C California Style

Barbara wool coat in black, $500. PHOTO: Robin Stein.
PERMANENT COLLECTION co-founders Fanny Singer and Mariah Nielson. PHOTO: Robin Stein.
Italian Sandals handmade by ATELIER ATTAL, $350. PHOTO: Daniel Dent.
Blunk Cups based on originals from Nielson’s late father, artist J.B. BLUNK, $350/set of four. PHOTO: Daniel Dent.

Eyes on the Prize

by C California Style

“The word ‘curate’ gets overused, but it is exactly what we’re doing,” says Fanny Singer, writer, curator and co-founder of Permanent Collection,

a new brand that collaborates with contemporary artists, designers, manufacturers and artists’ estates to create garments, home objects and accessories inspired by timeless design. Together with her friend, business partner and fellow curator, Mariah Nielson, the two (who divide their time between the Bay Area and London) have devised a capsule collection spanning coats to ceramic cups.

The pair have impressive résumés in art and academia, and share a network of luminaries in the lifestyle communities. Nielson, who is the daughter of late NorCal sculptor J.B. Blunk, completed the Royal College of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum’s program for her master’s in design history; Singer, whose mother is chef Alice Waters, is a writer and Yale alum with a Ph.D. in art history from Cambridge.

Their cultured sensibility is apparent in the streamlined silhouettes and subtle color palette of each item. Clothing like the Agnes coat takes cues from a cocoon-like 1940s jacket belonging to Nielson, and objects such as the Blunk Cups are based on the artist’s organically shaped clay forms. A pair of cognac leather slides, dubbed, simply, the Italian Sandals, are a modern rendition of a vintage pair Nielson bought 15 years ago in a secondhand shop and are now being made by the duo’s beloved Parisian shoemaker, Atelier Attal. “We never position ourselves as designers,” insists Singer. “Our training informs how we choose things.”

More familial collaborations are in the pipeline: one with Nielson’s mother, Christine, who founded bedding company Coyuchi, plus a highly anticipated line of kitchen items with Waters.

Launching in tandem with Permanent Collection is the pair’s journal, Works on Paper. The collection-themed first issue includes contributions from The New Yorker theater critic Hilton Als, artist Fritz Haeg and Joseph Becker, SFMOMA’s assistant curator of architecture and design.

Through the brand and journal, Nielson and Singer are homing in on the intersection of art and fashion, not just in the way each piece is selected and created, but also in the way people purchase and collect. “We see the customer looking at these pieces as a long-term investment in the same way someone purchases art,” says Singer. “It’s about believing in the quality of the work.” permanentcollection.com.  • MELISSA MAGSAYSAY

Edited by Kelsey McKinnon.