William Eggleston, widely regarded as the father of modern color photography, is not on Instagram, and thus missed it when his textile designer daughter, Andra, recently let slip an image of his Father’s Day present on her feed. On Sunday, she’ll be giving him a bow tie from her just-launched collaboration with Nashville tie maker Otis James, featuring one of her Electra Eggleston prints created from her dad’s sketches—abstract drawings that are lesser-known but as magnificently saturated in color as his iconic dye-transfer photographs and, like those images, reveal a vivid and rarified way of seeing.
“Let’s name her Electra!” Bill Eggleston allegedly shouted at first sight of his newborn daughter, to which her mother Rosa retorted, “Over my dead body!” (“Did I forget to mention histrionics in relation to both parents?” their daughter dryly recalls on the Electra Eggleston website.) Thus she was instead named Andra, and thus, four decades later, bequeathed her rejected moniker to her line of evocatively printed textiles, versatile enough to be worn or to be used for the home. As she says by phone from Nashville, “When I told him what I wanted to do with the drawings, he said [a former actress, she affects a bluntly convincing imitation of her father’s low, gruff Southern voice], ‘You have my permission to do whatever you want.’ ”
A bow tie was a natural proposition for the debut fashion collaboration, given her father’s predilection for wearing them on the regular—he is known to dress with a certain standout, dishabille elegance (recall the Marc Jacobs ad he appeared in alongside Charlotte Rampling, shot by his friend Juergen Teller). “I wanted something meaningful to commemorate the collection and to show my father what could be made of the prints,” Andra says. After moving back to the South a few years ago and reconnecting with her dad in nearby Memphis, she reached out to fellow Nashville designer James, who’d been earning an esteemed reputation for his handmade, custom hats and ties, and found in him a true aesthetic match. “I’m incredibly grateful to Otis for his craftsmanship,” she says.
The resulting bow ties were constructed in a limited edition—just ten each, in silk linen, two prints rendered in four different colorways, in palettes of multicolor or predominantly sage or midnight blue but dubbed Kentucky: Foxglove, Berlin: Mitte. You could say the prints are impressions of the places where her dad has photographed, as much as they are inspired by the musicality of a Kandinsky painting (Eggleston is a skilled pianist and a Bach fanatic), or even his dreams (generally laconic when it comes to his work, he once described his subconscious thoughts: “When I’m asleep I’m in a world quite removed from me, with moving lights and perfectly contoured shapes.”).
“I always related to them more than I did the photography,” Andra says. “He imparted that part of himself more so to my brothers. I saw the drawings as more than just part of his process, but they also made me see his photographs differently.” Eggleston’s sketches have been exhibited at the Fondation Cartier in Paris and catalogued in his major retrospective at the Whitney in 2008; they are relatively small pieces, frequently drawn on hotel stationery or receipts. The Lamplighter Lounge in Memphis has at times furnished him felt-tip markers should inspiration for those perfectly contoured shapes strike mid-drink.
From early on, father and daughter bonded over drawing and shopping sprees to the art supply store, but growing up was not always easy. “It was tumultuous!” Andra says. “How to integrate William Eggleston the father with William Eggleston the artist. . . . All my life he was supportive of my art. But he was so eccentric and I was always like, can we just be normal? I was so tired of standing out.”
Stories abound in Memphis, of both parents riding around as teenagers in matching baby blue Cadillacs, or heading downtown, dressed to the nines, putting on Southern Gothic Dada-ist art happenings with Alex Chilton of the band Big Star, and photographer William Christenberry. Lamplighter regulars recount her father’s capes, his knee-high riding boots. He has never owned a pair of jeans.
Andra laughs. “Yes,” she says. “He loves sparkly things, he loves anything with sequins or diamonds. He can’t stand it if I cut my hair short or wear overalls. He’ll be all like [another low-register Eggleston imitation] ‘What’re you . . . wearin’?’ ”
Recently, in Los Angeles, he bought her a vintage Chanel suit he’d picked out, a complete surprise. “Presents are a once in a blue moon thing for him, so it’s special,” Andra says. “It was all him, all his idea.”
Above all, she says, her father has taught her to take risks. “He loves extravagant things but he doesn’t care about brands or prices, he just loves beauty: bright, bedazzling things and something very classic. I used to always like a Hanes white V-neck shirt the way he has tons of button-down white shirts. It’s like a canvas for him. He’ll add something vintage and something with flair, something unforgettable. And it always works for him, damn him!” Again she laughs.
“I can’t wait to hear his reaction to the tie itself,” she says. “I imagine he’ll wear it sitting on his couch smoking in his apartment. He and I have this in common, we both think, if you have something nice, you don’t save it, you use it every day. Whatever we have that’s beautiful or ornate, we wear every day.”
Electra Eggleston x Otis James limited-edition bow ties are available at otisjames.com
The post How William Eggleston’s Designer Daughter Transformed His Art into the Perfect Father’s Day Surprise appeared first on Vogue.
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