The seemingly surprising collaboration between Portland's Ampersand Gallery and Swedish workwear company Dunderdon came about in a wholly organic fashion. Les Szabo, a long-time Portland resident and the owner of Dunderdon USA, walked into Ampersand one day and simply liked the way it looked.
"We started talking about a collaboration back in October, but it wasn't until this spring that we began to formalize what was going to happen," says Ampersand owner Myles Haselhorst. Last week, Haselhorst traveled from Portland to install an exclusive collection of books, images and artifacts for Dunderdon's New York outpost.
The original intent was to give customers an edited glimpse of Ampersand's extensive collections, as well as an excuse to linger over Dunderdon's wares. In keeping with Dunderdon's focus on menswear, Haselhorst used the opportunity to contemplate themes of masculinity. "We wanted to explore certain elements, historically and currently, of what it means to be a man," said Haselhorst.
Judging from what Haselhorst has found, the fundamentals haven't changed too radically over time. Enlarged photographs from the 1910s show men riding bicycles and wearing bandanas, similar to what might be found on any bohemian city street today. Haselhorst also draws a connection to the current obsession with the American frontier in the U.S.—seen in the profusion of heritage and workwear-inspired fashion—with vintage cowboy images. "The photographs weren't of actual cowboys," he explains. "They were men off the street dressed and posed in studio settings."
Also unique to the store is a small book of antique erotic photos Haselhorst published for the collaboration, titled "Women I Never Knew No. 1". The anonymous subjects and their actions seem startlingly contemporary, striking the fine balance between lewd and alluring that's so expertly negotiated by many contemporary designers.
"Maybe a certain type of man collects this type of imagery," speculates Haselhorst. "But in the end, we just wanted people to enjoy looking at it." The installation is the first in an ongoing series of collaborations between Ampersand Gallery and Dunderdon. To check it out, visit New York's Dunderdon store.
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