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Recollection Quartett

Four experimental fashion designers' hand-built reinterpretations of classic Benzes

by Richard Prime
on 19 January 2011

Berlin's fashion week might not have the glitter of other fashion capitols, but then again Milan and Paris don't have Recollection Quartett. The project, under the supervision of art director Frederik Heyman, tasked four of fashion's more indie designers—Henrik Vibskov, Bernhard Willhelm, Mikio Sakabe and Peter Pilotto—with visually exploring how four cars from Mercedes-Benz' "Young Classics" collection play against the contemporary context. Sponsored by the luxury automaker and Antwerp's fashion museum MoMU, Heyman helped execute each designer's unique vision with hand-built sets.

Henrik Vibskov's interpretation of the Mercedes S 123 expresses its popularity as a family car thanks to its spacious trunk. First released in 1977, the model is regarded as one of the first "lifestyle" models and a precursor to the wagons seen on streets today. Vibskov's take on the car sees an interesting use of the anarchist's palette of black, white and red.


Bernhard Willhelm was given the SL-Class Roadster 107 from 1971 (later updated in 1985) as his source material. An accessible sports-mobile with a powerful engine and a removable hardtop made this a big hit in the States. At the same time it enjoyed a nice slice of the limelight as the go-to car for bachelors or ladies of leisure. Willhelm's installation sees two happily buff mannequins towing the car and a goddess-warrior-like woman in front of a large frothy wave.


Mikio Sakabe revisits the W 115 Saloon, which still operate on many European and Asian streets as taxis. Reliable, yet considered rather uninspiring, it's a cultural icon in its home country and is typically found in the hands of company carpool drivers. Sakabe's vision takes the business dimension of the car quite literally, save for spidery wooden legs sprouting from the windscreen like creepy typewriter arms.


Peter Pilotto gets the diplomat's favorite to play with—the S-Class Coupé from the W126 series. While the straight lines scream '80s urbanity, this was a subtle masterclass in quiet luxury with the long hood hiding a small coal factory of an engine. A bent-wood canopy adorns the car in Pilotto's installation while horse silhouettes take the place of shadows in the work, hinting at the concealed pulling power under the hood.

The exhibition is open during the Berlin Fashion Week, from 19 to 23 January 2011 at the Stiftung Oper in Berlin.

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