Middle East Meets Western Brands

NYC artist employs luxury brand logos to make a geopolitical statement

Luxury American and European brands most often inspire consumers to pull out their credit cards. But in the case of Eric Parnes, they simply inspire, period.

Parnes, 31, an artist of Iranian descent who lives in New York’s East Village, has based much of his work on the intersection of Western and Middle Eastern cultures. His latest collection of objects (which he is readying for a Paris gallery show this coming spring) finds that intersection in a simultaneously unusual yet obvious place: brands—specifically, designer brands.

“When one takes a look at how the East and West interact with each other, you see how brands synonymous with the West have melded themselves into the traditional cultures of the East,” Parnes explained to Adweek. “In the case of the luxury labels, there’s definitely a cultural love for them deep into the Middle East.”

But it’s a strange, culturally incongruous love. At a time when diplomatic tensions between America and many Middle Eastern countries remain high, Parnes finds it interesting that none of the friction has impeded the holy act of shopping. During his frequent visits to North Africa and the Gulf States, Parnes observed startling clashes—women wearing hijabs toting Chanel shopping bags and wearing Prada sunglasses. Such recollections are behind his latest array of evocative images showing everyday Eastern objects reinterpreted with Western designer logos: slippers made from Versace denim and Vuitton logo canvas, rose water sprinklers in the shape of Jean Paul Gaultier cologne. Parnes crafts the objects himself, then photographs them. Prices are available upon request.

Parnes maintains he’s not taking a position either way as to whether this kind of brand infiltration of the Middle Eastern cultural landscape is a good or bad thing; he merely wants to call attention to it being as prevalent as it is. “You really do see men in dishdashas smoking and wearing Nike sneakers,” he says. “And they’re probably wearing Versace underwear beneath it all.”

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