How A 26-Year-Old Painter’s Work Inspired Valentino’s 2015 Winter Collection

In January, 26-year-old painter Esther Stewart sat alongside the Hotel Salomon de Rothschild runway at Paris Fashion week, watching as models strutted past sweaters and coats inspired by her signature color-block paintings. A pie in the sky dream for most textile designers, but simple serendipity for Stewart, who was approached by a Valentino designer after she came across an online review of her 2013 show “Makin’ Plans”.

A year later, and designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli had created a line of wool sweaters, double cashmere coats, and leather and suede jackets inspired by five of Stewart’s exhibition pieces. Though the designers experimented with scale and perspective, Stewart says the collection stays true to the bold shapes and hard-edged lines of her original paintings. Some pieces were literal adaptations of her work, while others rearranged her shapes into patchwork and kaleidoscopic patterns. Like Stewart’s paintings, warm shades of burgundy, camel, grey, and navy are interrupted by a bright band of red, or a bold yellow triangle.

When asked about the dynamics of the collaboration, Stewart says she placed her full trust in Valentino to interpret her work into garments. “For me it was important to feel comfortable that they respected my artistic practices and I tried to show them the same respect by allowing them the freedom to interpret my works into their range,” Stewart writes in an email. “It’s amazing to see my works that are 2-D and very flat becomes something so tactile, well crafted and moveable.”

Stewart ended a whirlwind six months with a trip to Rome in July to celebrate the debut of the new David Chipperfeld-designed Valentino flagship store in Piazza di Spagna. After a stint in the fashion world she’s happily back in her studio in Melbourne preparing for two upcoming painting exhibitions.