Imitation of Christ Spring 2021

Imitation of Christ (IOC) was founded in 2000 by Tara Subkoff and Matt Damhave. The pair quickly scored Chloë Sevigny as its first creative director. The label made a huge splash beginning as an art collective and evolving into a fashion line, IOC was called the original upcycler creating pieces entirely from recycled pieces of clothing. Soon Mary-Kate Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, and Maya Rudolph counted among fans.

But the early aughts were a tumultuous time for many fashion houses. IOC’s output was sporadic at best, before ceasing production in 2013. Now two decades after being founded, IOC is rising again with Subkoff handing design reins over to three young designers she mentored.

“These are supercharged creative young artists who had something to say and needed a platform during an incredibly challenging time on the planet,” Subkoff said in a statement. IOC has a new business model and an iron-fist commitment to sustainability.  Upcycling or “resurrecting” existing pieces is the central tenet of Imitation of Christ, and it means that every piece is unique. With the theme of athleticism, Subkoff describes the clothes as “glamorous activewear,”. Subkoff said she was inspired by seeing young women practicing tricks at a skatepark after watching them fall, get back up, and try again until they nailed the trick.  Creative directors Lola Valenti Roberts, Tessa Crockett, and Violet Baudin Lackey created the line mixing glamour with wearability and sustainability.

Only eight looks were shown on a video that featured models skateboarding in the outfits. The clothes were hand sewn from upcycled items. This does lead to some unevenness in terms of color stories and textures, but the general theme of glamour and comfort remain. Some of the combinations were solid.

A stunning brown velvet dress combined with satin sport jersey is a glamorous easy to wear juxtaposition. However, a strapless-tiered prom dress not only looked hopelessly dated, but seemed to undermine the message of the video as the model seen in still shots skateboarding with ease but struggled to move in the voluminous dress. 

Still the patchwork color blocking—so on-trend right now—mixed with Asian touches was done with a deft touch making the separates fun, wearable, and easily incorporated into existing wardrobes. Presenting a video is becoming more common in the age of COVID-19, but another huge difference with IOC is marketing. Typically, most NYFW samples are never mass produced for market and die a slow death in the bottom of storage trunks—aside from a lucky few that are plucked directly from the runway by eagle-eyed stylists.

Images courtesy of Imitation of Christ

But with IOC’s focus on sustainability, they are trying something new. All eight outfits presented in the video will be for sale on The Real Real, a favorite website of Subkoff’s for finding sustainable designer items, with proceeds from the sales going to Black Lives Matter, COVID Relief, and Fridays For Future, Greta Thunberg’s organization.

It will be interesting to see how the public will respond. While the clothes themselves and online bidding will certainly appeal to the youthful consumers that IOC is aiming for, the price point establishes IOC as a luxury brand well beyond the means of most millennials. That said; with a limited amount of stock, even if only a few thousand people are regular buyers with a global reach, that could be more than enough to keep the brand afloat. 

—Cameron Grey Rose

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