Act Compassionately & Sustainably. Imitation of Christ AW21

Imitation of Christ isn’t a regular fashion brand. Every single piece made (“produced” just doesn’t fit here) is one-of-a-kind. No pre-collections and no traditional business models, but rather spontainety and a sense of inspiring care-freeness is what prevails at Tara Subkoff‘s brand. And of course it’s one of the most ingeniously sustainable labels that exists. Second season in a row, Imitation of Christ’s upcycled collection is available and sold on The Real Real – and half the profits will go to Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future. Also, there’s no coincidence that the autumn-winter 2021 collection was presented on Valentine’s Day. It’s a reaction, said the designer on a call with Vogue, against “a Hallmark holiday or some consumer driven idea of romance.” Instead, the designer highlighted, the line-up (and the accompanying video) offers something “true.” The collection video, made in collaboration with Daphne Muller and Adam Teninbaum, is not for the squeamish. Though it features six hip Californians, a few of some renown, the piece is dominated by “a real 3D animated heart,” that is, admits Subkoff, “really shocking. We have this very strange idea of what a heart is, which is… really a cartoon version that we give to each other. We all have a heart pumping blood in our bodies and it pumps for a finite amount of time, then it’s over. And I think the more we understand that, maybe the more compassionate and kind we can be towards one another.” A similar feeling of compassion is present in the off-kilter garments. Subkoff  has always had a penchant for beaded dresses from the 1920s, and these were back and looking fresh. Deco beading was applied to pieces for men and women, and this incongruity was perhaps best exemplified by the pairing of a gray utility suit with shimmering white bead work (there’s a well-considered Martin Margiela method in these de- and reconstructed pieces). Subkoff believes that what good you do in the world becomes an ever growing legacy. She’s been serious about sustainability for decades and hopes, through her actions and messaging, to inspire others to design and act sustainably (“Please, other companies or other people – copy this, do this,” the designer offered).

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Resurrected. Imitation of Christ SS21

I discovered Imitation of Christ a year ago, and when I’ve shared some archive images from Tara Subkoff‘s early 2000s shows on my Instagram stories, many replied to me that they’ve never heard of the brand and that it’s just so, so amazing. I was in awe, too. Each of the label’s collections was presented as a sort of ironic performance: a funeral show; a red carpet line-up opened by Chloe Sevigny; a collection solely dedicated to denim, with Scarlett Johansson as a Marilyn-Monroe-look-alike model. Then, the brand seemed to go into a hiatus, then it came back for a moment and disappeared again. And then, to my surprise, somebody posted on Instagram that Imitation of Christ is back this summer with a guerilla couture performance in Los Angeles. And now, here we are with Subkoff’s spring-summer 2021 collection – in a moment that one might never suggest for a brand that’s planning its “big” come-back. But Imitation of Christ isn’t a regular brand, so the circumstances just couldn’t be more exciting. Twenty years after the brand’s first show on the escalators in a subway station, this season’s performances (there were two, one in Los Angeles, one in New York, not identical, but each consisting of a capella singers accompanied) are equally inventive. And, while all of this is going on, The RealReal, from which Subkoff sourced some of her pieces, will offer the spring collection for sale in see-now, buy-now fashion, with part of the proceeds going to Greta Thunberg’s nonprofit Fridays for Future. Upcycling or “resurrecting” existing pieces is the central tenet of Imitation of Christ, and it means that every piece is unique. Collection themes do emerge, however, and are crystallized by the way they are presented. Skateboarding is the organizing principle this time around, and Subkoff describes the clothes as “glamorous activewear” – say, a vintage slip attached to the front of a sports jersey. Some of it could have been hand-sewn by the bored, home-imprisoned Lisbon sisters from Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, by the way. Subkoff became acquainted with skateboarding girls when she was feeling a bit blue. Struggling to find inspiration, the designer started visiting local skateboard parks, which she found to be “heavy on the dude feeling” until she noticed the young female skaters trying to master tricks, falling down, and starting over again. In their determination Subkoff says she found a “good metaphor for what it feels like, to me, to be female in this world in some capacity. Like you just have to keep doing it, until you do it better than the men. And then you have respect in some way.” Looking forward to more of Imitation of Christ, as it’s one of the most enigmatic and intriguing labels in New York.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.