Shayce · owner + creative director of Artesoul

COMME des GARÇONS x Lewis Leathers “LIGHTNING”

"I’m feelin’ better than, better than, better than the veterans.
I use the booth as my pulpit, I’m a reverend, chuuch!”

Clear Soul Forces - “Get No Better”


A Conversation With: Illustrator Filip Pagowski
Filip Pagowski is known for his appropriations of lighthearted biomorphic forms and quirky illustrations. To most, Pagowski’s work is recognized through the eyed-heart logo he created for Rei Kuwakubo’s Comme des Garçons PLAY Collection. His father, Henryk Tomaszewski, was a famed poster designer from Warsaw that taught members of the politically charged design collective, Grapus. For Pagowski, he provided as a tough, yet constructive critic of his work. His mother, also a well-established artist, added to the translation of Pagowski’s artistic outlook.
Growing up in Poland, Filip relocated to New York, the city where he would eventually establish his network of collaborators. On top his work with Comme des Garçons, his client list includes, Saks Fifth Avenue, The New York Times, Diane von Furstenburg and Flaunt Magazine. In 2007, lucky attendees of Filip’s Happy Living Exhibition (held at Tapei’s Museum Of Tomorrow) were able to get a rare glimpse of his work. Earlier this year, Filip traveled to Slovenia, providing creative assistance for the next generation of designers participating at Poster Festival Ljubljana 09. I was able share a few words with Filip to find out more about what inspires him and his work.

How did your relationship begin with Comme des Garçons’ Play collection? Were you familiar with Rei Kawakubo’s work before working under their commission? How did the eyed-heart character come about?
PLAY heart image happened simultaneously with, but independently of the creation of the PLAY line. It’s as if we both were affected subliminally by each other’s work. I submitted it for another CdG project, for which it never made it, but eventually it resurfaced; making bigger waves as a logo for the PLAY line. By then I’ve been already working for CdG, on and off for about 2 and a half years. Of course I was familiar with Rei’s work. I discovered CdG in the early 80s and was a fan ever since.
I had a long and somewhat spontaneous relationship with CdG. It all started in the early 80s, when my then wife Dovanna, who was a fashion model, started doing Paris shows for CdG. At that time, we also collaborated with our friend, the sculptor Daniel Wnuk, and created a performance/fashion show in the Danceteria club in NY, which consisted of Dovanna wearing a cement dress! We sent the pictures of the event to Rei Kawakubo, who responded with a letter.
Later through Dovanna, I met a person responsible for CdG operations in the US, who used me on several occasions to model CdG men’s collections in their showroom in NYC. In 1992 I traveled to Tokyo where I met some CdG people as they very generously helped me and my Mom experience Tokyo (invited us, among other things, to see their and Yohji Yamamoto’s shows). That same summer, I was offered to participate as a model in CdG’s men’s show in Paris. I was one of a bunch of non-models doing this. Others included Lyle Lovett, John Hurt, Ossie Clark, Brice Marden, Jon Hasell, etc… All very interesting, very successful, even famous artists, actors, designers, musicians…
And then came my collaboration in 1999. What’s funny, is that Rei Kawakubo, did not realize I did all these things with CdG before. She “discovered” my work and wanted to use me based on that and not on some social connection. The PLAY logo happened just like that! I remember working on something, while all of a sudden not connected to anything, I got this idea of a red heart with a set of eyes. I drew it instantaneously and the first draft was it. The rest is history.
You studied under your father, Henryk Tomaszewski, a well-known Warsaw poster designer and cartoonist. How did his design ethos resonate into your creative process?
Yes, I studied under my father in the poster class he was teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. But also I lived with him and my mother in the same house, watching for years both of them work; listening to them discuss their own work and the work of their students at the art school, as well as work of others, be it contemporaries or old masters for that matter. Later, all three of us talked extensively about art and design. I’m sure it had a profound effect on my artistic sensibility.
Both of my parents were tough teachers, but my father had the reputation of being hard to please, demanding, and often impatient, or on occasions, [an] explosive and temperamental professor. So even though many students were afraid of him, most felt the special aura and uncompromising spirit was something worth the extra hard work and occasional suffering. For many, including me, he became a beacon in the personal struggles with artistic and design issues as well as with issues concerning intellectual honesty, work ethic, and some kind of inner professional etiquette guiding one’s artistic path. I still ask myself what he would say or think about my solutions to a particular project I’m working on.


Growing up with both parents heavily embedded within art, did you have any other aspirations of eventually working outside of art?
I always liked history- the fashions, the intrigue, the twists and turns… but more as a hobby. I was and am involved with music quite a bit, now purely for my own pleasure, collecting and studying it. Before, I was also dj’ing. But I don’t think there was ever a question of how I want to grow professionally. It was art and design. If I could, I would love to study to be an architect. But it might be a bit late for that.
Where are you most creative? New York seems to retain a strong niche for creative diversity? How has your environment played a role with your work?
I try to be creative in many places. Years ago, New York supplied and triggered creativity. Today it’s a yuppie town. Or actually post-yuppie, considering the recession. So, yes, there is still hope for New York. I like nature and spend winters in the Alps. It gives me peace and helps [me] concentrate.
Growing up in Poland in the 60s and 70s I learned to take advantage of limits, even to enjoy them, as well as being able to create imagery from scratch, not just use existing images (photography, for example). That came from necessity, as Polish graphic/printing industry was poor and one had, at that time, a very limited access to the technological standards of the Western world or Japan. But these conditions forced designers/graphic artists to develop a different, independent and often more creative and still pertinent today vocabulary. (example: Fall 2006 CdG Men’s collection that used 4 of my father’s posters created in the 60s, 70s and 80s, for their shirts, jackets, etc…) Or maybe I never learned about the charms, powers and ease of photography when applied with graphics, therefore it was always natural to me to feel comfortable with my “home made” images.
Your illustrations feel alive with their organic lines. What are your affections for hand drawn graphics versus digital/vector based images?
Generally I like imperfections and “accidents” that happen when work environment isn’t as controlled as with a computer. I still use an old analog black & white copy machine, with some color options, that prints them one at the time, kind of like offset printing.
Any last words?
Too early for last words. I’m not done yet.


Just one of those days…

Madlib - “What a Day”

The Pagent (2012) by Wes Lang  /  acrylic, india ink, colored pencil, and oilstick on paper
Gilda Ambrosio at Milan Fashion Week F/W 2014

I get the impression…

Nujabes - “tsurugi no mai”

Your blog is dopeeee. asked by sant4na

Thank you for the compliment!

Herta and Paul Amir Building  |  Tel Aviv Museum of Art  /  by Preston Scott Cohen, Inc.