How Snarkitecture Became the Go-To Artists for Kith, Usher, and Calvin Klein

Before unveiling their ComplexCon installation, Daniel Arsham and Alex Mustonen discuss design, working with friends, and what's next for Snarkitecture.

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Image via Complex Original
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In late 2014, the clothing label Public School ran the New York fashion scene. Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, the brand’s designers, had introduced their first women’s collection a season earlier, had won the coveted $300,000 Fashion Fund prize from Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and had been adopted as the uniform of choice for budding fashion icons like Kendrick Lamar and Victor Cruz. When it came time to present their spring 2015 collection during Fashion Week, expectations were high—and so they called their friends at Snarkitecture (who will also design an exclusive installation at ComplexCon this November). 

“We started working in fashion projects primarily through people that we knew,” says artist Daniel Arsham, 36, who founded Snarkitecture, a collaborative art-meets-architecture practice, with architect and fellow Cooper Union classmate Alex Mustonen, 35, in 2007. “They were friends of ours. Clients like KITH and Stampd—we understand their universe inherently. We share a lot of aesthetic values and a drive to create something new.”

For Public School, Snarkitecture covered the runway and attendee seating in 200 pounds of white confetti that shifted as guests arrived and the models walked through it. It was a deceptively simple concept that made an impact and further cemented Snarkitecture’s status as the go-to creative partners for designers with an appetite for next-level experiential projects. Arsham and Mustonen, both bookish and unassuming in appearance, are also responsible for the instant-classic ceramic Air Jordan ceiling art at two KITH boutiques in New York and similarly eye-catching endeavors for Stampd, Calvin Klein, and COS.

Their drive has also proven fruitful outside the realm of fashion: Snarkitecture has collaborated with Beats by Dre on a limited-edition set of headphones, produced its own furniture and art objects, and in 2015 revamped a private plane owned by the charter jet company NetJets into an art installation for Art Basel Miami Beach. In his solo work, Arsham also created the crumbling bust of R&B superstar Usher for the cover of the singer’s recently-released eighth album, Hard II Love, and in 2013 collaborated with Pharrell to re-construct the endlessly influential producer’s very first Casio keyboard out of volcanic ash.

If the logistics of some of their projects seem insurmountable—like, say, filling the Great Hall of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., with a million recyclable plastic balls, then taking that project on the road to Tampa, Florida, as they did this summer—that’s a built-in piece of their overall vision. “That’s a really important part of Snarkitecture,” Mustonen says. “Having these outlandish or unexpected concepts and ideas, but finding a way to bring them into the real world.”

Since Snarkitecture has already conquered where you shop and created the items you bring into your home, they’re now focused on the next logical step: your home itself. “The thing that I’m most excited about is working on some residential projects,” Arsham reveals. “More than anything, Snarkitecture has been growing towards a place of permanent architecture.” If past projects are any indication, you can expect the first Snarkitecture dwelling to be anything but expected.

 Want to experience Complex IRL? Check out ComplexCon, a festival and exhibition on Nov. 5-6, 2016 in Long Beach, Calif., featuring performances, panels, and more. For ticket info, click here.

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