Artist Uses Margaret Thatcher’s Scarves To Create Down Sleeping Bags & Power Vests

Simon Denny Sleeping Bags & Power Vests

Security Through Obscurity” was the first San Francisco solo show by New Zealand-born artist Simon Denny. Exhibited last year, just as the Pandemic was beginning, the Altman Siegel gallery in San Francisco featured his Sleeping Bags and down-filled “Power Vests” created with scarves acquired from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, turning the objects into socio-political statements about economic status, fashion and tech culture.

Simon Denny Sleeping Bags & Power Vests

Custom Sleeping Bag by Simon Denny made with Margaret Thatcher’s silk scarves

The Berlin-based artist has often looked to technology and social media for inspiration. His past works address the intersection of technology, society and aesthetics and this exhibition was no different. His highly conceptual work in Security Through Obscurity serves as a visual treatise on global capitalism, income inequality and fashion brands popularized by the wealthy Silicon Valley and Venture Capital crowd.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her silk scarves

For this project, Denny repurposed scarves from the estate of Margaret Thatcher and secondhand down from garments sourced in San Francisco to create custom versions of sleeping bags and of the uniform of the tech and finance crowd, the “puffy vest.” Despite having seemingly nothing in common, both Margaret Thatcher and Patagonia represent styles of dress that transcended their origins to become icons.

Made from original Patagonia sleeping bag designs and old Patagonia co-branded power vests the artist acquired from ebay, Denny describes his down-filled quilted sculptures are “individual Bay Area insulation units” – a play on the cultural dissonance and income inequality these objects now represent. For instance the sleeping bag, once an essential form of camping gear, has become a symbol of the homelessness in San Francisco.

Bespoke Patagonia sleeping bags by Simon Denny, installation view

Remainder 1 (detail), 2019
Margaret Thatcher scarves, Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag 30 F/-1 C – R parts, Ripstop Nylon, Down sourced from second hand San Francisco garments, carbon fibre, glass fibre, wood
82 5/8 x 21 5/8 x 15 3/4 in

Remainder 2 (detail), 2019
Margaret Thatcher scarves, Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag 30 F/-1 C – R parts, Ripstop Nylon, Down sourced from second hand San Francisco garments, carbon fibre, glass fibre, wood
82 5/8 x 21 5/8 x 15 3/4 inches

The artist’s bespoke puffy Power Vests are a response to the 2019 news that began with a tweet from Binna Kim, an executive with a financial public relations firm, who announced that Patagonia would no longer create branded vests for financial services companies, stirring up a social media fleece-freakout among those for whom the Patagonia Vest was a symbol of their power and wealth. The brand explained that instead they would only work with companies certified for environmental and social standards and performance and companies that were members of the organization One Percent For the Planet.

One of Patagonia’s co-branded vests for Quipo, one of their many collabs with tech companies

Power Vest 1, 2019
Scarves formerly owned by Margaret Thatcher, Patagonia M’s Down Sweater Vest parts, Down sourced from second hand San Francisco garments, Ripstop Nylon, Salesforce and Quip embroidered logos, wood, glass, photo paper, cardboard
52 3/4 x 60 1/4 x 9 1/8 in

Power Vest 3, 2019
Scarf formerly owned by Margaret Thatcher, Patagonia M’s Down Sweater Vest parts, Down sourced from second hand San Francisco garments, Ripstop Nylon, Salesforce and Quip embroidered logos, wood, glass, photo paper, cardboard
52 3/4 x 60 1/4 x 9 1/8 in

Power Vest 4 2019
Scarf formerly owned by Margaret Thatcher, Patagonia M’s Down Sweater Vest parts, Down sourced from second hand San Francisco garments, Ripstop Nylon, Salesforce and Quip embroidered logos, wood, glass, photo paper, cardboard
52 3/4 x 60 1/4 x 9 1/8 in

Power Vest 2 2019
Scarf formerly owned by Margaret Thatcher, Patagonia M’s Down Sweater Vest parts, Down sourced from second hand San Francisco garments, Ripstop Nylon, Salesforce and Quip embroidered logos, wood, glass, photo paper, cardboard
52 3/4 x 60 1/4 x 9 1/8 in

“I think it would be hard not to think about the Patagonia vests differently,” he said. “I hope it puts all the super-contradictions of how we live into a frame that is impossible to ignore.” – Simon Denny told the NY Times

Security Through Obscurity, installation view
Security Through Obscurity, installation view

The exhibition also included 3D printed sculptural United States Patent applications from Salesforce, the company co-founded by Marc Benioff in 1999 that has revenues of over $13 billion is one of the largest employers in San Francisco.


The show ran last year at Altman Siegel San Francisco and you can see the full show here in their archives.

Simon Denny

Thanks to artist Simon Denny and Altman Siegel gallery for the photos and information.

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