There is something rather grotesque, but also incredibly funny and engaging in Les costumes grotesques et métiers (ca. 1700; Fancy Trade Costumes) by 17th century engraver Nicolas II de Larmessin.
The engravings illustrated characters dressed in arts and crafts gowns and individuals covered in utensils portraying their professions. The feather merchant wears therefore a rich costume covered in extravagant plumes; the gardener and the florist's bodies are in bloom, while bakers and pastry chefs incorporate in their bodies ovens; a silvermith's belly is a forge and the body of a woman and basket artisan seems to integrate one of her own creations.
British set designer Simon Costin was fascinated by the engravings and decided to move from them for a design project for Zara Home unveiled during Milan Design Week.
Costin is known for his work with many key fashion houses, designers and brands - including Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Valentino, Givenchy, Gucci, Stella McCartney, YSL, Margiela, Matthew Williamson and Bulgari.
The set designer has also been a long-term collaborator of Tim Walker and created adverts for many companies, designing parties for Ferragamo's Cinderella Ball, and the New York Academy of Arts Tribeca Ball.
The title of the installation - "La Grande Illusione" (The Grand Illusion) - may call to mind Jean Renoir's eponymous film, but it actually refers to the playful illusions Costin created moving from turn-of-the-century French theatrical tricks.
Leaving behind the rather decadent and dark pieces that often appeared on McQueen's runways, Costin let his most exuberant side come out and employed everyday objects to create his visionary illusions.
Costin combined together quilts, rugs and pillows, bottles, glasses, plates, baskets, assorted home textiles and decorative elements such as shells and strings of pearls from Zara's S/S 17 home collections to design unique sculptures suspended between extravagant balls and visions borrowed from the paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
Some of these sculptures call to mind the rich sets Costin designed for Tim Walker's shoots. The photographer is actually involved in this project as well since he took six special pictures of "La Grande Illusione" featuring model Irina Liss.
Walker is not the only extra collaborator: Costin also enlisted for this project Spencer Horne, who created the theatrical garments and accessories, and Thierry Boutemy, one of the most esteemed Parisian florists in the art fashion and film industry, to make sure his invitation to dream for all the Milan Design Week visitors could look convincingly grand.