Having unveiled the window installations at GANT’s London and Paris flagship stores, the American sportswear brand’s Fall/Winter 2022 campaign, “A Love Letter to New York” taps into its roots and brings together two versatile creatives with ties to the US metropolis. For this edition of Studio Visits, Hypebeast explores the creative spaces of the artists behind its displays.
Before settling in Bushwick, Brooklyn 12 years ago, French-born Delphine Diallo moved between Jackson Heights, Queens, and Harlem — truly making New York her new home. When she first relocated to the Big Apple in the mid-‘00s, it was photography that sustained her lifestyle in the cultural hotbed. “You can put me in the middle of nowhere. I’m gonna figure it out,” she says of her autonomous nature.
“I shape my consciousness to not be viewed as just a Black woman or French-Senegalese. I want to be defined as a human first.”
Working with several publications on her come-up, Diallo honors the city’s underground creative scene for its collective energy, “There are so many things happening [here], and talk moves quickly when you’re working hard,” she explains. “In North America, you’re defined by your skin color first before your creativity,” and whilst race continues to be a sensitive subject staining the country’s history, Diallo knows it’s something that can’t be overlooked. However, it’s her holistic approach on life which she uses to tear down any pre-associated labels, “I craft my mind every day. I shape my consciousness to not be viewed as just a Black woman or French-Senegalese. I want to be defined as a human first.”
“I believe everybody is born with a golden key. This has been kept hidden from many of us, but a lot of people are now awakening,” she says of honing into creativity and purpose. From visiting Native American healers to traveling in Africa, Diallo has connected with a range of spiritual communities across the world, and it’s these enlightening experiences that have shifted her perspective. “Like the stars in the system, this is my constellation. I don’t see things linear, everything is interconnected and I choose my path intuitively,” she explains. This journey of purpose has also led her to be of service to the community, doubling up her studio space and apartment into a safe haven for women to find themselves in the city.
“We’re living in a world through a box, and collage helps me break that.”
While it sometimes may seem that the world is divided, Diallo aims to promote unity through art. “My responsibility is to not divide within me. I start with that. I want to show people through the process of collage that we can be unified.” This ethos, paired with a passion for history, geometry, and anthropology informs her complete design language. “We’re living in a world through a box, and collage helps me break that,” she continues. “Some pictures are square, right? The challenge is to be free from those constraints, but in a way where people are still able to recognize their form.” Comparing her process to Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, Diallo says, “It’s like the mirrors at the end of the movie. You wake up in the morning, go to this room and check how many mirrors you need to break to find yourself. This is what I’m doing. I break mirrors of limitation, manipulation or patterns that don’t serve me.”
Diallo still searches for curves even in the most rigid of shapes. Inspired by New York’s road map, her exclusive GANT collage merges her influences and experiences into one piece. As well as subway signs and The Statue of Liberty’s torch, her “Love Letter to New York” also features a personal letter she penned to the city. “I put a postcard with a little African mask that said ‘Dear New York, I’m really grateful. I love you.’ GANT literally allowed me to do a ritual and be grateful for 15 years in New York and it’s blown up on the street.”
GANT had initially worked with Diallo back in 2016, six years later, the label has reconnected with the artist, this time giving her total creative freedom. “It feels very liberating,” she says of working with the brand. “My dream is coming true, it truly makes me believe in humanity. I always believe in others. This work was made possible because someone else believed in me.” However, it’s seeing the project come to life that has been most rewarding, “It’s really good during the day. You can see people stopping in front of the store, taking pictures with the collage, and kids walking past feeling like they can play around it. That’s the reason why I wanted to do a project with GANT, they gave me 100% freedom.”
“There’s freedom in New York. The creativity is insane and the art is very communicative — there’s nowhere that compares.”
Hypebeast: What is your favorite part of your studio?
Delphine Diallo: It’s the open-plan space. The living room, the kitchen and table for people to eat, but also to share stories while being able to jump on for a shoot right after. There’s a huge 7m long window in the corner that lets in natural light, allowing us a little time to give to the magic. It’s a very intimate space, it has to be.
Why is it special to you?
