Meet Rithika Merchant, the Face Behind Chloé’s Folk Patterns
Meet Rithika Merchant, the Barcelona-based artist whose enchanting folk art-inspired work led to a collaboration with French fashion house Chloé. Merchant, who was propelled into fashion feeds overnight, injects Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s debut collection (Spring Summer 2018) as Chloé’s creative director with a kind of quirky charm. We caught up with the artist:
How did the collaboration with Chloé come about?
“This collaboration came out totally by chance. Natacha was browsing the internet and pulling images and she came across my work. She really liked my work and said that it fit what she had in mind for the “painted dresses”. It was totally out of the blue for me and a very nice surprise! Within a week or two we had chatted on Skype, I had been briefed on the scope of the project and that was it. They invited me to come to the studio in Paris to work with them on the dresses, and so I spent about two weeks there working with Natacha and the rest of the team to place my drawings on the garments.”
What was it like to work with Natacha Ramsay-Levi and her team?
“I really liked Natacha and we got along well! I liked working with her because she is very laid back but she also knows exactly what she wants. She is super open and was very welcoming to my creative opinions and input too. She is also very clear about her vision, so it was easy to incorporate any feedback she gave me.”
How do you describe your style to someone who is unfamiliar with your work?
“I have always been very interested in narratives, myths and received histories that are available to us. I am also interested in how these different fragments are woven together to form a complete image. Most cultures use imagery to tell stories and represent ideas. I try to use these ancient means of storytelling in a more contemporary context.
I would describe my style as semi-surreal, intricately detailed, visual storytelling. I like the aesthetic of de-saturated colour, in the vein of old maps, and botanical drawings. I find religious iconography interesting. I enjoy colour and paper that looks like it has been exposed to the sun and the way paper and ink looks after it’s been folded up and put away for a long time.”
Tell us about your latest series of artworks, Ancestral Home, and the decision to use embroidery hoops on the artworks?
“In this series I grapple with memory, what we leave behind and what we carry with us. How most of us are always looking for a version of home and what that means.
I use embroidery hoops because needlework, collaging, quilting, weaving and so on have long been considered ‘women’s work’. However, I think there is something powerful in taking whatever scraps you can find and putting them together to create something meaningful. These mediums subvert historic ideas of how women create.
The hoops also transform the work into an object. Each piece can be seen as a totem and invites the viewer to stitch together their own narrative, drawing on collective memories and signifiers to generate meanings. This series explores how objects can be markers of identity and how these may be reworked in contemporary contexts as meanings and interpretations change.”
Which artists and creators are you inspired by?
“I am a huge admirer of Indian artists such as Mithu Sen and Nalini Malani. I am also inspired by Walton Ford, Ana Mendieta, Frida Kahlo, Belkis Ayon, Hieronymus Bosch, Hilma af Klint, and Kiki Smith.”
Lastly, tell us about forthcoming projects you’re excited about!
“I’m contributing to a book project which should be out later this year – stay tuned for details. I am also currently preparing to exhibit in Paris with Galerie LJ. My work will be part of a three person show which opens next spring.”
Follow Rithika Merchant on Instagram @RithikaMerchant and find Chloé at Le Mill.