Frederic Jameson, in his seminal work Post-Modernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, discusses the difference between Van Gogh’s “Shoes” versus Andy Warhol’s “Diamond Dust Shoes” to draw a comparison between the “authentic” and the “fabricated.” The reason I bring this up is my aversion to things that have applied authenticity.
From a clothing standpoint the application of authenticity occurs as a stylistic device across many articles. Denim seems the most pervasive. Original Levi jeans were hard boards of indigo selvedge fabric – a tough fabric for a workman/women, but the modern attraction to jeans is in the patina of use. This patina can be applied in various ways, such as washing, acid-washing, and stone-washing. The character that can be imbued into these can come from applied tears, fraying and patchwork. To whit, I was at Adriano Goldschmied’s shop in Soho, New York, where for a significantly large amount of extra money, you could get AG to tear and fray your jeans himself.
The one application of authenticity that I can (possibly) forgive is the application of patches. From a functional standpoint, a patch prevents the continued tearing but introduces a new fabric or pattern into the garment. The effect harkens back to those in poverty who would mend and mend their clothing with what ever fabric they could find. Nowadays, patches are made by Loro Piano.
I do enjoy my “pre-broken-in” jeans with their faded colour but have never subscribed to “purchasing” tears. Today, however, I have acquired a patchwork jacket.
Junya Watanabe By Vogue is without a doubt one of the great Japanese designers who looks to hi-tech fabrics, but also holds a place in his heart for old Americana. The Patchwork canvas jacket is modelled on traditional workwear but with combinations of linen instead of rough cotton. The patchwork areas don’t have the haphazard look of using bits of found cloth such as bandanas, corduroy or tablecloth, but move between traditional men’s shirting fabrics in plaid and stripes to ’60s and ’70s style op-art designs.
The appeal to me was the application of interesting fabrics from a variety of time periods to a work jacket of 19th century form. Ironically, the best look for this jacket would be to combine it with other 19th century work wear: jeans and boots. Whatever my trepidations about manufacturing authenticity, I am going to let this particular one slide as I do like the jacket…
More of Junya Watanabe’s designs for men: