It began as a personal project, something to pursue as a hobby. Jonathan Riss, creative director of the brand Jay Ahr, was fascinated by “Evolution”, a series of photographs by Patrick Gries depicting Paris’ Natural History Museum’s collections of vertebrates. He rang the photographer up and told him he wanted somehow to collaborate, but he didn’t yet know how.

Cut to a tiny rural village in China called Xi Qian, which Jonathan discovered thanks to an official in Beijing several years ago. Here, the men till the land and the women embroider. “There are families of four generations where all the women embroider. Each one has a specialty in a different kind of embroidery. Some are great at thread embroidery, others are great at working with pearls” explains Jonathan. He began working with this group of women on various projects for his fashion label, but eventually developed the desire to work on an embroidery project unrelated to fashion.

This is when it dawned on him that he could merge the work of Patrick Gries with his own work in embroidery, and thereby join two opposites: time versus timelessness. On the one hand, there is the concept of evolution. Living species have evolved from the primordial soup into creatures like the majestuous cheetah.


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