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XX Marks the Spot: Nancy Gonzalez X KAWS Handbags Land at Sotheby’s

By Kate Bergeron
Companion (Passing Through) by KAWS at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith - Library of Congress)

The luxury handbag label partnered with KAWS for a limited-edition art collection of bold leather accessories.

W hen Colombian accessories designer Nancy Gonzalez tapped the Pop artist known as KAWS to collaborate back in 2016, no one expected the results to be boring. Gonzalez, who is widely recognized for her daring and bold use of colored crocodile leathers, invited KAWS – famed for his enduring cartoon characters that blend fine art with commerce – to imagine a capsule collection of handbags that spoke to both creatives’ sensibilities. The limited-edition line first premiered at the now shuttered Paris concept shop Colette; nearly five years later, 14 of the original limited-edition pieces are being sold by Sotheby’s.

The bag every woman with a sense of purpose should own, the tote is part functional and part confidant. Our specialists’ favorite, the Cobalt Blue Leaf Tote in Signature Caiman crocodile leather is slightly sturdier to the touch than a regular crocodile skin that feels soft. It’s our new “forever bag,” standing the test of time.

Seen around: Renée Zellweger

In true fashion, the accessories label delivered three edgy designs in daring color combinations that alone make a statement: the “Gotham” clutch, “Gio” crossbody and the “Leaf” tote. And much to the delight of KAWS enthusiasts, the artist applied his signature double X motif in contrasting colors to each piece – a trademark seen everywhere from his sculptures in Midtown Manhattan to Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak album cover. For the capsule, Gonzalez and KAWS selected cheeky colors from the brand’s library to yield combinations like candy-apple red and anthracite, and pearl white with cobalt and emerald.

There is nothing like a good clutch bag to make one focus on what is really essential to carry with you. Albeit, not the bag that should follow you on a day-long expedition that requires a water bottle or a makeup bag, a clutch is perfect for a smaller type of outing like a party. The power of the Gotham Clutch lies in its simplicity and clean lines, which are enhanced by the colorful crocodile leather and double X.

Seen around: Hayden Panettiere, Sofia Vergara

When choosing a moniker in the mid-’90s, “KAWS” was chosen simply because he liked the way the letters looked together, according to a New York Times article profiling the Brooklyn-based artist ahead of his first major museum survey in New York. KAWS: WHAT PARTY, at the Brooklyn Museum, presents Donnelly’s work from the last 25 years, beginning with his early street work and development through the late ’90s – when he established his visual vernacular designing COMPANION, an art toy with an inflated skull and two Xs for eyes, a figure now synonymous with his name – through the 2000s and up to the present. Viewers can experience THE KAWS ALBUM, a 2005 painting referencing his famed Simpsons gag, as a parody of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. (The piece sold for $14.8 million at Sotheby’s in 2019.) Or, they can explore the other 166 pieces that span nearly every medium (from sculpture to prints to vinyl toys) and serve as a historical account of Pop art’s evolution over the last three decades.

KAWS’ rendition of the Nancy Gonzalez Gio Crossbody (which has seen many iterations, from oversized white flowers and butterflies, to charms overload) is sharp yet playful. With the unorthodox mix of yellow, white and blue in a single bag, Gonzalez and KAWS bring levity to fashion, where refined luxury goods become less serious and precious.

Seen around: Sandra Fockink

As for the Nancy Gonzalez X KAWS collaboration, their handbags are nothing short of a work of art in themselves — everyday objects of beauty, curiosity and a dose of satire for good measure.

KAWS: WHAT PARTY is on view through September 5, 2021, at the Brooklyn Museum.

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