Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 August 2019

Oliver Coreaux: Meet the man who's bringing his hand-painted Birkins to Abu Dhabi

The artist uses luxury handbags as his canvas, and he's showcasing his work in the UAE for the first time at Project Warehouse by Festember

A designer handbag is often more than just a practical item. To its owners, it can be the symbol of years of hard work or a treasured gift. For Oliver Coreaux, it is a work of art.

Coreaux is an artist, but instead of paper, handbags are his canvas of choice. And not just any old handbags: Coreaux takes specimens from some of the world’s most luxurious brands and uses them as a base for his work.

From doodling over Birkins to scrawling on Celines, the artist, who lives in Los Angeles, takes an item that’s already deemed exclusive, and makes it one of a kind. But just how did a Texas export, with a background in economics and art history, end up merging his artistic inclinations with branded bags?

Each Coreaux bag is one-of-a-kind. Coreaux 
Each Coreaux bag is one-of-a-kind. Courtesy Oliver Coreaux

“I had a large grey duffel bag. About six months after I bought it, I just felt like it was missing something,” Coreaux explains. After he brightened it up with his own artistic twist, the unique bag sparked questions and intrigue from friends, peers and strangers, and he began to customise luxury bags on commission. I’m glad to see my work out in the real world being used and visible.”

Coreaux counts the likes of Gigi Hadid, Chiara Ferragni and Hailey Bieber among his celebrity fans, all of whom have been pictured with a Coreaux-custom Goyard St Louis – the bag style he describes as his “bread and butter” due to the shape and style, which makes it easy to customise.

One of the bags Coreaux has customised. Coreaux
Coreaux's bags feature a mix of doodle-style drawings in a contrast of fine and bold strokes, interlaced with script. Courtesy Oliver Coreaux

While no two Coreaux handbags are the same, he certainly has a distinct style. His work is mostly done in black and white, and features a mix of doodle-style drawings in a contrast of fine and bold strokes, interlaced with script. It’s not just bags, either, as he also works with accessories, trunks and suitcases, and on other surfaces such as wood.

“I would say my work definitely has a stream of consciousness,” Coreaux says. “People have compared it to graffiti in the past, and I definitely understand that thought process. I guess it’s seeing art in a place where you wouldn’t usually see it. I like to hide secrets and stories in plain sight.”

Artist Oliver Coreaux uses luxury handbags as a canvas for his paintings. Courtesy Oliver Coreaux 
Artist Oliver Coreaux uses luxury handbags as a canvas for his paintings. Courtesy Oliver Coreaux

Once he’s approached by a customer, Coreaux usually purchases their choice of designer bag new before customising it, although he has also worked on pre-used styles. He personalises each design to a point based on requests, although he will never, he tells me, be drawing a portrait of anyone’s cat – something he has had to refuse in the past.

Coreaux and his designs are at Project Warehouse by Festember, which is taking place on Yas Island on today and tomorrow. The contemporary cultural event celebrates all things art, cuisine, fashion and design, showcasing regional and international talent.

“I’m really excited,” says Coreaux of his first visit to the UAE. “I have brought a couple of select pieces with me, including a Louis Vuitton trunk set, and have been taking bookings leading up to the event. I’m looking forward to it, as most of the communication I have with my clients is over the phone or via WhatsApp, but now I’ll be doing what I usually do in the studio, but meeting people face to face.

“I would say that my stuff might not be attractive to all, but it will appeal to the hyper-luxury, hyper-exclusive market,” Coreaux adds. “It is one of one, and it’s for people looking for something personal and a little different.”

Updated: May 16, 2019 03:51 PM

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