor to "Red Never Follows" going to take away from the exhibition? Without attending myself it is hard to say but I can't help but think the average punter won't really care they'll be more into playing with the exhibitions and enjoying the show.
As a branded art exhibition Red Never Follows aligns with the brand’s values of creativity, innovation and not following. The art is compelling and unique and the exhibition appears to be well received judging by the reviews I've read. Whether visitors walk away with a strong impression of Hugo Boss and the brand is yet to be seen and I feel is a bit of a stretch. Even if the visitors "get" the message will it translate to sales? Probably not.
In maintaining the brand’s links with the art world it’s an effective exercise and I'm certain recognition of the Hugo Boss brand is high within artistic and creative circles, but whether this kicks goals with a mainstream audience is highly unlikely. I suspect the majority of visitors would see the brand's involvement in the exhibition as a name badge sponsorship, the same as sportng events and concerts, rather than anything deeper.
Red Never Follows is a great exhibition that will be sure to impress and a strong way to cement the brand in creative and artistic circles. Just how much a mainstream audience will take away from this is yet to be seen.