Welcome to #FollowFriday, a Teen Vogue column where we speak with the creators behind some of Instagram's coolest style accounts. This week we chat with Chris Rellas, who shares his digital collages of famous artworks and iconic fashion moments online through his account @copylab.
A picture of President Trump’s face Photoshopped onto the body of a model from a Louis Vuitton advertisement, surrounded by a sea of purses. Pharrell in a Moncler puffer gown taken from his recent GQ cover, pasted onto a Renaissance painting. Jennifer Lopez wearing an iconic Versace gown amidst the fog and sea (an artwork titled Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by German painter Caspar David Friedrich). These are just a few of the thought-provoking digital creations from Chris Rellas, an artist currently living in Italy, who cuts and pastes together iconic moments in pop culture, fashion, and art history on his Instagram account, Copy Lab.
Scrolling through the account, which has over 35,000 followers, it’s not uncommon to smile, laugh out loud, or be inspired to take a moment and think about something deeper. And that’s exactly the point, as Chris tells Teen Vogue: “Copy Lab is a project founded on fun and exploration.” Because of Chris’s longtime interest in both art and fashion, the decision to playfully merge the two came about rather naturally. He says he experimented with fashion from an early age and that seeing the fashion documentary The September Issue in high school was a “game changer.” Then, one night in 2014, while Chris was in college, his grandmother pointed out the obvious connection between art and fashion, and the ideas started percolating. “I hadn’t thought of it that way before…. I made my first Copy Lab image that night,” he says.
Five years later, the account is still going strong. Maybe this is because artists and fashion designers have been collaborating for decades: In recent times, Raf Simons worked with contemporary artist Sterling Ruby at Dior; Gucci has often worked with the likes of Petra Collins, Guccighost, and Coco Capitán; and many companies (Converse, Nars, the list goes on) have collaborated with the Andy Warhol Foundation. The account also seems to comment on the ways we consume culture and the blurred lines between fashion and art, bringing to mind the age-old question: Is fashion art? For his part, Chris has brought the two worlds together in delightful and humorous harmony, and we just can’t get enough of his creations.
Teen Vogue sat down with Chris to find out how current trends and pop-culture moments inform the account, his favorite posts so far, and what he hopes people take away from following and interacting with Copy Lab.
Teen Vogue: How would you explain your account and the focus of it?
Chris Rellas: Copy Lab is a digital project that brings art history and fashion together, with a dose of humor. The main goal is to take ideas and imagery that are highly recognizable and bring them together in an unexpected way. It’s also important to me that Copy Lab is a project founded on fun and exploration. More often than not, I make an image in the hopes that people will smile or think, I totally get it but I never thought of it that way.
TV: When did you first launch your account?
CR: I’ve always loved fashion and art, so it felt natural to merge the two. I was studying art history in college and spent a summer interning at Nasty Gal in Los Angeles — Sophia Amoruso was a very early supporter of mine.
One night I was talking to my grandmother about my internship and studies, and she said something about the two being closely linked. I hadn’t thought of it that way before…. I made my first Copy Lab image that night. Just a few weeks later, Copy Lab was featured on vogue.com for the first time. The following summer I was lucky enough to intern for Sarah Andelman at Colette in Paris. Sarah is such an amazing person — she loves to work with young artists. She continues to support and inspire me.
TV: What do you love most about juxtaposing artworks and elements of pop-culture and fashion?
CR: I enjoy thinking about juxtapositions, but I'm an awful painter, and I can't draw. Copy Lab allows me to create something exactly the way I see it in my head. It’s really satisfying.
TV: What's your process for creating the content you share?
CR: An idea usually comes to me when I’m scrolling online. I’ll come across an article or an image, and then I'm off. I also go to museums. I live in Italy now, and I travel often for work, so I try to see as much art as possible. Sometimes it’s as simple as coming across an amazing piece of art in a church. The Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome has two works by Caravaggio — you’d never know it if you’re just walking by. From those explorations, I keep a running list of my favorite works, including anything from an obscure Raphael to a super contemporary piece I see in a little gallery.
TV: How do you decide what to create and share with your followers? Do current fashion trends or pop-culture moments play a part in it?
CR: The internet is really this big social experiment where you can easily see the collective feeling behind any certain subject or current event. I really like looking at what people think is “cool” or “uncool” and capitalizing on that. I could write a whole paper about the state of “cool.” It’s fascinating. I often talk to friends and run ideas past them — I love having collaborators and filters.
TV: Irony and humor seem to be a big part of your account. Can you talk to me a bit more about that?
CR: Humor is important, especially for the fashion industry. It takes itself very seriously most of the time. It’s good to have a laugh and question ourselves.
TV: How has this account evolved since you started it?
CR: Overall, the account has remained the same, and that’s something I’m really happy about. Social media is all about keeping up, maintaining people’s attention. I’ve switched gears before out of newfound interests, but I’ve never done it to get more followers. That’s something I’m really proud of. I don’t have the most followers in the world, but I feel like the ones who are there are super loyal, and I’d probably get along with them in real life. It feels authentic, and that’s why I’m not really looking to make major changes. A little evolution, of course, in terms of taking on different points of view when they’re needed, but nothing crazy.
TV: What have been some of your favorite posts so far?
CR: After all of that talk about fashion, my political posts are my favorite! During the U.S. presidential election, I was inspired to make a lot of pro-Hillary/anti-Trump work. It felt good to contribute in a small way to a bigger conversation.
TV: How has your practice expanded beyond the account? How do you hope to grow it in the future?
CR: Copy Lab taught me a lot about working with large organizations — ideating and executing under tight deadlines. I’ve worked with vogue.com, W magazine, Garage Magazine, the Museum of Modern Art, Farfetch, Gucci, Calvin Klein, and of course, Colette Paris.
TV: What do you hope people take away from interacting with your work?
CR: I hope people laugh. If they don’t laugh, what are they doing?
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue