I don't know when I started to care about having nice (fancy, expensive) clothes. I know that when I was 13, I wore only black. Black Lee relaxed fit jeans (size 36) and a variety of black Hanes T-shirts, size XL. This is when I was in middle school and had a mound of frizzy curly hair, dyed turquoise, parted in the middle in a vaguely Edwardian effect. I'm just giving some context. But I remember seeing a pair of black vinyl pants in a store on Telegraph Avenue, and wanting them so fucking badly. They were $60 and my parents wouldn't buy them for me. I remember thinking that if I was wearing those pants, it's not as if my life would change, but that it would be some kind of expression of something already in me. I knew that on some level I belonged in those vinyl bondage pants. That is the first time I remember really lusting after an article of clothing.
For a long time I didn't care at all about clothes or fashion. I thought it was really consumerist and evil. And it is, I guess. But about three years ago I became totally obsessed with Comme des Garçons. It seemed to (and still does) touch on the same nerve of a 13 year-old aching for a pair of black vinyl bondage pants. I don't know, I think of it as a form of self-expression.
The genuinely fuckable and formidably genius La JohnJoseph wrote a really great post about the difference between fashion and clothes, to wit:
[Fashion] is a dehumanizing merry-go-round, populated by exhausted whores, neurotics, terrified and ravaged seventeen-year olds, the desperate and deluded of the demi-monde... Clothes of course are different things. When divorced from, ignored by or outside of fashion they are potential, identity, possibility, expression, bliss.You can check out the post here. I think this is a good way of putting it. I identify with this parsing of fashion, as an industry/culture on a mass consumerist level, and clothes (getting dressed) as a personal and social art practice. I see dressing in fancy designer clothes (to the extent that I do, which is not very much at all) as a form of self-expression, rather than participation in a group. Comme des Garçons is arguably the most avant-garde major fashion label, but Rei Kawakubo's designs are often too prescient to make sense. I feel like it's not even cool, in a way. It's too forward-thinking. This is partly me defending my obsession with CdG by making this distinction between it and Fashion as such. But I think it's also widely true. In an interview with Vogue Italia's Franca Sozzani, she said of Rei Kawakubo:
"She’s even too far ahead in design because, sometimes even I say that, I would never wear certain things she does. I buy them because I believe in her, and then a few years later I will find myself wearing it!"I'm not the type to buy something (especially something really expensive) without the intention to wear it to shreds, but I agree with the sentiment. But at the same time obviously the clothes are really expensive. And to a degree don't jive with my so-called punk values. Most of the clothes I tend to wear every day are from thrift stores and were purchased a long time ago, carefully collected and preserved from second-hand stores throughout my life. One of my Favorite Artists In The World Whose Work Changed My Life, Kathleen Hanna, said in a recent interview:
"It's like you go a thrift store and you find that weird one of-a-kind thing, and it means more than going to Marc Jacobs and buying this $500 dress that anybody who has a lot of money could get."But this is also, I think, maybe, about her feelings about Marc Jacobs. Don't go there! But seriously, she raises a good point, about accessibility and about choosing how you look. Like, do you leave it up to the designer / store / magazine / something else to tell you what to wear? And how to wear it?
Another Luminary who I admire very much and whose opinion I listen to because I think we share some similar values, Mx. Saint Justin Vivian Bond wrote on vs blog recently about performing at Alber Elbaz' birthday party:
"I don’t know Alber personally but I’m a huge fan of his elegant clothes. As someone who is philosophically anti-consumerist I am always conflicted when it comes to fashion because I love the talent and creativity that goes into making beautiful clothes. I sort of think of top fashion designers like veal trapped in a gilded cages and force-fed riches and gluttony so that they will produce tenderly exquisite objets which feed and enrich a villainous multi-national corporate paradigm while simultaneously stimulating peoples dreams and desires until they are ultimately fed to a devouring public and sometimes destroyed in the process (phew, long sentence!). Mainly I think of them as artists and Alber is one of my favorites."Right? I mean, Kawakubo has said, numerous times that she doesn't consider herself an artist, so much as a businesswoman, or journalist, etc. I think this is sort of her pulling a stunt, to an extent. Sometimes the painter is not the person to ask about the painting, too. I am also inclined to agree with Kathy Acker, who viewed designer clothing (she was a Comme fan) as "art for the poor people". Though obviously I am much, much poorer than Kathy was. So this is all to say I have a conflicted and complex series of feelings about my lust for expensive Japanese designer clothing. I'm thinking about it.
And anyway the point is that I bought these really beautiful Comme des Garçons Homme Plus denim pants last week, as an early birthday present to myself.
