Amanda Demme/Courtesy of the Subject
Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.
When Imitation of Christ began showing in 2000, the press immediately latched on to the sexiest talking points. There was the memorable name, with its hint of sacrilege. The site-specific shows that verged on performance art: a funeral, a pretend movie premiere, a role-reversal runway show where editors walked while the models took notes on them. The downtown glitterati who flocked: Lou Reed and Isabella Blow in the audience, Scarlett Johansson on the runway, Chloë Sevigny as the creative director.
Scenes from Imitation of Christ’s L.A. event.Amanda Demme/Courtesy of Imitation of Christ
But amid all the pageantry and fame adjacency, something else was going on—something that would have more lasting effects on fashion. The designers, Tara Subkoff and Matt Damhave, were reimagining secondhand clothing in a radical way. Everything they used was thrifted or found at a vintage store and hand-sewn, transformed into something new and exciting in the same way an enterprising art-school student might. (Indeed, both had attended art school.) You might even call them the original upcyclers. They certainly paved the way for a new guard of designers to upend the way designer clothing was “supposed” to look.
But at the time, terms like “upcycling” and “sustainability” weren’t yet circulating in the fashion world. There was little online shopping and no social media, and designers weren’t using their shows to make statements about what we then called global warming. But for Subkoff, “We had a lot of hope for communicating and inspiring people to think about how and what they consume. To be aware of what they buy and how much. To try to consume less and not to buy new. We were concerned [about the environment] at the same level of Greta Thunberg, but back in 2000.”
Skateboarders in Imitation of Christ.Amanda Demme/Courtesy of Imitation of Christ
20 years later, the fashion landscape looks a little different: thanks to Instagram, photogenic installations and performances are all too common, and designers are expressing their concern about climate change via upcycled clothes and sustainable practices. Unfortunately, the literal…