“Get on the fashion nerves of your peers, not your parents – that is the key to fashion leadership. Ill-fitting is always stylish. But be more creative – wear your clothes inside out, backward, upside down. Throw bleach in a load of coloured laundry. Follow the exact opposite of the dry cleaning instructions on the clothes that cost the most in your thrift shop. Don’t wear jewellery – stick Band-Aids on your wrists or make a necklace out of them. Wear Scotch tape on the side of your face like a bad face-lift attempt.”
Fine fashion advice from John Waters. In his very excellent new book Role Models, the king of trash dedicates a chapter of hyperbolic praise to Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, who he refers to as a ‘magician’, ‘tyrant’ and ‘god’. Fashion is the perfect place for ugliness and beauty to co-exist, and Waters is in awe of Kawakubo’s innate understanding of bad taste. He describes the decadent pleasure he gets from the ‘hidden lunacy’ of her over-priced couture, and how he enjoys wearing it inconspicuously in his favourite Baltimore dive bars. He eloquently rants through several highlights of Kawakubo’s three-decade career, including the audacious ‘Quasimodo’ lumps-and-bumps collection where she padded out the body in all the wrong places (pictured above in a stage production by Merce Cunningham), much to the dismay of the fashion press.
He also proposes an absurd John Waters Comme des Garçons pop up store in a Baltimore stripper’s apartment, recalling the guerrilla retail model set up by Kawakubo that saw stores appear in abandoned buildings away from gentrified areas in cities that were often off the fashion map entirely, including Helsinki, Athens, Beirut, Stockholm, Glasgow, Reykjavik and Krakow. They were founded on the principles of spending an absolute minimum on interiors and being open for no more than one year. Below is the perfume display at the Warsaw guerilla store which opened in an old fruit and vegetable shop. John is a fan of the Comme des Garçons ‘anti-perfume’ Odeur 53 which is supposed to combine notes of oxygen, metal, washing drying in the wind, mineral carbon, sand dunes, nail polish, cellulose, pure air of the high mountains, burnt rubber and flaming rock. “That’s exactly what I want to smell like!” he says, “how did she know?!”.