Issue #1: Accessories

issue1coverPublished January 2006

Fashion Projects covers independent designers, as well as the interaction between art and fashion, providing a forum for both fashion designers and artists in acknowledgment of the ever-shrinking gap between the two fields. The first issue is dedicated to the topic of accessories design, which is perhaps the one that sees the most frequent exchanges between the fashion and art fields, both at a corporate level (most notably Takashi Murakami’s collaborations with Marc Jacobs’s Vuitton), and an indie one (as evident in this issue’s pieces on the Red Shoe Delivery Service, and Mary Ping).

Francesca Granata

Issue #1: Accessories, Table of Contents


The Subtleties of Cross Dressing: An interview with Anne-Sofie Back

The Red Shoe Delivery Service

Reflections on “Meta-Design” with Mary Ping

Rosa Mosa: Walking the Line Between Tradition and Zeitgeist

Exploring Kawaii: An Interview with Yumiko Inada

Indie Fashionista in Fort Greene

La Voleuse: The Book Bag Revisited

Forgery and Appropriation in the Accessory Industry

The Subtleties of Cross Dressing: An interview with Anne-Sofie Back


by Patty Chang Autumn/Winter 2004; Spring/Summer 2005

There's nothing conventional about the work of Swedish born, London-based fashion designer and stylist Ann-Sofie Back. After completing a Master from Central St. Martins in 1998, she showed in Paris for two years before returning to London. Themes of artificiality, awkwardness and failure have often guided her work, which has been inspired by an unlikely muse: transvestites, and in most cases, transvestites that look unconvincing in feminine garb. Her humorous and provocative take on fashion also challenges the status quo, as she conveys her doubts about the illusion of perfection perpetuated by high gloss fashion imagery. Yet in the end, her collections never lose sight of their final destination--evoking a subtle feminine silhouette with muted elegance. Her work is currently on view in "When Everything Is Design," an exhibition in Norway curated by Markus Degerman.

How and when did you start designing clothing and accessories?

My first collection was bought by Pineal Eye in London. After college, I tried to get a job and realized that I wasn't really interested in working for somebody else. (Yes, you're right, no one offered me a job.) I didn't mind doing consulting, but at the same time, I felt I needed to be making my own collections. However, I started taking designing seriously only since the last collection (2004). I've recently come to the realization that I actually do two collections a year, I have a show, and it's actually a job and a business. In the past, I have always thought about how to escape fashion, but now I'm more comfortable with it.

Did designing seem like a more appropriate fit with your styling experience?

I have always done styling alongside designing. It has never been a choice of either/or. It's strange, because I'm not very good at putting outfits together in my own collections and I feel I'm really crap at styling, as well. I don't understand why people let me do it.

Can you discuss your design process?

I always start with developing ideas that I wasn't quite finished with from the previous season. For example, now I'm continuing with the concept of the pinched-waist. In the last collection, I had a belt that was only pinching the front of the garments to create a faux hourglass silhouette and I'm not quite done with that idea. I might also use the bra-cup idea again from my first ready-to-wear collection. From there, ideas sort of pile up. My designs are always about the same thing: referencing fashion that is about fashion. I'm also interested in how we use clothes to become someone better than we are; how we confuse and lie in the way we dress. The motif of the "artificial," sexy woman is also a recurring theme in my work, juxtaposed with the "reality" of the banality of everyday life.

Spring/Summer 2004. Photo by Anders Edstrom

The Victor & Rolf exhibition at the Musée de la mode in Paris, and other museum exhibitions like, "Skin Tight" at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, and "Fashination" at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm draw attention to how fashion as an art form is exerting greater influence on the world's leading artists, and in the same way many fashion designers are blatantly incorporating references to contemporary art in their creations. Do you feel that the border between fashion and art is disappearing?

No, I think the divide between fashion and art has never been wider. Look at what is actually in the shops. It's so boring you want to cry. This is the reality. Just because there are lots of people sitting in their bedrooms making weird clothes that get photographed in some obscure magazine doesn't mean anything has actually changed. The difference is artists and galleries have all of a sudden realized fashion has a lot more depth to it than they previously imagined, from Prada to Cosmic Wonder. Fashion has a better status in the art world-that's all. But fashion is business first, art or craft second. Tom Ford is right, I'm wrong. Maybe surprisingly, I find clothes that you can't wear boring as well.

