Marianne Maric, from the series Subway, Models: Charline et Christelle
Provocative gestures in fashion tend to be slight or sensationalistic or cloying. Perhaps because fashion as a medium is simultaneously open to anything and completely circumscribed, attempts to be transgressive always seem to fall a bit flat: it's always a shirt, and if it moves "beyond" being a shirt, then it's just a costume. These limitations don't make experimentation completely futile but they require moving beyond formal experimentation. Parisian Art/Design collective Andrea Crews does just that by exploring the garment as a set of social, economic and ethical choices.
Andrea Crews, blouse from Summer 07 collection
Andrea Crews' primary medium is recycled or "post-vintage" clothing. Crews transforms discarded clothing and dead stock into one-of-a-kind apparel items. But this is not so unique. Vendors like Urban Renewal have been doing this for decades. What makes Crews' work interesting is that they also devote time to projects like turning purses into hats by simply putting them on people's heads. A project like this takes something completely ordinary and familiar and legitimately raises the question, "What is this thing?" This kind of experimentation plays with meaning rather than form, but at the same time it generates some plausible formal ideas.
Bilbao Modorrra, ready made: Voin de Voin, photo by Maroussia Rebecq
In another project Crews takes a bunch of used high-heels and spray paints them bright colors to create a "new" line. Far from being a send-up, the gesture celebrates the superficial nature of fashion. A little color can bring together a bunch of disparate, old, and discarded things How wonderful! At the same time of course the gesture raises questions about the reification of something as simple and human as style. Why is it so expensive? Why is it industrialized? Why is it so exclusive? But these questions aren't overbearing, they are just tucked away in the gleeful realization that style is simply a layer applied to the everyday.
Andrea Crews, Shoes, photo by Maroussia Rebecq
Andrea Crews work in a grey area between Art and Fashion that was largely mapped out by Chicks on Speed. CoS are...a...band? A group of artists? Fashion designers? It's confusing and intentionally so. The group was formed in 2002 and since then they have consistently released records and performed live as a conventional band might. But at the same time the group has carried out a series of low-tech artistic interventions into the worlds of fashion and retail.
Chicks on Speed
Chicks on Speed's first publication, It's a Project, contained patterns for do-it-yourself versions of their signature overalls. They collaborated with designer Jeremy Scott on more of these "overalls for all." The Paris depatartment store Le Bon Marche gave the Chicks clothes which they cut up, reassembled and modeled in the store's windows. Band-member Melissa Logan calls it, "The most perfect product made even more perfect by taking the mass out of the produced."
Sex, shop run by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren previously called Seditionaries, Let It Rock, and Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die, 1974
Both the Chicks on Speed and Andrea Crews owe a great debt to the work of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. But they are not punk. They are not engaged in the practice of negation. Perhaps that kind of posture isn't even possible any more. Punk is a word whose meaning has been thoroughly diluted. MacLaren and Westwood constantly shifted the name and merchandising of their store in Chelsea to go against the prevailing culture. But Crews and CoS work within the vocabulary of the mainstream. Even the name Andrea Crews embodies this critical stance, accepting the fashion industry norm where multinational corporations masquerade as individuals. Is Andrea Crews any less real than Ralph Lauren? The Crews website reads, "More than a brand: Andrea Crews is a new concept which proposes a fair and equitable model of production, an alternative to the current consumer system." Instead of constantly seeking or manufacturing newness, Crews proposes renewing what is already around us.