LONDON — Sarabande, the charitable foundation founded by the late Lee Alexander McQueen to nurture creative talent across a variety of creative fields, including art, craft, design and technology, is in the mood for celebration.
On Monday night, it hosted its biannual fundraiser at the top-floor restaurant Decimo at The Standard in King’s Cross.
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Guests including artists and designers whose careers the foundation supports — as well as Marina Abramović, Leticia Wright, Sandy Powell, Sarah Burton, Nadege Vanhee Cybulski, Daniel Roseberry, Gianfilippo Testa and Jonathan Akeroyd — were greeted by installations of interwoven, bold Alexander McQueen deadstock fabrics suspended and intertwined from the ceiling.
Trino Verkade, director of Sarabande, said the decoration served as a physical manifestation of the evening’s theme: woven, just like how artists build peer-to-peer communities at Sarabande to be more resilient and open to more opportunities.
“Our artists are strong individually, but when they support each other or collaborate, their energy is unrivaled,” she added.
Some of the tables were decorated with specially commissioned sugar and lead stained-glass sculptures based on some of the evening’s guests like Abramović and Roseberry by new Sarabande artist-in-residence Sophie Lloyd. Her sculptures were given away to guests via a raffle at the end of the dinner.
Verkade said involving artists like Lloyd in the dinner was a way for Sarabande “to support artists with commissions so that they can make work that’s paid for that actually moves their career forward.”
The artisanal experience didn’t stop there. The dinner, hosted by fashion designer Giles Deacon, was served on plates by film director Tim Burton and Roseberry, creative director of Schiaparelli, and pots by Sarabande alum Camilla Hanney.
“Deacon has been a really good friend to the foundation from the very beginning. He comes in and mentors the artists and designers. Every year we do a great drawing workshop. He chose John Alexander Skelton when we did the annual scholarships together,” Verkade said.
“Sarabande always had this loose idea of the mid-90s when all artists and creators were in London. It was a hard time for everybody, but they all came together. Deacon remembers that era so well and that’s why I think he’s so fond of the foundation. He really understands how difficult it is to be a designer anywhere not only in London, but he also knows that just following a traditional path doesn’t make any sense. I mean, he’s done it himself. That’s super important to think for the future as you take your own business pathway as well as a creative pathway,” Verkade said of choosing Deacon to host this year’s dinner.
The night of free-flowing Champagne and cocktails was also a great occasion to celebrate Sarabande’s much-anticipated expansion, and Elli Jafari, executive vice president of operations of Europe and America at The Standard, was happy to continue to support Sarabande.
“I’m a big fan of Sarabande and what the whole foundation does for all the artists. I think it’s such a beautiful cause and it’s such a perfect brand alignment for us to work very closely with them to create a magical moment like this to raise money for the artists,” Jafari added.
Last week it inaugurated its second outpost in Tottenham, north London. It hosts 15 creative studios within restored Grade II Georgian town houses collectively called the Sarabande High Road in the creative quarter Paxton17. Some of the rooms are sponsored by brands like Hermès, Burberry and Alexander McQueen, which helps to cover the running cost.
It offers studio spaces at around 1 pound per square foot to artists and designers who yearn to progress in their careers.
Some 21 local artists and designers have been given space in the studios, including fashion designer Renata Brenha, photographer Michelle Marshall, painter John Hui, sound artist Noah Berrie, botanical artist Daniel Prandi and sculptor George Richardson.
“We chose them last year. We’re looking for people who live locally because your creative studio is your second home, you spend a lot of time there. We’re not a traditional art institution that looks at traditional art. We are really looking for something very unexpected. It’s about finding a complete, diverse, really unexpected selection of artists that just every time you go into another room, you’re like, what, what’s this artist doing? That’s so different from the last artist,” Verkade said.
Fashion designers like Hadari will remain at the foundation’s headquarters at Haggerston, East London while Paolo Carzana and Camille Liu’s label Pariser have moved to Tottenham.
Verkade noted that the idea behind the Tottenham location is two-pronged. To begin with, it gives Sarabande a chance to support artists who work in a bigger practice because the studios are much bigger.
Secondly, it can support its artists for longer.
“We are so invested with the designers that we’re always torn that we want to support forever. But we can’t. There’s always somebody else who needs help. But also, you can’t suddenly say to somebody, ‘OK, you go now’ without knowing that they’re in that capable space financially to survive. So it’s that kind of combination of protecting them long enough to actually give them the time to walk by themselves,” she added.
The location is the new home to The House of Bandits, an art and fashion retail concept first introduced in 2020 with help from Burberry. On sale here just in time for the holiday season include bone china plates designed by Alexander McQueen and two new designs by Tim Burton and Daniel Roseberry for Schiaparelli.
Other standouts from the work of more than 150 artists include pearl and crystal-embellished knitwear by Pariser, framed 3D paper sculptures by Kuniko Maeda, papier maché lamps by Emmely Elgersma, diamond pendant by Christopher Thompson-Royds, and the Angel jacket from Paolo Carzana’s spring 2024 collection “My Heart Is a River for You to Bend.”
Verkade described The House of Bandits as “an energetic, innovative store where visitors can enjoy and buy work by the hottest talent.”
“It gives Sarabande artists control and presents the work they want to show. They benefit as you will buy directly from them, bypassing the need for their own retail space. The store dynamic will change often and I urge everyone to visit it in person, or if you can’t make it to Tottenham, online,” she added.
It’s understood that the town houses will be home to Sarabande for around three years while a permanent spot, six doors down the street at 808 High Road, is being restored and transformed into studios with the help of Lottery funding. It will come with a sculpture garden and a public café.
“That space has a much larger public event space. So we’re gonna be able to do more talks and exhibitions. We will give them back the town houses, or maybe not,” Verkade quipped.
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