Modernism Week attendees are in for an extra treat this year thanks to a collaborative effort between the organization and a Downtown Palm Springs businesses’ creative director. And if they like what they see, they’ll be able to take it home.
Tom Dolle, creative director at Destination PSP, is the man behind the merchandise with a Vera Neumann theme on sale both online and at Modernism Week headquarters, known as CAMP (Community And Meeting Place), at Hyatt Palm Springs.
The story of how the quickly the collection came to be still has Dolle and others amazed.
When Modernism Week lecture organizer Mark Davis told Dolle there would be a Vera Neumann lecture this year (check for tickets here), he suggested it would be a good idea to have some products available.
“Surprisingly, the licensing was available, so we dove right in,” Dolle said. “Mark is a huge admirer of Vera, as am I, so it was a no-brainer.”
Dolle, a graphic designer, formerly ran a design studio in New York City and was a professor at Pratt Institute.
“I helped launch Destination PSP as creative director when they started eight years ago,” he explained. He and his husband relocated here full time two years ago. “I have since been involved with some great rebranding projects, and designed/co-authored the book Glamour Road that will be featured during Modernism Week.”
Dolle said the company had to work quickly to get things in design and production.
“I turned to our normal suppliers. Vera was known for her napkins, tableware, and scarves, but we’re showing how adaptable her work is for products that haven’t been done before,” he said.
Dolle said he has been a longtime admirer of Neumann, especially her early abstract work from the 1960s and ’70s, which the collection is about.
“The brand did a lot of florals and more traditional patterns after that. I have a large collection of her napkins, and am always hunting new ones,” he added. “If you look closely at old episodes of Mad Men — one of my favorite shows — you’ll see several Vera outfits.”
“I’m often juggling many projects at once, and this one happened so fast I’m still trying to digest it,” Dolle admitted. “I’m really excited that I’ve been able to do Vera an honor, by bringing her work back for a new generation. Her work fits perfectly into the Palm Springs lifestyle that we love—colorful, fun, modern, and full of sunshine.”
The company had access to a large digital archive of images of Neumann’s original sumi-e ink paintings.
“I wanted to do them all!” Dolle smiled. “But because they were digital photos, some were not large enough files to be usable, and most were square for scarves, so there were built-in limitations. I chose the ones that would reproduce well and give a good overview of her style.” There were also production limitations since they were images (not line art), so certain products could not be easily done.
“The collection includes four large plush pool towels, two custom canvas totes that match the towels, four vinyl placemats, an ice bucket and two fiberglass trays,” he said. “Everything is printed and/or made in USA.”
Producing locally (and in the US) has its advantages for quick delivery and good communication, Dolle explained.
“But I also feel good knowing that we’re supporting American manufacturers, creating jobs, and making symbiotic relationships with various businesses,” he said. “They often get as excited about our projects as we do!”
Dolle said so far, the collection has been a “smash hit!”
“We will probably sell out during Modernism Week, but we can reorder—and perhaps add more items,” he said.
Dolle said Modernism Week is a great time to show off some of the best cultural assets the area has to offer.
“We have the greatest concentration of important midcentury architecture and design anywhere, and the creative class that lives here and visits here covers a broad spectrum. Our city has an Instagram moment around every corner, and Modernism Week is a great time to celebrate it,” he emphasized. “Plus, it’s a local event, run by locals, supported by local businesses, and benefits from the generosity of locals willing to volunteer, open their homes, lend a classic car, give a talk, or share their knowledge.”
“Everyone who comes for Modernism Week is in a good mood — the sunshine, the beautiful homes, the great lectures, poolside cocktails, the whole Palm Springs vibe,” he added. “It’s a major draw, and the local economy is a huge beneficiary.”
Dolle said Vera Neumann’s art plays right into that Palm Springs vibe.
“Her art is exuberant, colorful, joyful, expressive and filled with positive energy. Isn’t that what we all need right now?” he asked.