While many have found themselves in unexpected living situations following the rollout of lockdowns around the world due to the COVID-19 crisis, the French artist MarieVic’s is particularly unusual. After leaving her current home in New York to return to Paris, in order to be close to her family during the pandemic, she found herself staying at a second apartment owned by her mother, Geneviève. Comprising of just two rooms, MarieVic is sleeping in one; the other, however, is packed to the brim with pieces from Geneviève’s extraordinary collection of designer fashion and couture.
“When I arrived, I had to self-quarantine and I felt displaced,” MarieVic explains. “I couldn’t see my family or my friends, and I missed my work studio, so I started spending a lot of time in the wardrobe, working on dressing up, making relationships with clothes.” After her period of quarantine was over, MarieVic saw her permitted hour-long periods of daily exercise as an opportunity for an unlikely creative project. “I was fascinated by the look of the empty city,” she says. “It was extremely beautiful, but eerie. It seemed that Paris had become a window display, yet the store was closed. Then it occurred to me that Avenue Montaigne was located within the allowed distance from both my places and my mother’s, so I asked her if she’d accept to perform a daily ritual with me.”
That daily ritual has now evolved into a fully-fledged art project, titled “Avenue Montaigne,” that sees the stylish mother-daughter duo pose in front of these empty shopfronts in some of the more outré pieces from Geneviève’s collection, and which MarieVic will be recreating as limited edition C-prints for sale on her website. Each location has been carefully chosen to serve as the perfect backdrop for the items they’re wearing. In one, they stand outside the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Geneviève wearing a red Comme des Garçons piece of Louise Bourgeois-esque stuffed, sculptural tentacles, while MarieVic appears opposite in a pair of red Comme silk shorts with a pannier-like detail and a matching beanie, posing with her hands on her hips as if playfully mimicking a mime artist—an appropriately theatrical tableau given the location.
Other shots see them deliberately contrast pieces from fashion past and present. Standing on a street corner in front of Gucci, one image sees MarieVic wears a crimson, armour-like dress by Nicolas Ghèsquiere for Balenciaga over her head, while Geneviève wears a red silk polka-dot gown that is also Balenciaga, but a more recent design by Demna Gvasalia. “I would plan the outfits to fit certain stores, to bounce off of each other or echo the architecture,” MarieVic explains. “I’d work in the wardrobe, trying to compose an assemblage that I’d bring along with me. We’d change in the street, six feet apart from one another. Avenue Montaigne became our fitting room.”
There’s also the question of how Geneviève, who is a Paris restaurateur, amassed this impressive collection, featuring everything from vintage pieces by Junya Watanabe and Yohji Yamamoto to more recent designs by the likes of Christopher Kane and Demna Gvasalia. It’s something she traces back to her discovery of Claude Montana and Azzedine Alaïa in the ’80s, then Comme des Garçons a little later. “I think I’ve always liked fashion but it wasn’t until I discovered those three that I understood its power,” Geneviève explains. “I loved how extremely radical they were while actually reworking themes from the past.” Given that many of the pieces push the limits of wearability, is it something she’s building as an archive, or a working wardrobe that she still wears out and about? “I wear everything I own,” she replies, firmly. “I wouldn’t take any pleasure in archiving fashion. I prefer it to be a lived experience. There is always an occasion to wear something outré—it’s up to us to provoke it.”
For MarieVic, it’s proved to be the perfect outlet after a period of feeling creatively stymied; for Geneviève, it’s been a fun and diverting opportunity to join her daughter’s art practice, something she’s always actively encouraged. “I have participated in some of her projects in the past, but it had been a long time since she put me to work!” Geneviève adds. “It’s an experience I definitely enjoy, and when I don’t get to participate, I remain very connected. I find her projects inspiring—they are playful and rigorous adventures.”
While all the clothes shot as part of the project may have been mined from Geneviève’s wardrobe, MarieVic has found herself questioning how they reflect the bond between mother and daughter, and how it manifests in unexpected ways as that relationship evolves over the years. “My mother has accumulated a stunning selection of garments designed by a handful of designers that were all her contemporaries, but I am more of a hunter-gatherer,” says MarieVic. “I don’t know if the images reflect our individual styles, as we were born in different times and we were raised differently, but we are definitely cut from the same cloth. They reflect a style that’s constructed for the occasion, for the here and now.” On this, Geneviève agrees: “I think we both see style as a creative form of expression, we just have different things to express.” They may have different ways of expressing themselves sartorially, but with their Avenue Montaigne photographs, they meet in strangely beautiful harmony—while still remaining six feet apart, of course.
Originally Appeared on Vogue