Re-Framing the Closet

Behind the scenes of our issue 16 photoshoot with jes sachse

“Growing up, I felt like I had to pick between something stylish and something I could actually wear. It would be nice to realize a future where retailers and the fashion industry stop forcing people to make that choice.” – jes sachse

How can fashion engage with disability? While we’ve recently seen a fair bit of progress regarding companies that accommodate wardrobes of folks of varying bodies and abilities, it’s not exactly a one-size-fits-all solution. Clothing is an incredibly personal and political choice, and no two sets of needs are exactly alike.

In our most recent issue, we had an in-depth chat with artist and activist jes sachse about how identifying as disabled and genderqueer collides with their love of fashion. We had a great conversation full of new ideas, the re-telling of experiences, and hard laughs. Beautiful photos were taken, and feet were tap-tapping away during the whole shoot.

It was a damn good time.

text // Jenna Danchuk
video // Daniel Reis
end animation // Barry Potter

Magnetic Field

Living surrealist art in a sculpture garden

We were a little worried when the rain wouldn’t stop during our 90-minute drive to Sunderland, Ontario. We caught a break when we arrived at the home of Judith and Viktor Tinkl, who hosted us for our issue 16 photoshoot “Magnetic Field”. The rain had stopped but thank goodness the clouds didn’t part, because we got to take advantage of perfect lighting conditions for such a shoot.

Captured by photographer Chelsee Ivan and styled by Eliza-Trent-Rennick (along with Casie Brown and Zoe Vos), model Jenna Danchuk is never upstaged by the towering, spellbinding sculptures inhabiting the Tinkl property.
The rain returned as we left the location, almost like a curtain closing on a strange, beautiful fable.

video and text // Daniel Reis
end animation // Barry Potter

Evolving Acquisitions

Fabulous! 10 Years of FIDM Accessions

While this may sound all a little dry and historical to some, research, museums, and archives full of cultural history are totally my thing. I fully enjoy geeking out over ’60s and ’70s fashion, like a plastic umbrella by Peter Max, paper poster dresses by Harry Gordon, and a patchwork and faux fur jacket by Betsey Johnson for Alley Cat. So it’s no surprise that I enjoyed reading Fabulous! a large, heavy, and rich text full of visual and written information about some of the most interesting artifacts acquired between 2000 and 2010 by the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. This catalogue was produced for an exhibit of the same name, which was on view at the FIDM Museum and Galleries from September 10, 2011 to December 17, 2011.

For many buyers, this book might have been a souvenir from the museum’s gift shop; full of beautiful images, and a great addition to any fashion lover’s bookshelf. It is also a document that supports the mandate of the FIDM: to collect and preserve clothing and accessories that are superbly designed and of the highest craftsmanship. Their efforts are appreciated not only by those visiting exhibits like Fabulous!, but scholars, artists, and design students alike. For those with an interest in French haute couture, mid-twentieth century American designers, and international contemporary fashion, the recent acquisitions featured in this book are sure to please, regardless of your perspective as a reader.

The book itself is arranged chronologically, which acknowledges the ways in which the Fabulous! exhibit looks back throughout fashion history. Artifacts included in the publication date as far back as 1800, such as delicately structured and rarely seen Empire era underpinnings, to items as recent as postmodern runway pieces like Westwood’s 1994 corset and short ensemble adorned with furs, tassles, and a silkscreened copy of a 1743 painting by Francois Boucher. Where the front cover features a close-up of lace on Alexander McQueen’s peacock embellished evening gown from 2008/2009, the back shows the detail of a French court suit, dating between 1810 and 1814. While there may be an implied historical progression given the chronological arrangement of the pieces in the book, the way in which you can flip from page to page and cite influences throughout the ages, such as Westwood’s appropriation of a much earlier work of art, is fascinating. Almost like walking forwards and backwards in time.

In between the heavy cover images lie page upon page of photographs, both full shots and detailed examinations, of the individual garments featured in the exhibit. Alongside each item is a short description, which takes up the item’s cultural significance, fabrication, materials, historical context, and often, its provenance. A 1920’s day ensemble purchased at the Bergdorf Goodman department store “by Marion Drasker to wear on her honeymoon in Atlantic City, N.J.” provides evidence of the department store shopping experience. Judging by the beautiful gold and black silk, dramatic fur scarf, and shimmering black beaded and tasseled bag, Marion was a stylish lady who enjoyed the newly offered one-stop shopping experience. These may be museum objects removed from their original surroundings, but the intimate act of owning and wearing a garment remains.

Chapters are divided by specific eras in fashion history, each beginning with a fold out page situating acquisitions along a timeline of significant dates and events. Relevant events that occurred in art, politics, and science are also included. These brief introductions help to set the tone for each chapter, emphasizing the major forces shaping culture during the specific point in time under examination. For someone looking to grasp the more recent parts of Western fashion history, Fabulous! is a great place to start.

