One afternoon in July we made the trek, along with around 80,000 others, to the Italian town of Sulzano to walk on a series of bridges designed by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. He and his recently deceased wife Jeanne-Claude made their career with awe-inspiring works that bring vibrant fabric into natural settings. They dotted the Japanese landscape with blue cloth umbrellas, encircled islands off the coast of Miami in pink tarps, and filled central park with blowing golden cloth for "The Gates." This most recent piece and the first piece that Christo has completed himself since Jeanne-Claude passed away took low floating piers and wrapped them in an turmeric-hued fabric.
We knew that this would probably make a good backdrop for our linen garments and you can see some of the detail shots we took below, but we weren't adequately prepared for just how striking the work was and how captivated we would be with the whole experience.
We had seen drawings of the project on the internet before we arrived, and in advertizements in train stations around Italy. It appeared to be several small bridges linking islands in a lake together. Once there we realized that the scale was much bigger than we imagined. The bridges were miles long and to traverse the whole work took us hours.
These pictures don't adequately capture the cheery atmosphere on the piers. The crowds were large but in a holiday mood. Couples strolled slowly together as kids ran and played. Everyone was just having fun. Although the piers cut an unnatural line of brash color across the lake they actually made one feel very close to landscape. It was pleasant to be walking right at the water line and to bob gently as the currents in the lake buffeted the piers.
But for all the pleasantness of the atmosphere, it was still draining to be out on the water for so long and be so exposed. So we took breaks often both to enjoy the scenery and keep ourselves going. On one of the islands there stood a single villa and there in the shade of its garden walls we could stick our toes in the water and get some respite from the sun.
The day after our trip to "Floating Piers" we stopped by an art museum in the nearby cit of Brescia which was having an exhibition to coincide with the work in Sulzano. This exhibition had models, renderings, and examples of the specialized equipment that was designed for this massive construction. Below you can see examples of the elaborate rope and anchor system that holds the piers in place. We left with an even deeper appreciation for the monumental effort that went into creating this temporary work.
Back on the piers we had the unexpected delight of seeing the artist himself. He motored around the periphery in a barge as the crowds errupted in applause and shouts of "Bravo!"
Christo is the figure wearing a pink shirt in the middle of the boat.
It was undoubtedly worth the effort to get to Sulzano to see this work. Lilly and I left with the distinct feeling that something in this experience will emerge in our Spring collection of 2017. Maybe golden colors, maybe wrapping and bunching of fabric, maybe we will stretch linen across a lake. Whatever it will be we have been unable to stop thinking about Christo and his Floating Piers.