Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring is easily one of the most recognizable paintings in the world: a girl wearing a headscarf and a large pearl earring emerges out of the shadows and into the light, gazing intently back toward the viewer. Chris Rellas’ (‘13) rendition is an exact copy of this famous work, with one minor but obvious difference: the earring is emblazoned with the logo of French fashion house Chanel.
Fashion meets art in @copylab, an Instagram account Rellas, who is majoring in art history at Georgetown University, created in 2014 while interning at Nasty Gal, an LA-based clothing brand.
“I was scrolling through an art history blog and my boss was having me print out these stupid articles [about jeans],” Rellas said. “There were images of jeans on my desk and I was just looking at art and the idea just made sense.”
That night, Rellas went to his grandmother’s house, discussed the prospects of pursuing something creative of his own” and made his very first image. His friends encouraged him to share his work on Instagram and @copylab was born.
“[The name copylab comes from the fact that] I treated it as my little “lab” for creative thoughts,” Rellas said. “The ‘copy’ part comes from the fact that what I’m doing is sort of advanced copy and pasting.”
Since its inception, Rellas has edited over 100 artworks to incorporate fashion by dressing subjects in designer apparel and accessories and melding runway models into various pieces. He also includes an occasional pop culture reference.
“[My interest in art] comes from an interest in fashion, which to me means beauty and the idea of creation and creativity,” Rellas said. “We all know certain images, we’ve all seen certain paintings, but there’s so much thought that goes into them and so much secrecy in what the artist was thinking … that’s sort of fascinating.”
Rellas has lived in Paris for almost a year now, where he hopes to attend graduate school to earn a Master’s degree in luxury management and eventually live. He spends the majority of his time studying, running @copylab and meeting people, and is currently working on creating digital images for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to promote their new show.
“I was always sort of like trying to be weird and different and not be spotted by museums but now it’s nice to get the recognition of a place that I used to visit when I was a kid,” Rellas said.
But it’s not the only recognition Rellas has received. In 2014, Vogue magazine featured @copylab. Just several months ago, he was interviewed by W Magazine.
“It’s kind of weird because I was never anyone important; I’m just a kid,” Rellas said. “I get to see how newspaper and magazines work through these interviews and I get to know people.”
For nearly half of his time at TPHS, Rellas possessed little interest in fashion; he remembers wearing the same shirt almost every day.
“Finally I was just like ‘OK, I’m gay. I’m just going to show everyone I’m gay,’” Rellas said. “I just thought ‘I’m just going to wear crazy clothes’ … I started a blog. I was in Falconer, in yearbook, wearing leather pants … and I just got more confident.”
But it was not until Rellas went to college that he seriously considered pursuing fashion as a career.
“I started thinking, “This what I want to do for a job but I don’t want to be a blogger,” Rellas said. “That’s where I kind of had to start thinking about how could this become a business or how could I make a name for myself.”
After he graduates from Georgetown next year, Rellas wants to work at a big label in Paris and learn “how a professional clothing brand works.”
“I realize that there’s a certain amount of professionalism that you have to have if you want to be a creative,” Rellas said. “You have to learn the business end of things.”
Rellas hopes to take those skills and use them to eventually establish his own brand, whether that be in the form of clothing or skin care, just “ doing something that allows him to be independent.”
But regardless of what he ends up doing, Rellas will continue to bring his creativity with him, blurring the boundaries between fashion and art, wherever he goes.
Photo Courtesy of Chris Rellas