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Adam Kimmel's casino clown crapshoot hits the jackpot

January 22, 2010 |  7:00 pm

Reporting from Paris -- Coulrophobics probably won't look kindly on New York-based menswear designer Adam Kimmel's Fall/Winter 2010 collection.

Actually, that's not exactly true. They wouldn't have an issue with the clothes, what would have sent the clown-averse screaming into the hills was the scenario that played out in a darkened art gallery in Paris' 3rd arrondissment Thursday night as Kimmel's way of presenting the collection: a dozen and a half creepy clown caricatures prowling a casino, playing baccarat, throwing dice and doubling down. 

The presentation -- as well as the collection itself -- was inspired by George Condo, a New York City-based artist whom Kimmel has gotten to know personally, and the characters that inhibit his oeuevre.

"He was one of my heroes growing up," Kimmel said. "And as I got to know him, I found out what  a character he really is. He's this incredible gambler who spends his summers in Monte Carlo and has been known to stop off at the Empire Casino in Yonkers and play the slots. I've been there with him."

The collection was not so much about how Condo actually dressed as how Kimmel liked to imagine he  dresses -- velvet suits in gray, burgundy and green, velvet slippers, roulette, craps and baccarat prints on the backs of some pieces and on the lining of others (Kimmel said the idea was that any of them could actually be thrown on a table and actually used to play on).

Kimmel collaborated with Condo himself and Hollywood special effects prosthetic artist Gabe Bartalos (the "Cremaster" and "Leprechaun" movies among others) to spring them from their frames and bring them to life.

For pure jaw-dropping spectacle alone, Kimmel's under-the-radar, over-the-top Fall/Winter presentation ranked right up there with production of fashion week greats like Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. There's no way words can adequately describe the surreal feeling it was, but for a few minutes I did brandish my Flip video camera and the result is embedded below. (Even if you don't suffer clown spook, you might not want to watch before bedtime.)

That kind of set piece is always a crapshoot for designers, with the stagecraft threatening to overshadow the collection itself.

But in this case, Kimmel may have hit the jackpot, because, even if not a single soul who crossed the threshold of the Yvon Lambert Gallery on Thursday remembers the details of the clothes, they won't soon forget his  name.

Sounds like the perfect time to double down.

-- Adam Tschorn

Photos: Looks from Adam Kimmel's Fall/Winter 2010 "Casino Collection" presentation on Thursday. Both were inspired by the paintings of New York City-based artist George Condo. Photo credit: Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times

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