Our next theme asks a question: Is Fashion Dead? A conversation with Not Vogue's Steve Oklyn is the first of many videos that will explore what defines fashion now and whether or not fashion possesses the forceful creative innovation that it once did. For our video, Gill Linton of Byronesque, designer Thaddeus O'Neil, musician Kenyon Phillips, and myself conversed with the ski-masked Steve Oklyn (a pseudonym -- he has concealed his identity) about the effects that global fashion corporations and money have had on the fashion industry and the world at large.
My daughter Lily and I work tirelessly and ecstatically to prove that mesmerizing, open-hearted expression exists now. The work Lily and I do is the most creative thing that I have ever done. It's my way of connecting with utterly unabashed individuals as well as a visceral rejection of the status quo. Blindly obeying anything that crushes the artistic spirit, whether it's an unbenevolent, stuffy hierarchy or a trend filled with irony (i.e without meaning), is impossible for me to go along with. Questioning, rebellion, and, most of all, inspiration is my psychic nourishment. I cannot accept a world without it.
I am a cliche product of the 70s and 80s, but I'm a naive and tenacious one. It would never occur to me to follow the rules completely, especially if they are questionable. As a teen in the 70s I went biking across Europe with my friends. When we stopped to visit the Vatican we were turned away for not abiding by the mandatory dress code (I only had jean cutoffs in my knapsack). Unfazed, my friends and I drew middle fingers on some white sheets we found and proceeded to parade through Catholicism's capital. It's not that I am proud of this particular move, the point is that it was way too exciting to grow up in a fiery, visionary renaissance where rock n' roll took down the Berlin wall and fashion taught me the most profound love (bordering on religious) for my individuality. As a young fashion editor, I'd obsess over finding that obscure new designer who no one had heard of, and my fixation led me to, among hundreds of others, Marc Jacob's walk up in the East Village and Miguel Adrover's studio on Chrystie. The devotion to my own singular identity was not a spiral into dull self-absorption but an education that propelled me to honor the off beat, bizarre, and extraordinary in others and thus in myself.
Today, my kids laugh at my naive disbelief that my reality of scream-out-loud-if-you-don't-agree has slowly sunk into a society of pervasive conformity and an almost unspoken fear of dissent. The cover of magazines have replaced the actual person in the picture with disposable heavily airbrushed faces and the gigantic brands that rule Soho have rode roughshod over the hoards of boutiques stuffed to the brim with the handmade from all over the world (not to mention the artists who used to able afford to make NYC the epicenter of cultural revolution). All of these developments make me sad and angry. I long for the Craft Caravan on Greene Street and the streets filled with fascinating eccentrics (not to be confused with "eccentric"). But I never fully understood what has happened until I crossed paths with Steve Oklyn's Not Vogue.
"Youth is the most significant aspect of how the culture breathes," the subject of our newest video, Steve Oklyn, states. "The great experimental lab of global youth isn't such an experiment anymore -- spreadsheet guys run the global fashion industry and they do not care about culture. The media is a continuous propaganda: buy into our illusory and elusive world -- our parties, our brands, our life style -- and you have made it." Steve Oklyn does not come to his blog unarmed. He is an encyclopedia of every meaningful, monumental cultural figure of the past 50 years (many of them he knows personally) whose frenzy to contribute something of consequence to the world far outweighed the end game of fame and profit. Through Not Vogue's eyes, my mind has been opened to what my heart has known: We need to wake up to our revolutionary purpose, believe in things larger than ourselves, stop consuming indiscriminately (what you buy is your vote), smite this me-me-me apathy, and scream for what matters -- the ability to unite around our differences and come together to make a world that embraces counter culture, not over-the-counter culture.