Designers Tara Subkoff and Matt Damhave of Imitation of Christ claim to have a bilious distaste for organized fashion, but, for a couple of newcomers, they certainly seem tuned in to how the system works. In just one season, the duo has managed to garner an unprecedented amount of interest—thanks in part, no doubt, to high-profile celebrity friends like Chloë Sevigny and Natasha Lyonne. But Imitation of Christ also knows that in fashion performance is often as important as the clothes themselves.

For their first show, Subkoff and Damhave took over an East Village funeral parlor—complete with casket—and sent down the makeshift runway 51 dramatically clad mourners. To the plaintive tune of The Smiths' "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me," a brokenhearted wife, orphaned children, assorted relatives, military heroes, and a mistress or two paid their respects wearing extraordinarily ruffled and pleated dresses, tattered uniforms and revamped thrift-store suits.

Subkoff and Damhave understand that true originality is found in unexpected places. By recycling, customizing and updating discarded clothing, the pair makes what is old new again—and the results are fresher than the self-conscious retro looks established designers often propose after cannibalizing fashion archives in search of inspiration.