As the San Antonio Museum of Art was planning how to promote its new “Roman Landscapes” exhibit, they hit on the idea of partnering with clothing designer Limatus Bespoke.
Museum officials reached out to see if the San Antonio company, which specializes in custom suits, “would be game for creating a jacket or something inspired by the exhibition,” said Tatiana Herrera-Schneider, the museum’s chief engagement officer. “We were really surprised when they said they would love to create their entire spring/summer line around the exhibit.”
Limatus Bespoke showed off the new collection at a sold-out fashion show last week in the museum’s Great Hall.
Models made slow loops through the hall to the propulsive soundscape of DJ Steven Lee Moya. The clothing on display included a cream-colored shorts set with a flowing train and a stunning robe featuring dozens of fabric flowers stitched to it. After the show, the models and some of the folks in the audience moved to the gallery.
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“When the models were standing next to the works of art, you could see the connection with the color palette,” said Herrera-Schneider, who was one of a few non-models featured in the fashion show.
The exhibit spotlights 65 works of art, many of which have never been exhibited in the United States and several of which have never been shown outside of Italy. It includes paintings, mosaics, sculptures and vessels. Many show gods and goddesses in nature. The works were created between 100 BC and AD 250.
Among other things, the exhibit shows how the artwork was displayed in Roman homes. Some of the pieces come from Pompeii, unearthed centuries after the city was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Tessa Moss, lead designer for Limatus, spent a few weeks immersed in the material before she started designing. She worked from photos, since she had to create the line months before the exhibit opened.
The colors in the show, including lots of blues and greens, were the first thing that struck her.
“When you think about art, you think about color palettes,” said Moss, who has been with Limatus for six years and is one of four partners who run the venture. “Then you start seeing all the foliage. Then I started digging deeper – what was going on in this time period, in these locations where these artists were creating this art? I wanted to get a better perspective of what the artists were feeling or thinking.”
She also dug into some of the myths that factor prominently in the show, including the story of the encounter between the goddess Diana and a very unfortunate hunter named Actaeon. He came upon her while she was bathing, and she transformed him in to a deer. He then was ripped to shreds by his own hunting dogs.
The exhibit has a few images of Diana, including a statuette with draping that helped inspire some aspects of the Limatus line.
A model shows off one of the suits in Limatus Bespoke’s spring/summer line in a fashion show at the San Antonio Museum of Art. The clothing was inspired by the museum’s “Roman Landscapes” exhibit.
Charlie Blalock/ Contributor
Small lengths of rope are sewn to the top of pockets on one of the suit jackets in the line, a reference to a fragment of a wall frieze in the show. It is part of a series depicting stories from Homer’s “Odyssey” that were painted in the first century and rediscovered in 1848. It tells the tale of Odysseus, who wanted to hear the song of the sirens — a dangerous desire, given that the sound had lured many sailors to their deaths. So he had his crew stuff beeswax into their ears to protect themselves and had himself lashed to the mast of his ship with rope.
Another jacket has a green vine trailing from one shoulder down the back, a nod to an enormous wall painting depicting lush plant life found in the remains of a home in Pompeii. The blues and greens in that piece also inspired Moss, she said.
The robe, which she described as an art piece, was inspired by a depiction of the Elysian Fields, the home of the blessed dead in Greek mythology. The painting was found in an underground tomb and shows an idyllic scene of children playing in a field.
“With every collection that we do, we kind of incorporate something newish,” Moss said. “Last year, we did our bomber jackets, which were very casual, very different. And this time, I wanted to do robes to bring in that feminine, romantic aspect of everything, because our suits are so constructed and strong — that’s what you think of when you’re wearing a suit — but this is a little different element.”
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The new clothing line is the latest offering from Limatus inspired by a local partnership, Moss said.
“We’re very big on community connections, if you look at any of our past collections,” she said. “One of them was called ‘Makers,’ and we highlighted local arts people. We did ‘A Common Thread,’ which was our first all-female line, which was really successful women in San Antonio, what inspired them to be those go-getters. So we’ve always really loved collaborating with the city.”
Moss and her fellow designers work with tailors in Thailand, who are known for high-quality work, she said. Suits start at $800, and it takes four to six weeks for an order to be completed. If adjustments are needed, local tailors are enlisted to make those fixes.
All of the clothing is custom, which means that they are fitted to the buyer, who gets to make all of the choices, including the fabric, the buttons and the lining. That can be bewildering for first-time customers, Moss said.
“I always tell people my favorite suit to design with everybody is their second one,” she said. “Because they’ve come in, they’ve looked at fabrics, they’ve gotten over the ‘I don’t know what this is.’ And so they come in for their second or third or fourth one, and they’re like, all right, I have ideas.”
The company moved into a showroom in the Oxbow building near the Pearl about a year ago. Big windows look out over Broadway and fill the room with light on sunny days. The suited-up mannequins have tape measurers slung over their necks, more of a practical thing than a design touch, Moss said: “That way, we aren’t looking all over the place for them.”
The space is designed to make potential customers as comfortable as possible. That includes having a small bar in one corner with Old Fashioneds on tap.
“Once you’re here one or two times, you realize how laid back it is,” Moss said. “And we want people to feel like that. Come in, have a drink, sit down, and let’s chit-chat.”
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