Do you think that the marriage of art and fashion is a beneficial relationship?

I'm ambivalent about this. Part of me thinks, "We don't need you to make us feel better, you don't have a clue what a difficult job we are doing, you lazy sods." The other part of me thinks, "Yeah, this i s fun!" Right at this minute the answer is No, but this opinion doesn't stop me from exhibiting in art galleries.

What do you think of artists borrowing from fashion imagery (for example, Vanessa Beecroft's work)?

With her, it's great but it really depends on the art. I hated what she did at first, but now I've grown to really like it. To be honest, I'm bored with art. I don't understand half of it and mostly it pisses me off. It pisses me off because perhaps I feel I'm not intelligent enough to understand it. I don't have the patience to form an opinion about art these days. I'm trying to avoid it. I also think fashion is so much more interesting than art.

You are often quoted as being intrigued with the concept of "striving for a perfection that is impossible to attain in real life," and "uninterested in glamour." Yet in your previous collections, it is precisely this glamour and elegance in the feminine silhouette that is often conveyed in your garments. Do you feel that a set idea of fashion has been deeply engrained socially and culturally, in our mindset as something eternally frivolous and dissolving?

I'm interested in the aspirations that we have for glamour, not the glamour itself. I think people's attitude towards fashion and clothes are changing. I think most people, if they are honest, understand the importance of clothes, style, and appearance these days--be it artists, Muslims or my dad. Television and The Sun make fashion seem trivial, not real people.

Your Spring/Summer 2004 collection featured customized Shelley's stock shoes made with artificial tresses, entwined as straps, which recall the Surrealist's incongruous juxtaposition of objects (Oppenheim's fur covered tea cup and Schiaparelli's lobster dress initially come to mind). What were the motivation and inspiration behind creating these shoes?

It came from the clichéd signs that transvestites use to become women: a blonde wig, fishnet stockings, a trench coat, etc. It's like a "woman-mask" that is more woman than a real woman. Hence the blond wig shoes. I tend to design intuitively and try to make sense of it afterwards.

Also your "all in one outfit," with all the accessories: the scarf, belt, and dress encapsulated within a transparent outer layer, seems to be a sardonic commentary on the banality of dressing and the very idea of seeing and being seen in fashion.

Yes, and of the difficulty of dressing, namely the possible disasters that I can certainly achieve in the morning.

You're not afraid to use and mix different fabrics and materials such as fake lamé, leather and velvet. How much of your work is a result of experimentation and how much of it is of premeditation?

With fabrics, I tend to use the ones I identify with or feel sorry for. They are either almost invisible (because they are so boring and common that you don't see them) or they are really loud. I use the type of fabrics that you sew a top in, wear once and then realize you look like a hooker and throw it away. The problem is, most buyers don't really appreciate this and find my fabric choices difficult. So I'm trying to be a bit more sensible now. I would say half of the collections are premeditated, the rest is experimenting.

What about the "blouse bag" and the "sweater bag" from your Autumn/Winter 2004 collection. Are you into using traditional elements to create new, but somehow familiar pieces?

Yes, I think my ideas work best based on existing, easily recognizable pieces. What I call "normal" clothes.

The Red Shoe Delivery Service: From the Armory to the Land of Oz

by Francesca Granata

The Red Shoe Delivery Service is a Brooklyn-based art collective which was conceived in 2003 by M.K. Guth, a New York-based artist, along with Molly Dilworth (who, upon receiving her MFA from NYU, has been active in fashion and art) and Cris Moss (a video artist based in Portland, Oregon). Last spring, the group was stationed at the New York art trade event the Armory Show. There, using the Swiss Institute booth as a command center, they shuttled people to their destination of choice, but only after the riders donned a pair of glittery red shoes.I caught the final ride out of the Armory Show. In the midst of what resembled an enormous bazaar with a dazzling array of art objects for sale, it was refreshing to be presented with something which not only was not for sale, but was free. And as if to play a pun on the usual associations between art, fashion and commerce, the objects that were not for sale were sparkly red shoes. After having picked a pair of red boots from the RSDS's vast collection, I settled in with the other riders; after a few blocks, the van had transformed itself into a mini-salon. As I went home, I jotted down some questions for the members of the collective, who soon after were off to PICA, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, where they continued their performative rides. You were mentioning how one of the intentions of the RSDS performance is to substantiate the very American mythology of Dorothy's travel from Kansas to Oz, and to combine useful service with a fantasy of instant transport from one place to the other. I found that in some way, there is something magical, as well as disorienting, in the way the RSDS constitutes a welcome disruption of people's routine. Would you agree with that? What kind of response do you get from the people who participate?

