Artist Kuj unveils paintings with support from Dua Lipa and Anwar Hadid
Like many freewheeling creatives, Kujtin Durollari doesn’t want to be labeled as one thing.
Known as “Kuj”, he unveiled the first exhibition of his paintings at the Russian Tea Room on Sunday. Dividing her time between New York and Los Angeles, the artist’s family has Albanian roots, as does her friend Dua Lipa. The âFuture Nostalgiaâ musician also has family ties to Kosovo and has come to show her support.
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Admiring the exaggerated decor of the Russian tearoom, she checked the artist’s paintings but declined any interview. Her model-musician boyfriend Anwar Hadid also came over, chatting and laughing with Durollari’s restaurateur dad. One of the large-scale paintings on display was auctioned off to benefit the Sunny Hill Foundation, a charity established in Pristina, Kosovo, under Lipa’s patronage.
Painting is something Kuj has done throughout his life, but the works on display have been completed within the past 18 months. Through Bond, the streetwear brand that he and his older brother Arben started seven years ago, he has also painted on clothing. Their contemporary men’s clothing is sold at H. Lorenzo in Los Angeles and in several outposts abroad, notably in Japan, Italy and other countries.
The Durollari brothers traveled to Albania in July with Lipa to inaugurate the Sunny Hill Nursery School which was due to open this month. The brothers also lent their creative talents to decorating their father’s two restaurants – the Italian restaurant Nittis in Hell’s Kitchen and a pizzeria in Fort. Lee, New Jersey
As friends and guests circled the mirrored room designed by Warren LeRoy to view Kuj’s artwork, the 25-year-old artist relaxed with his hands in the pockets of Bond pants in fine stripes. âIt’s Bond,â he explained, showing off his sneakers and opening the striped cuffless blazer to reveal a painterly logo t-shirt.
When asked what was the hardest part of being in fashion, he answered without any hesitation. âEverything to be honest with you: making the clothes, managing the workforce, the factories, making the clothes on time, getting them done – period. Do them well, do them for the right price, imports, exports, taxes, fabric costs, classification, marketingâ¦ âhe said. âThe thing with fashion is you have about eight to ten pairs of hands touching the product before it’s even finished. You have the pattern maker, leveler, marketing, cutting, sewing, fabric purchasing, pre-bleaching, printing, labeling, packaging, shipping. This is what goes into a T-shirt.
After running a profitable business for seven years, neither of the brothers studied design and they often draw inspiration from cinema, especially classic films, music and art. âI just like making this big pot of all my cultures and different ways to get something out. It’s like chemistry. I just put them together.
Kuj, Hadid and their friend Joey Francis see themselves as a collective and they collaborated on the music that was performed at Sunday’s event. Francis explained, âI want to do this for the next 50 years, not the next five years. This is just the start of a lot of things that are happening. It was a great opportunity to all work together.
Francis and Hadid modeled together for Valentino two years ago, but they are now partnering with music production. (The latter’s sisters, Bella and Gigi, are also in the industry.) Francis is executive producer on Hadid’s upcoming album, which could be released by the end of this year.
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