Summer’s coolest dress an instant classic

For the second project in a series of storytelling products to be released sequentially throughout the summer New York product designer Nik Bentel set out to create the perfect summer dress by looking back. Way back.

Using Sandro Botticelli’s 1480s masterpiece The Birth of Venus as inspiration, Bentel set out to re-create, as accurately as possible, the floral flowing dress worn by the Hora of spring who holds out a cloak to cover Venus as she reaches the shore in a giant scallop shell.

Bentel’s linen and cotton Botticelli Dress, hand- embroidered with blue or pink cornflowers, is one of 12 limited-edition designs that range from furniture and fashion to toys that the designer is launching every few weeks. Bentel started the project with The Loopy Chair, a chrome yellow chair designed using a single band of tubular steel that he had fabricated by a bike rack manufacturer.

“I see these 12 projects as an episodic tease in some ways — very similar to how a TV show releases a new episode every week,” Bentel said. “Each one is different but each product has a story to tell that’s more involved than being straight-up utility.”

Bentel said he thought about the idea for the dress last summer during quarantine when designer Lirika Matoshi’s diaphanous strawberry dress blew up on TikTok and “cottagecore,” the lifestyle trend based on a romanticized, simpler life, took over Instagram.

“For this project, I wanted to re-create a historical moment in some way. After going through a number of famous art pieces, this one really stood out as a perfect moment in time,” Bentel said. “Being a product designer, I see products as storytelling objects. The idea that the hundreds of objects that you use every day, like your toothbrush, your cup, your computer are utility, yes, but they also tell a story … They tell a story about aesthetics, the time place you’re in, the materials, and how they were made.”

Bentel also reimagined the cloak from the painting as a cashmere blanket embroidered with daisies and yellow primroses.

The Botticelli dress comes in small, medium and large and is $199, and the embroidered blanket is $299. To buy the dress and see more of Bentel’s work, go to nikolasbentelstudio.com.

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