Absolutely. Making the choice to ride with RSDS is adding an absolutely unknown factor into someone's day. I believe it is one of those happenings that the person involved in spends the rest of their day telling other people about. For example, one of our riders from last summer--an older woman--asked to be dropped off a block before her destination. I assumed she was embarrassed --but when we asked her why, she said she wanted to tell her friends the story her own way. This way, the tale was hers alone for the telling. Another woman kept telling us that her experience with RSDS was a New York story. In general, people seem to revel in the fact that they are involved in an unusual occurrence, an unplanned adventure, one that not only disrupts their day, but also changes it in an unforeseen fashion.We have met a wide range of people. Some are into the project because of the art context, while others seem to engage with it on a nostalgic level, remembering their childhood and the movie The Wizard of Oz. And some are just happy for the ride. The RSDS van functions like a bar. In the van, we talk with the passengers about all sorts of things, from the project to their jobs, their dreams and aspirations. The topics are rarely the same. I suppose this is because each person's response and understanding of the project is different. For Molly, Cris and I, this is what keeps the project interesting.

As for the glittery red shoes, besides their obvious reference to The Wizard of Oz, they strike me as a more general throwback to a child-like fantasy to a dimension of play, especially when it comes to playing dress-up and choosing a pair. What struck me the most is how your choice of shoes for the performance doesn't limit itself to feminine ballerina slippers, which would be more literal to the movie. The shoes in themselves seem to combine utility with a sort of girlish magical playfulness. Could you talk a little bit about your choice of shoes and the process with which you apply the glitter to them?

Since RSDS travels the streets and picks up anyone willing to participate, I felt that the shoes needed to reflect a cornucopia of tastes. The shoes constructed for RSDS are, in a sense, stand-ins for the diverse participants involved in the project. Regardless of the rider's gender or taste, there should be a pair of shoes that would be to their liking. This is why I make so many and so many different types. As RSDS continues to pick up more passengers, I continue to make more shoes. We are currently at about a hundred different pairs and the number continues to grow. The shoes are constructed by painting them first in red rubber, then coating them with glitter, finally covering them in another coat of clear rubber. This way, they are sturdy and waterproof. So far, I have been buying cheap new shoes, but through the assistance of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, we are trying to get donations from shoe company like Nike or Doc Martens.Moreover, the tradition of masquerade, costuming, and dress-up toys with our desire to be transformed into something else. RSDS engages in this desire. What if merely wearing a pair of fancy shoes gave you power? Would you not in some way be changed? It has been interesting that with a few exceptions, men are as willing as women to don a pair of sparkly red shoes. I believe one of the pleasures of participating with RSDS is to actually pick out your shoes. This gives the rider a sense of autonomy and individuality in the process.

One of the people you collaborate with is also a fashion designer. Have you thought of taking the performance from an art to a fashion realm?

Yes. Molly Dilworth-our driver and audio person-is both a painter and a fashion designer. Molly also designed our uniforms. As part of our participation in the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art's Time Based Art Festival in September, we created a mock shoe store in a space donated to us by one of the museum's board members. It was in the Pearl District-an area which has been converted from industrial to pretty fashionable. The space-a 3000 square foot room filled with 150 pairs of glittery red shoes-was identifed as the Red Shoe Delivery Service Store. But it wasn't easily recognizable as an "art space," so that passersby often read it and interacted with it as if it was an actual store-despite the fact that nothing was for sale. Cris designed the space to look like a high-end boutique, while our videos and a mural that Molly painted of RSDS's previous participants ultimately made it an RSDS installation. We are thinking of doing something similar in Nottingham this summer, as we will be there to participate in Nottdance- a dance and performance art festival.For more information on the project and upcoming events, visit