Canvases can come is all shapes, sizes and mediums—a sentiment that Patrick Church takes to heart.
The English-born, New York–based multimedia artist was at retailer Opening Ceremony last week, seated on the floor and flanked by gender-bending models in dresses he designed, painting ballet flats. And not just any ballet flats, but those made by Repetto, the French brand that supplies the footwear for National Opera of Paris.
Though seemingly unconventional, it’s a partnership that works for all parties. “Opening Ceremony carried my very first collection and has really been a huge champion of my work over the past year and a half,” Church said. “We have been talking about collaborating on something for quite a while but we needed the right opportunity. I love to expand the medium through which I express my work and the opportunity to collaborate with a shoe brand like Repetto was really exciting.”
Indeed, Repetto has been expanding its repertoire, venturing outside traditional partnerships to increase brand awareness. Over the past couple of years, the firm has enlisted musical acts, including Sia and Stromae for capsule collections, and visual artists such as Mayumi Wantabae. It is a way for the company to branch out and attract a new kind of demographic—a quality that appealed to Opening Ceremony’s co-founder, Humberto Leon.
“We are excited to partner with Patrick Church and a heritage brand like Repetto, that has been such a supporter of the arts from the onslaught,” he said in a statement. “Patrick Church is an amazing artist who is a big part of Opening Ceremony’s community and we have partnered with him on multiple projects. I have always wanted to use the Opening Ceremony platform to provide a place for queer artists, so I am especially excited to showcase this new collection.”
And if showcasing talent is the goal, the store certainly highlighted it with Church’s live art performance. It wasn’t just about plopping a print on a shoe and blasting it as a collaboration on digital channels. A story was told; a glimpse into the machinations of a creative was put on full display. It created a sense of intimacy, even during regular shopping hours.
“I think in such a digital age, doing something as simplistic as a live painting means a lot more than posting an Instagram,” said Church. “It creates a stronger connection with the people viewing it, and I believe that is more genuine than anything digital. I think people don’t often get to see the process of what I do, especially in today’s age. The organic ritual of painting can feel pretty special.”
In an almost fetal position, Church painted a sequence of body parts on ballet flats—from lips to eyes to cocooned heads—using just three colors. There were also factory-made black-and-white options—which retail for $325 and are sold exclusively at Opening Ceremony stores and online—for mass consumption. The motif is a continuation of his “All Over You” series, which consists of paintings done on a number of stretch bodysuits and long slip dresses, many of which were on display at the event. And it would follow that footwear is the ideal next step in completing the look.
“I feel as though the artwork on the shoe is timeless, and the Repetto ballet flat is such an iconic, classic piece—so meshing them together to create the final product seemed really natural,” Church said. “I also like that the fabric of the shoe is canvas, which is a perfect backdrop to the artwork emblazoned upon it.”