Everywhere we look right now you’ll see Snoopy, his sister Belle and the rest of the Peanuts crew. With the new Peanuts movie coming soon, that’s no surprise! And right now, the fashion world is being taken over with a moving exhibit Snoopy and Belle in Fashion. The exhibit takes the fashion designs of some of the most famous designers in the past thirty years, and dresses Snoopy and Belle statues in the outfits. From designs by Betsy Johnson, Philip Treacy, Diane von Furstenberg and Isaac Mizrahi, the statues are decked out in the hottest scaled fashion trends they can find.
We were able to talk some of the talent involved with Snoopy and Belle in Fashion about the fantastic exhibit. On our call were Matt Murphy, designer of the SBIF exhibition, Cannon, acclaimed celebrity stylist who was the liaison with the designers and Asa Thornton, Izquierdo Studios, who produced the costumes from the designers’ sketches. They explained what went into the exhibit and what it was like to work with the designers.
Tell us about the project and the history behind it:
Matt: The project originated in the ’80s with [the late] Connie Boucher, who was the first person to reach out to the fashion community and engage them with Snoopy and Belle. That resulted in amazing designs from designers including Chanel, Hermès, Karl Lagerfeld, Issey Miyake. That exhibition started in Italy and included a wonderful host of products—everything from furniture to lamps to household products to cars. But the core was the Snoopy and Belle in Fashion exhibition, featuring plush dolls that were 14 to 18 inches tall. For this exhibition, we’re using high-end vinyl dolls that are 9 inches tall, and we engaged contemporary designers to reimagine Snoopy and Belle. That’s the exhibit that’s currently traveling the world.
What was the most challenging part of constructing the exhibit?
Matt: What we wanted to achieve with it was to create a high-end retail look and feel that will be understandable to everyone. But we also had to create a system that would work in very different environments—from the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, which is an industrial space, to the Ermelerhaus House in Berlin, a 17th-century mansion. The challenge was to produce a system that could be elastic for all the spaces it’s occupying.
What has been the reaction to the exhibit in the various countries?
Matt: Overwhelmingly positive! It is a great pleasure to see everyone really embrace Snoopy. In Sweden, we did the exhibition in a glassed-in space, an open exhibit that everyone could see. It was such a thrill to see people from all walks of life come by—from trash men to key editors to the very wealthy—and everybody had the same reaction, which was love. Everyone loves Snoopy.
Which designers from the first time around signed on for the second time?
Cannon: I think one of the most exciting for us was to have Betsey Johnson sign on again. She is such an icon of American fashion, and it warms everyone’s hearts when you talk about her. She said yes immediately, and her love for Snoopy kind of shows through. She’s a very hands-on person—when she came to the show, she was fluffing the doll to make sure it was perfect.
How did the designers respond to the challenge? Were they excited? Nervous?
Cannon: Peanuts sent out the invites on iPad minis, and within 10 minutes of dropping it off, we heard from Donna Karan’s team that they were interested. I think that’s the quickest response we’d ever had. Within a day, many designers had signed on. One of the great parts of the initiative was that for the first round, as each designer signed on, we made a donation to the charity of their choice. We did great work distributing charity money: to Save the Condors, the CFA Foundation, UNICEF, and many more.
What do you think is the approach to designing for characters who are such beloved cultural figures? How free does the designer feel to go wild?
Cannon: I think all the designers expressed themselves through Snoopy. With Costello Tagliapietra, those two guys have tattoos of Snoopy, they grew up with Snoopy. Snoopy has such a widespread influence and appeal to everyone. That’s one of the things that drew all the designers. And they had carte blanche. What was complicated is that most designers are used to working on 5’10” models, and for this exhibit, the “models” were 9 inches tall!
Regarding the designers for this latest project, what were some of their inspirations behind their designs? Can you pick a few and talk about them specifically?
