Twenty years ago, an art project turned fashion label called IMITATION OF CHRIST redefined our notion of what is cool and conscious. That was in the early 2000s when nobody spoke about sustainability or upcycling clothes. Its founder, American art student Tara Subkoff, was fashion’s beloved rebel with a cause in that her label proposed the reworking of used garments into precious, art-inspired couture pieces.
Admittedly, IMITATION OF CHRIST is best experience as a concept or conscious message. When they shook the world with a Spring 2001 presentation held in a funeral home, the brand emphasized the function of fashion as a means for getting a message across. Precious and wearable art creations that exemplified value of clothes usually discarded or sent to thrift shops, were suddenly considered “macabre chic” acquisitions of the true fashion-forward consumer.
The brand went on hiatus in 2005 and made its long awaited return to New York Fashion Week this month with its Spring/Summer 2021 collection. And what a time to mark a resurrection. Keeping with its ethos for challenging status quo, the label takes inspiration from “heroic acts of courage, standing up for civil right and working hard to come together during these times that are appalling… In a society that has abolished every kind of adventure, the only adventure that remains is to abolish the society.”
LA-based female skateboarders were enlisted to star in the guerilla fashion film. Subkoff explains, “These women are brave, confident, stylish and can literally fly on their boards. They are fearless and heroic, in a time that is suffocating with the fear of what is coming next.” Garments that flew through the ramps and pavements were infused with the very same fabric of tenacity woven into these real women. There were frocks that felt like creations for the skater girl going to Sunday school. Jerseys, lace, tulle, chiffon and crepe comprised an utterly unique patchwork of boundless imagination distinct only to IMITATION OF CHRIST.
In a world where everything you see (especially on social media) is so deliberately polished, filtered and curated, it was refreshing to once again experience fashion that is both spontaneous and soulful. Whether they are commercially viable or truly wearable to a mainstream audience remains to be seen. It would be interesting to see how today’s style makers will interpret these art pieces into their own sensibilities. We’ve seen enough all whites and monochromes to last us a lifetime and a little touch of IOC adventure is well overdue. The label’s return could not have arrived at a better time.
Pieces from IMITATION OF CHRIST’s Spring Summer 2021 collection will be exclusively sold at TheRealReal. Proceeds from the sales will be donated directly to Black Lives Matter, Covid Relief and Greta Thurnberg’s organization, Friday’s For Future.