One side is my creativity, my work, and on the other side, I’ve created a space for women to feel safe. I have a three-bedroom apartment that I’ve opened up to women from anywhere around the world. I’ve lived here for 12 years and have hosted 11 women so far. I’ve become a better person by holding myself accountable for the community, but it’s also my responsibility as a human.
When you’re manifesting your journey, you need a good environment. It’s like a garden, you have to choose to be in righteousness and feed the garden. When a woman comes, she’s looking for herself, I’m a little bit older, and I understand what she’s going through. She needs advice, I’m here. I can show her my example. What I’ve created is special to me and I’m very proud of the process.
What do you love about New York?
There’s freedom in New York. The creativity is insane and the art is very communicative — there’s nowhere that compares. Living somewhere like Bushwick for 12 years has allowed me to be around thousands of artists who enjoy the space. We’re a pool of creators who have different ideas, and the energy is constantly rising. Here, we speak openly, that’s why New York is more advanced when it comes to consciousness, awareness and self-expression.
You can’t hide in New York. If you’re not good, you gotta go. People won’t tell you if you’re bad, but they just won’t pay attention to you. For some people, it might be too much before starting a career but I think it’s important to be pushed to the challenge. Taking the risk of an adventurous journey “Are you daring to fully be yourself during the creative process?”
“NYC is a very important part of the jigsaw puzzle for me. It’s where everything started.”
For the last six years, multi-disciplinary artist Anna Lomax has split her time working between her home city of London and New York. “I don’t think I’d be doing what I do if it wasn’t for a studio visit to an art directors studio in NY while completing my degree,” she says. The art director, who had worked with the likes of Hype Williams in the ‘90s, inspired her to pursue her artistic journey and apply it to the real world.
Describing her design language as “playful, colorful, tactile and material driven,” Lomax merges her signature bold aesthetic with GANT’s deep-rooted heritage. Working to the “A Love Letter to New York” campaign message, which resonates closely with her own journey, she explains, “NYC is a very important part of the jigsaw puzzle for me. It’s where everything started and because of that, it will forever hold a big place in my heart.”
Usually, the first step of bringing Lomax’s designs to life is through sketching ideas, “But in my studio, I had some laser cut MDF shapes I’d made a few months before, they were for an idea I had around making maquette size playgrounds in various metals,” she continues. “Some of the shapes had the feeling and geometry of the architecture of New York; the billboards you see on the top of buildings as you drive into and around NYC or the supports of the freeway.” This formed the foundation for her unique installation at GANT’s London flagship store, paying homage to the city.
Neon lights, to her, was “the only route to take [for this project].” As the latest GANT collection is heavily inspired by New York in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it seemed only right to utilize that material. “As soon as I got the brief I knew I was going to do something with neon as that was the go-to lighting for all the nightclubs of the era,” she explains. “Designing a ‘Love Letter’ to NYC that is being shown in London was a great way to celebrate the two cities I call home.”
“I like being able to share ideas and thoughts with my studio mates, having that sense of community is really important to me.”
Hypebeast: What’s the main feature of your studio?
Anna Lomax: My section has a big making table, lots of storage (as I’m in a constant never-ending battle with keeping and then trying to get rid of things) and all of my books I’ve collected over the years from artists’ work that I love as well as publications with my work in. I have a shelf and display area of things I’m in to or things I’ve made, that I love, and still serve as inspiration for new work.
What do you like most about the space?
It’s a large warehouse that was previously a furniture factory and then a snooker hall. It has windows on three sides so it’s big, bright and airy; a great space to come and work in. Probably the thing I like the most is that I share with six other artists/designers. I love working in a shared space, when I’ve had studios on my own it’s something that I’ve really missed. I like being able to share ideas and thoughts with my studio mates, having that sense of community is really important to me.
How does it encourage your creativity? Why is it important to have a place that nurtures that?
Keeping my personal projects going alongside ongoing client projects is important to my practice. Turnarounds for client projects can be extremely quick, so having somewhere I can collect things, work on them, make maquettes, play with materials then put those things to the side and come back to them after a period of time is really important. Those experiments are all starting points for new work or developing ideas for future clients. The studio is a place where I can come in and focus, if I let work creep into my house I’ll never stop working, so it’s also really important to be able to close the door, leave and have fun elsewhere.
For more information on GANT’s FW22 “A Love Letter to New York” collection and campaign, visit the brand’s website.