Art Meets Fashion In Locally Based Site WELCOMECOMPANIONS

Clockwise from top right: Airmail as a wallet; WELCOMECOMPANIONS’ creator Laurel Consuelo Brighton; hat as a purse.

Ever since I purchased a fake rubber rolex by artist Shelter Serra (nephew of Richard Serra), I’ve been thinking a lot about the fine line between fashion and art. It’s not a new phenomenon but I’m trying to be a bit more conscious of buying items that have meaning and not just something that walked down the runway. That’s why I like the site WELCOMECOMPANIONS. Created by Laurel Consuelo Broughton, the site is a curated collection of objects and accessories that bridges the gap of playful and useful with the artistic. With her studio WelcomeProjects, the site revolves around one particular story and create objects for that story. Currently, they’ve taken a surrealistic approach by paying homage to French writer and surrealist Rene Crevel with the titled story, “Mr. Knife, Miss Fork.” You’ll find the hat as a handbag, a glove as a coinpurse, and an airmail envelope as a wallet, among other cool items. The accessories are all so witty and fun. A true conversational piece.

A native Angeleno, I asked Laurel a couple of questions about the site and her inspirations behind the items she designs.

Tresses, a scarf, $204.

How did you come up with the idea of WELCOMECOMPANIONS?
WELCOMECOMPANIONS arose out of a desire to produce a line of accessories that could be a whole world unto themselves. I see each collection as its own story. As the pieces get used out in the world, our stories get to be a part of other larger stories. I’ve always been very interested in the way objects get coded with meaning through culture. Narrative plays a big part in developing or deciphering the meaning—hence my interest in storytelling.

I love the idea of art as fashion. Do you think this is a new trend or something that’s always been at play?
I think fashion and art have always had an important relationship that various artists and designers have tapped into at different times. I love the accessibility and mercantile aspect of fashion and the single-mindedness of art. Fashion has a way of migrating that art doesn’t access in the same way even though a designer and an artist may be working with similar ideas or conceptual positions. It reminds me of Andy Warhol’s sentiment, “…good business is the best art,” which I see not so much about money as about audience.

You’re from Los Angeles, what in our city inspires you?
Los Angeles is infinitely changeable—it is in its DNA as a place that morphs to accommodate different visions and realities all the time. There is this very rich history of dream culture here which some people miss when they can’t access Los Angeles as a traditional city.

I grew up at the beach, so when I need some time out of the fray, I generally head in that direction. My house and studio is also a place that I’ve tried my best to insulate from the noise and commotion. But more than anything, I find Los Angeles fascinating.

The glove as a coinpurse, $320, is so much fun. I would want to have it placed somewhere so everyone can view it.

What item from the current collection has really stood out and done well?
Both Hat, a handbag and Glove, a coinpurse have gotten a lot of attention. I think they speak to a common desire for play to be a part of our everyday experience.

You’re working on a spring collection. What can be expected?
The next collection or story as we call them revolves around the idea of picnicking as a way to get out of the rhythm of the every day. The pieces toy with the different trappings of the picnic—gingham, the food, eating—as well as the references to the picnic in art and literature—everything from Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe and the flamboyant repast of Wind in the Willows. It is our largest story so far and it includes 10 pieces ranging from totes to shoulder bags to clutches to iPhone cases and a special WELCOMECOMPANIONS deck of cards made especially for whiling away the afternoons.

When designing these objects, do you have a person in mind?
I’d say the WELCOMECOMPANIONS’ girl or guy is intelligent and playful. She or he appreciates conceptual precedents, a good story and a good laugh too.

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