I kept expecting someone to say, “What have you done, you sick fuck?” It never happened. Tim Gunn came close when he compared the hair clothes to monkey poo, but even that analogy seemed euphemistic. While I am not a fashion expert, I would like to take this opportunity to explain why making clothes with human hair is grody, distasteful, and downright un-American.
I get annoyed when people conflate “being creative” and “doing something unusual.” The former is a product of talent; the latter relates more to sensationalism. Being creative involves sharing an original point of view; doing something unusual is its cheap knockoff. I think that Chris’s work is an example of the bad things that happen when an artist overreaches as he develops a concept.
Chris himself admitted that he was going for a “provocative” collection and the show’s judges seemed to agree with him, referring to his work as both “provocative” and “dark.” Technically, these descriptions ring true. Since I’m feeling generous, I’ll even allow that it’s possible (though not probable) that his use of hair was a surrealist gesture. But, for me, twentieth-century history really colors the concept of objectification—less in the feminist sense of the word, and more along the lines of using disembodied people parts as objects. Frankly, I think it’s in bad taste to trim your clothes with human hair when not so long ago there was a war that turned people into lampshades.
But maybe that’s just me. (On one hand, it strikes me as an extreme view. On the other, those really were my first thoughts when I saw the clothes. It was a visceral response, not an academic one.) In any case, people make all sorts of dumb offensive shit in the name of provocative. “Offensive” is, by definition, subjective. I would argue that “dumb” can be objective. I think that critical discussions of art would be a lot more productive if people could wrap their heads around that distinction.
That said, would the judges have found it “provocative and dark” had Chris made jewelry out of baby teeth? Some things just aren’t right. Sheesh.