To me, sitting in a library slowly turning the pages of this book sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon. It seems as if this might be the best way to experience this book—it’s big and probably not something you’d toss in your purse for public reading (though nothing beats well dressed and well read if you don’t mind the weight). With that in mind, encourage your favourite librarian to request it for you if you can’t find it in the stacks, or splurge and treat yourself or a friend to this fabulous book.

photography // Brianne Burnell

Crushing on Lena Suksi

Friendship, feelings, filthy prom heels, and Felix Gonzales-Torres

There are crushes, and then there are crushes. Lena Suksi and I have been friends for almost a year, and she’s easy to love for a number of reasons. A thoughtful dresser, queer in all respects, and a talented artist and writer, she’s the type that can make anyone weak in the knees.

How do you feel about clothes?
I admire and respect people who have a primary relationship with clothes—people who take a more formal approach and are drawn to details, drape, and other specific elements of the garment itself. I think that when I get dressed I treat clothes as secondary objects. It’s important and meaningful to me, but I tend to get dressed in response to a mood. How I’m dressed is informed by an experience or a circumstance. Clothes respond to this; I don’t respond to the clothes. I like lockets, friendship bracelets, tattoos, haircuts—all of these are items I exchange with people. That’s when fashion is most meaningful to me.

One thing I’ve noticed about you is you tend to go through phases where you will wear something again and again.
There are certain things I pick up or find and I feel like they tend to reflect where I am at in a certain moment. So many of my clothes are given to me—hand-me-downs from friends or family. I get a piece of clothing and I think okay, this is where I am at right now. I have these strappy little prom heels that I wore everyday for about a month straight. I have never been comfortable in heels before and never thought I would be. Though, when I put them on I really liked being four inches taller. I couldn’t shed that feeling so quickly. I wore them everywhere. I was biking home one day and ended up in some construction zone digging for scrap wood and sunk my foot into a sandy muddy mess. My heels were just covered in filth. I thought it was hilarious. It reflected how I feel about formal or flashy things. I eventually hosed them down in the shower but wore them dirty as long as I could stand them.

Other than the obvious reasons, why wouldn’t you feel comfortable wearing heels?
Maybe comfortable is the wrong word. I just know that some things feel more neutral, and more feminine elements feel like drag to me. I’m aware of their power when they are on my body. Heels were one of those things. I never learned to walk in them, and it never became natural. I was hyper-aware of how they affected my body. I think of queer fashion as being aware of anything you’re wearing, being conscious of its effects in the world—knowing the performance. All of the things I refused to wear in high school I’m starting to play around with now. It’s not like I feel like I’m growing into elegance; it’s more for comic effect. I want to emphasize how unfit some things feel on me.

What did you dress like as a teenager?
I was kind of a goth. Dyed black hair, eyeliner, fishnets. On April Fool’s I dressed up in a pink velour sweat suit as a joke. All of the teachers told me how great I looked—so perfect. There’s always a jive between intention and result in fashion. Sometimes you have no idea what the reaction will be. I like to set up for the unexpected.

Do you shop on a regular basis?
No. Two or three times a year maybe? I do buy a lot of socks and hosiery though, because it’s cheap and colourful. I like to receive things. I am more of a garbage picker rather than someone who searches for a perfect item. Whatever is left over I get to scavenge through. Sometimes I buy things I get really excited about, things I get lucky to find. Like the shirt I’m wearing right now – it’s a Felix Gonzales-Torres t-shirt. I ordered it online for 10 bucks. J. Morrison did the design. It’s from a series of t-shirts recognizing artists, which are all kind of hilariously literal. Like a rainbow Yoko Ono shirt, or a Yayoi Kusama print with little dots. They are cheap and accessible and probably were screen-printed in a day. They run about 15 dollars, but this one was cheaper in the spirit of Gonzales-Torres’s work.

Do you have favourite items of clothing?
All of my clothes tell stories, and I have a lot of clothes. There are things that I get that I won’t wear, but also things that I will wear all the time. My jean jacket is pretty important—it’s covered in patches that I’ve made or friends have made. I’ve had it for a couple of years. It kind of came into being on a trip to Montreal. I made a bunch of patches with friends in Montreal. I haven’t spent much time with groups of women, but whenever I go to Montreal I do. It’s a really woman-friendly place. Consciousness raising exists there in a way that I don’t think exists in Toronto. It’s a supportive community for women, just for the sake of women being together. Making this jacket was the first time I had stitched in my life. It was satisfying.

Have you continued to work in textiles and craft?
Yes—I’ve been fascinated with it. I started appreciating textiles when my drawing slowed down a bit. Textiles were a nice shift. They can be a very immediate process—silk screening is kind of instant in ways. But I also feel like it’s a slowed-down practice of drawing. I’ve started doing embroidery and other needlework and like that it’s portable, feminine, and often a collective practice.

You’re very conscious of how your body is adorned and what that can mean.
When I was in my teens I realized how comfortable I was being androgynous. People were already reacting to my gender presentation with confusion, so I enjoyed playing it up. Maybe that’s why I like playing with femininity so much now. It’s not about trying to fit a norm; rather, it’s about bringing attention to these conventions. When I was in high school in London, Ontario, my androgyny was an antagonistic thing. In Toronto, it’s more acceptable to play with style in this way.

interview // Jenna Danchuk
photography // Laura Tuttle