By Rebecca Voight...

Nov. 18: Everyone knows the Israeli-born, London-based architect and furniture designer Ron Arad is a hat man who likes to sculpt chairs into curlicues and make tables you can dance on, but who knew he had a bag fetish? The Flash bag, to be exact, which debuted in No Discipline, his first major one-man museum show kicked off with a private view and rooftop fête chez Georges at Paris's Centre Pompidou, where it runs through mid-March before traveling to New York's MoMA.

The angel in the wings here is Notify, the French jeans brand that counts Nicole Kidman, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Anna Mouglalis, Shalom Harlow, Ines de la Fressange and Linda Evangelista among its faithful. As the story goes, it was Evangelista who introduced Notify's Maurice Ohayon to Arad two years ago and the two have been playing style ping pong ever since. Ohayon gave Arad carte blanche on the design of the Flash bag, stipulating only that the price could not exceed a pair of designer jeans, even if said jeans are €300.

click to enlarge
Maurice Ohayon, Linda Evangelista, Ron Arad
Maurice Ohayon, Linda Evangelista (with the Flash bag), Ron Arad

The result, says Ohayon, is a bag for "ladies who might not be sleeping at home." An imposing elliptical shape in leather, the Flash sits up straight and commands attention. A large plastic porthole covered with a film of liquid crystal goes from opaque to transparent at the flip of a switch, thanks to an embedded battery. The peek-a-boo function is designed to make digging for keys a thing of the past—that is, as long as the bag is in front of you and you don't mind showing everyone what you keep in your bag.

Ohayon also produces jeans for Stella McCartney, Karl Lagerfeld, Emanuel Ungaro, Gianbattista Valli and others, so he's flush enough to sponsor this kind of show, produce Arad's Flash bag and open Notify showrooms designed by Arad and Zaha Hadid in Milan and Paris next year. Ohayon said sponsorship of the show, not including the party, came to €500,000, but added that an Arad sculpture goes for about the same amount and he already has enough to fill a living room.

But the Flash bag is just the beginning of the Pompidou exhibit, which includes the whole wacky world of Arad, from his Rover chair—made from a car seat he scavenged at a junkyard, convincing him to leave his job at a London architectural firm and go solo in the early 80s—to a scale model of the curvaceous Tel-Aviv Opera Island of 1994.

Ron AradRon Arad

In a cute straw baby bonnet and a felted wool jacket by Issey Miyake, his friend and collaborator, Arad managed to look both rumpled and cuddly, a bit like Paddington Bear. Paris's design junkies came out in force to see him: Louis Vuitton head Yves Carcelle (still jetlagged from a recent trip to China, which he visits "at least five times a year"), Paolo Roversi, the ageless YSL muse Betty Catroux with her interior designer husband François, Ines de la Fressange, Martine Sitbon, art director Marc Ascoli, architect Jean Nouvel and Kanye West, in Paris for his Glow in the Dark tour.

Kanye West loves fashion and spent his downtime, he said, shopping in Paris (check out the Lanvin fur sneakers on his website). And he continues to polish his styling game through guest design stints, such as "my shoe collection for Louis, my sneakers for Nike and I'm at the Gap too," he told me. He's also preparing the launch of Past Tell, his own line that he's been talking about since 2005.

A visibly amused François-Henri Pinault toured the show. "I'm a big fan," he explained. "I have a small collection of 21st-century furniture and I'm a friend of Maurice (Ohayon). Arad is different because he's gone from architecture and design into pure art, and then he ricochets off of all three."  

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