September 3 2014

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Fashion And Art Converge At The Whitney


It had all the fixings of a standard fashion show—front-row fixtures like Michael Stipe and Jen Brill, makeup by James Kaliardos for MAC, hair by Bumble and Bumble, and in-demand models from agencies like IMG and Ford, but K8 Hardy‘s Untitled Runway Show at the Whitney Museum on Sunday was anything but typical. The multimedia performance artist, known best for her cult zine FashionFashion, put together a collection of over 30 looks as part of her exhibition for the 2012 Biennial. For Hardy, the presentation was a way of creating a dialogue about commercialism and the way fashion affects society’s views on women rather than a vehicle for showing off her design chops.

The crowd of art enthusiasts waited patiently for about half an hour before the first model stepped out onto the wood and steel runway set, installed for the occasion by fellow Biennial artist Oscar Tuazon. Walking to amped-up reggaeton beats mixed up with Neutrogena radio ads and high-pitched nail art tutorials that had some audience members covering their ears, each model affected her own signature strut based on Hardy’s instructions. “I used to love the shows where models would dance down the runway,” Hardy told after the show. Some shuffled slowly with a moribund limp, others did ballet-like pliés and leaps, and one girl even staged a convincing runway stumble and tumble. Each catwalker wore teased-to-the-max wigs and face paint that resembled another spoof on the now-famous Tanning Mom.

As for the clothes themselves, Hardy didn’t actually produce anything, so it was more about styling and reworking eccentric pieces found at thrift stores (“I would never shop vintage because it’s way too expensive,” Hardy disclosed). One dress, for example, was constructed entirely from dozens of old bras Hardy fastened together, then painted and scorched with a blowtorch. It was, Hardy said, her homage to bra-burning—she would’ve actually burned the bras, except these days they’re made from synthetic materials and simply melt instead of singeing slowly like they used to. Another memorable outfit was a simple T-shirt with “SPITBOY” printed on it, paired with a trailing seafoam-colored lace skirt and ultra-long, pointy cowboy boots. “Can you believe I made all this!?” Hardy enthused, later admitting, “I’m actually the least crafty person I know.” After all the models took a finale lap around the runway, Hardy received a standing ovation. Later backstage, she explained that while she has no intentions of putting on another show in the future, she definitely has more respect for the designers and teams of people who continue to do this season after season. “It’s amazing to see all the elements come together,” Hardy told “I wanted to see what happens when you take the commercialism out of the equation.”

Photo: Courtesy Photo

Dept. of Culture