There’s no doubt that designer and actress Tara Subkoff has a flair for the theater. Fans of his artistic project that has become a clothing brand Imitation of Christ Perhaps remembers her early fashion week antics, like when, instead of a runway, Subkoff threw a glamorous mock funeral or, in a devious reversal of the traditional hierarchy, she gathered editors together magazine chief and shop buyers on the catwalk while the models, wearing the collection, looked at them judgmentally from the front row.
The LA label, which was big on concept and seemingly ambivalent on business prospects, was a darling of the downtown underground scene at the turn of the century.
Therefore, it was not entirely unexpected that the runway of its Spring and Summer 2021 collection had some of this guerrilla energy. Held in a Garvanza park Monday night in Highland Park, the big moment labels (Warning: video contains strong language) featured a troupe of female skateboarders whistling around a graffiti-concrete bowl carrying the collection as opera singers provided the soundtrack.
This presentation was one of the few in-person events to coincide with New York Fashion Week (it was outdoors and masks and social distancing were encouraged). It’s a fashion season like no other before it due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the fashion shows take place online this year with a few notable exceptions such as Jason Wu and Christian Siriano.
I believe in the tenacity and resilience of the human spirit, Subkoff said when asked why now, amid the coronavirus pandemic and widespread fires statewide, she felt he was important to show the line. I believe we need a community. We need art. We need experiences and performances.
Subkoff is a little iconoclastic, and his brand first made headlines by thumbing its nose at the established system. She took the finds from thrift stores and reworked them into new, unconventional clothing, a practice now embraced by eco-friendly labels and dubbed upcycling (Subkoff suspects she was the first to use the term) . She remembers discussing in 2000 a possible acquisition with luxury conglomerate LVMH and asking for all their dilapidated textiles to build her collections.
The new collection of its labels perpetuates this renegade spirit by collecting vintage finds and assembling them into one-of-a-kind handcrafted sewing works. It’s a DIY philosophy that challenges accepted notions of mass-produced luxury and a consumer culture obsessed with continuously making new things to sell and then throw away.
I’ve always been brought up with the idea that old is better, said Subkoff. And that’s true. Pieces from the 1920s or even the Victorian era are still standing. So why not keep bringing these things to life? To update them and make them unique? And I love sewing, making something with your hands. So it’s like punk-rock couture, something stuck together, it’s unexpected.
It’s an eccentric offer. You will find floral dresses that collided with sports shirts, sweatshirts fused with sequined dresses, feminine lingerie incorporated into sweaters, distressed and dyed T-shirts, and jeans or pants. graphic t-shirts with a flounce of lace on the side. The finesse of corporate labels might be missing, but that’s the point. The Imitation of Christ is, and always has been, a replica to stifling fashion standards and yet it is not completely separate from today’s industry either.
In its own way, it evokes the Gucci pie look and the aesthetic of the grandmother’s quilt from menswear label Bode. Subkoff describes it as finding beauty where there is none.
The collection, with its nod to the grunge of the 90s and the beginnings of Maison Margiela and Comme des Garons, was created available for purchase from the popular RealReal resale site after the show. Prices range from $ 75 (for a trucker hat adorned with a canvas veil) to $ 1,795 for the blazer-skirt combo. A representative for the brand said the proceeds from the collection would go to environmental organization Greta Thunberg, Fridays for the future.
These days, Subkoff is particularly inspired by the young people around her, whether it is the women who are entering the traditionally male sport of skateboarding, a territorial sport filled with machismo and bravado and making it their own. And part of the reason she relaunched the brand, which went out of business in 2012, was to provide a creative outlet for her kid friends who found their world to have come to an end earlier this year. For this iteration of the brand, Lulu Syracuse, Jersey Bond and Hudson Schaetzke are its Creative Directors (a position Chlo Sevigny once held).
In addition to the brand’s ad hoc skate show, Subkoff made a video for the collection, which was shown online as well as in Los Angeles and New York.
It’s about heart and hard work in a world that stinks of manufacturing, that doesn’t stink the heart and no soul just trades, she says. I was trying to put the art back into him using the over-fabricated scraps, to sew from something someone threw away and said they would never wear again. This chemistry, this process … I really implore that we all do this in our day to day lives.
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