CHARLES JAMES: THE COUTURE SECRETS OF SHAPE

“Charles James: The Couture Secrtes Of Shape ”  book launch

Book preface BY RICK OWENS

WHEN I STARTED MY LABEL IN THE MID-NINETIES, MY ULTIMATE GOAL WAS TO BE CHARLES JAMES. COMPLETE DEVOTION TO CRAFT, SCORN FOR CONVENTIONAL PROSAIC COMFORTS, BUT ATTENTION AND RESPECT RESERVED EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE MEGA-REFINED AND EXTRAVAGANT — THAT’S WHERE I WANTED TO GO … I WAS A BIT FULL OF MYSELF …

HIS LIFE, WHICH I SAW THROUGH MY GRUNGY HOLLYWOOD FILTER, ENCOMPASSED A VERY BREATHY SPECTRUM OF HIGH QUEENS … WAUGH, BEATON, WARHOL, DIETRICH, DALÍ … A WORLD OF GLAMOUR THAT CONTRASTED ROMANTICALLY WITH HIS SELF-IMPOSED DEPRIVATIONS THAT SNEERED AT CONVENTIONAL STATUS, KNOWING THAT THE ULTIMATE STATUS WAS A SUPERNATURAL EXISTENCE AS AN ARTIST SPELLED WITH A CAPITAL A.

A FRIEND FROM MY L. A. YEARS, JUAN FERNANDEZ, USED TO DO FITTINGS FOR JAMES IN NY IN THE SEVENTIES, SPENDING HIS TEENAGE NIGHTS BEING PINNED INTO ELABORATE BALL GOWNS WHILE ANTONIO LOPEZ SKETCHED THE WHOLE PROCEDURE … JUAN RAPTUROUSLY DESCRIBED TO ME THE MAGIC OF LISTENING TO JAMES CONTINUOUSLY TALK ABOUT THE COLOR PINK FOR TWO HOURS, NEVER REPEATING THE SAME WORD …

I’VE PERSONALLY ALWAYS TRIED TO PROMOTE CLOTHES THAT ARE FLUID, RESPECTFUL OF THE BODY AND GENTLE … JAMES’ CLOTHES WERE THE OPPOSITE … THEY WERE ENGINEERED, SCAFFOLDED, CONSTRICTING, AND HARD … BUT IN HIS CASE, THE OPERATIC FORMALITY AND STRICT EXQUISITENESS MADE COMFORT IRRELEVANT. FOR MY F/W 11 COLLECTION CALLED LIMO, I BLATANTLY, GLEEFULLY, RIPPED OFF HIS ICONIC EIDERDOWN JACKET. I DON’T REALLY REMEMBER ANYONE CALLING ME OUT ON IT, BUT I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST OBVIOUS.

FASHION IS ABOUT COMMUNICATION. AND, YES, EIGHTY PERCENT OF THE TIME, THE MESSAGE IS ABOUT PROJECTING MATERIAL OR INTELLECTUAL STATUS, BUT FASHION CAN ALSO BE A MORAL CONTRIBUTION … MURMURING A SET OF VALUES AND STANDARDS THAT MAKE US CONSIDER BEHAVING IN A MORE GRACEFUL AND NOBLE WAY.

JAMES’ CLOTHES WERE ABOUT ORDER, RIGOR, AND DISCIPLINE … IDEAS THAT SUGGESTED AN ELEVATED CODE I ADMIRED AND WANTED TO ALIGN MYSELF WITH. THESE CLOTHES COULD PERVERSELY SPEAK ABOUT RESTRAINT AND THE JOY OF SUMPTUOUSNESS AT THE SAME TIME.

BEAUTY IS ONE OF THOSE UNFAIR EPHEMERAL VARIABLES THAT CAN COME OUT OF NOWHERE AND SOMETIMES BE CRUEL … THAT’S PART OF THE THRILL … BUT CONTRIBUTING A BODY OF WORK THIS COMMITTED AND PURE IS AN EXAMPLE OF HONESTY AND HOPE THAT THE REST OF US CAN HOLD ONTO AND SHARE WITH EACH OTHER AND GENERATIONS OF LOVERS OF BEAUTY TO FOLLOW.

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