They were really expensive. I generally buy something designer or nice when it's on sale. Or second hand, or something. The Comme des Garçons MARKET MARKET last spring sort of freed me of my localized CdG obsession. Something about seeing all those amazing clothes being thrown around, people changing in front of each other, clothes getting ripped, somehow devalued them for me, and made CdG seem a little less precious, maybe. Sort of demystified? It was amazing. I saw Debbie Harry there, on the last day, with a dozen dresses under her arm. She likes a sale, I like that. And anyway the big sale also made me think that, you know, not everything makes it to the remainders bin. A lot of stuff sells out. That's the thing about CdG: it's there and also not there. There will be certain pieces (usually a blazer) from any collection that just go, the first day. And only those in the know will know about. It's weird.
Anyway last January we all saw the Mens fall collection, titled "Decadence". A cute idea, and some interesting clothes. For me, however, it began and ended with the pants. The sort of balloon-y things.
In her review, the pithy and punchy Cathy Horyn zeroes in on the pants, saying:
"The collection was engaging, mainly for the strange pinched proportions of jackets and some fabulous wide-leg denim trousers, including one ballooning style pegged at the ankles."And she's right, as usual. I was totally obsessed with the pants as soon as I saw them. The theme of the collection was "Decadence" which I think was articulated in a couple different ways. The brocade coats and pants, for sure. The layering of T-shirts over each other, under these bathrobe-like coats, I think, create a sort of claustrophobic decadence. And these pants feel decadent too, in their volume. The pants feel pretty emblematic of the theme, and the collection. There're always a couple pieces in any collection that become the hot ticket item, the thing that sums it up, and I think the balloon pants are like this. I'm thinking of the shoulder holster's from Spring 2010's "Adult Delinquent" collection. Although there will be themes or slogans for any given collection, Kawakubo's main aim is always to create something new. A new silhouette, a new texture, a new effect, a new feeling. And these pants are new. I am obsessed with the drop-crotch pants that CdG makes, I bought a pair at the BLACK store last fall. I like how the drop-crotch pants elongate and alter the height and silhouette of the wearer, I think they are also sort of proto-hip-hip in a way. Anyway, these denim pants I bought are like the polar opposite of the drop-crotch pants. These have a fairly straight inseam, they just flare outwards and are buttoned tighter just above the ankle They're not exactly jodphurs, which are wide at the hip and taper downwards, since these are circular-- they don't accentuate the hips or butt, they don't accentuate any boy part, it's an imaginary body part. They're not exactly harem pants, which are loose all around and then tight at the ankle, these aren't flowy, they're structured. They're not like wrap pants or something. They're new. I adore them. When I saw the fashion show, I decided to save up to buy them. And that is what I did.
In the last few weeks, as CdG had it's spring/summer sale, I knew the new collection would be arriving soon, but I could not get anyone to tell me when. I called the store and asked, and was told that there wasn't an exact date. I asked an employee in person, and was told "Sometime around the middle of July, but I'm not sure..." Which is frustrating. It's needlessly evasive, because of course they all knew that the new collection was to debut on 7/15. And furthermore, they had already sent out notices to a wide pool of "valued customers" in NYC to announce this. Why not tell me, y'know? Probably because I never buy anything, at least not at full price, at the store. Anyway what happened eventually was that I went to the BLACK store to see if they had at drop-crotch denim from last summer. I like the idea of CdG denim, because it will like last forever, right? I'll pass it down to my grand children, yeah? I was informed, anyway, that they did not. I asked the girl on duty when the Homme Plus line would come in at the main store, since (I said) I think they might be doing denim pants this season. The girl at the counter let it slip that the new collection would be available on 7/15, but looked immediately guilty, like I wasn't supposed to know. She assured me that in fact, despite what we saw in the Paris show, there would not be any denim in the new fall collection. So, okay.
I went back on 7/15 after work, and it was kind of a zoo. Of course, the country's number one Comme des Garçons collector, Suzanne Golden was there, making her first-round picks. The store was all new and full of people who knew pretty much exactly what they wanted. These are the people who show up on the first day. These are the VIP customers who phone in their orders months in advance. People were talking about which items were already sold out, after being there for six hours. Some other pieces would never sell, not at all. It is very strange. Anyway, I got my pants. I fell in love with them and I got them and I am very happy. They had the same silhouette in washed black polyester, which were inexplicable twice as expensive. But whatever. I wanted the indigo denim. They're really soft.
It's a new shape to wear and be, which is exactly what I want. I want to make new shapes.
It is, though, a tiny bit too warm to wear them, just yet.