Cannon: With Rodarte, they were directly inspired from their runway looks—they wanted to translate their runways to Snoopy and Belle. Betsey Johnson went for a rock ’n’ roll feel, which is very true to Betsey: She gave them tattoos and piercings, and made them extremely modern and very, very cool.
Will we be seeing any of these designs in shops for Peanuts fans to buy themselves? Or apparel inspired by these designs?
Matt: That’s something we’re working out—possibly something for 2016, but not immediately.
As the person bringing the designers’ sketches to life, how do you make sure you’re creating the same thing that they see in their head? Do you ever have to make changes in order to make it work?
Asa: Sometimes, because the scale on the dolls is so much smaller than a life-size garment, you can’t exactly do the finishing with certain materials, like leather. Occasionally we had to change the finishings to reduce the bulk because the doll was so small. A lot of the designers, like Kenneth Cole and J. Mendel, sent samples of life-size garments that they wanted us to recreate for the doll.
Cannon: Rodarte sent swatches of fabric that Izquierdo would hand paint or hand sew. All the designs were handmade. We got such a great response from the designers. J. Mendel, who is very particular, said this was one of the best events they ever worked on, and that it truly represented his dress exactly to the scale and to his specifications.
Which designs were the most challenging to construct and why?
Asa: They all had their own challenges, but I particularly remember Rodarte’s Snoopy outfit, a leather and denim biker jacket—multiple zippers, asymmetrical openings, studs, little pieces with topstitching. It’s quite a challenge when you’re dealing with little leather epaulets ¼-inch wide! Zac Posen’s designs for both Snoopy and Belle featured velvet and brocade, very heavy fabrics. We had to reduce the bulk and cut away some of the pleats on the dress to make it fit like a ballgown.
Matt: One of the things that people overwhelmingly just adore is the perfectly miniaturized shoes that Izquierdo’s team made.
Asa: A lot of designers wanted Belle to have high heels, but the dolls have a flat plastic foot. So we had to use a wooden form that we built to add the shoe. For the exhibition, we added heavy magnets to the shoes and a metal top to the box Belle and Snoopy stand on, so the doll could stick to it.
Cannon: The attention to design and the hand-sewing is truly incredible, especially when you see the dolls up close and in person. One of my favorite dresses was for Bibhu Mohapatra, who wanted an outstanding gown on a very tall Belle. The intricacy of the design and the pleating is so on point with the designers’ sketches.
Matt: The amount of manpower and womanpower that goes into creating an exhibition like this is an incredible dance of talents. Izquierdo’s team had 18 seamstresses. Cannon’s team was in constant contact with designers. Our team was building the exhibition and creating the graphics. Looking past initial “Wow,” you see how many people it takes to put something like this together. It’s such a pleasure and honor to be involved in such a great project.
Cannon: We invited some international designers—including Emanuel Ungaro, the hat designer Philip Treacy, Dries van Noten—and they just fell in love. Every time we show in a new city, we invite a local designer to be part of the exhibition. It’s been truly phenomenal to see the response and to hear their stories of Snoopy and Peanuts growing up. They’re thrilled to be part of the whole initiative.
We started last September, and the designers are still involved. If they’re in a city we go to, they’ll often attend. One of my favorite things was that in Amsterdam, we got entrance to the Rijksmuseum, and took a photo with Rodarte in front of Rembrandt’s Night Watch. We’d take photos around the city, post them on Instagram and other social media posts. All the designers are truly Snoopy fans and Peanuts fans. This has been one of my favorite projects to work on.
Are there any plans for the exhibition to tour in the U.S.?
Melissa Menta, Iconix: Next year it will remain abroad. It’s in Japan in January, then we go to Asia, and we end up in Latin America and Mexico toward the end of year. Then it may come to the U.S.
Matt: You can see everything online at www.SnoopyandBelleinFashion.com.
The fashion world is taken by storm by Snoopy and Belle as well as the creativity of the fashion designers. It’s not coming here until maybe next year, but we can’t wait to see the impact on the fashion world these two innovative dogs may have. Peanuts is making quite the impact this year!