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Imitation of Christ

The genesis of the New York-based label Imitation of Christ in 2000 was anything but holy. Reacting to what they believed was the over-commodification of fashion, the label’s co-founders and art-school drop-outs Òàrà Subkoff and Matt Damhave defiantly resurrected thrift-store finds by slashing them into pieces, removing the label, incorporating subversive text and slapping on a cross insignia. As a result, their rise to darling status was swift. At one point, thanks in part to the modelling/consulting efforts of long-time friend and disciple Chloe Sevigny, herself a thrift-store devotee, the duo showed a collection in a funeral parlour, watched on by Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley. But good things don’t last forever – not even for a divinely-christened label – and now only Subkoff (born 1974) remains.

She works tirelessly to keep the faith alive with a team of equally politically-motivated colleagues who regard themselves more as social engineers than designers. Examples are many.

In 2001, Subkoff- also a part-time indie film actress – and the Imitation of Christ team produced a short film starring Reese Witherspoon which was intended to illustrate the prevalence of sweatshops and child labour.

In a following collection, a mock auction was staged at Sotheby’s where models were presented as items for sale by an auctioneer. In 2002, Imitation of Christ trekked to Paris to hold a renegade show outside the Christian Dior venue, to which the models arrived in ambulances and made their appearances on stretchers in a presumed statement about the death of fashion. In a role-reversing show later that year, models were seated, with pen and paper in hand, waiting to critique guests who were escorted down the catwalk, in a poignant critique of the critical process itself. Is nothing sacred?

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