i remember falling in love. it was 1999, turku and a small streetwear store called koma. they had just received a delivery of an exciting denim launch: levi's red. it was very limited edition and exclusive: products were sold at only three stores in finland and each had only a few items. i remember it being one of my first encounters with the trend of producing small quantities of streetwear. back then streetwear was more about small brand versus big brand with everyone aspiring for huge; street fashion wasn't about collectables and exclusive lines, but a relaxed style differentiating it from other costumes.
the garment in question was a denim culotte slash jeans – too long for a culotte, but too wide and skirt-like for a pair of jeans. the novelty of the piece was the 3d shape: twisted seams that wrapped around the legs creating an imaginative silhouette. it was something completely unseen of, and i remember an internal battle over the purchase: for a student the price of 800 finnish marks was incredibly high – at that point 60€ was pretty normal for a pair of jeans, diesel was around 70€ and, therefore, the equivalent of 130€ was just ridiculous – but i had to have them. it was love, after all.
(meta-entry: in order to show the garment, i need to move. i kid you not, from now on, i will become not only the dork who is arrogant enough to post their own photos online, but the dork that dances on the balcony in order to do so. slippery slope, if there ever was any...)
beanie by maison martin margiela, track top by jeremy scott for adidas originals, denim culotte by levi's red, metal leather converse hi-tops.
at the time, there was change in the air in general. people expected the turn of the millennium and almost everything design oriented reflected the entrance into the unknown. the most significant influence on design and language had an easily traceable source: the human genome project was still a long way from completion, but was gaining an increasing amount of recognition among lay(wo)men. while gene-talk was in the air everywhere, i, personally, had no idea how overwhelming an impact the research would have on culture or that i'd be working closely with scientists of the field in the next few years.
at the millennium genetic references had infiltrated everyday speech, and it had only started to become commonplace to refer to genes as "selfish" – despite the fact that dawkins' book was published already in 1976. the growing interest in our molecular basis was the result of genetic engineering and the tremendous insecurity and fear of novelty associated with monstrosity: the oncomouse, chimeras, and never rotting tomatoes.
as a perfect fit with the zeitgeist of the 2k, levi's embarked on an unforeseen branding journey which left their successful nostalgia riding and hit-creating commercials behind and launched their engineered line which utilized the same structural idea as red for a mass market later the same year. nothing was straightforward anymore and bodies became wrapped as and in helixes replicating the coiling of dna.
interestingly enough, the original idea for both red and engineered lines was the result of a flaw or a quirk in the original 501 jeans’ right-hand twill fabric construction which caused the legs of vintage levi's jeans to twist to the left. in hindsight, the creation of a new line from inspiration from the past and the marketing of it through genetic imagery which was completely new, sustains the paradox that repeats itself throughout the past ten years: nostalgia sells, but is outsold by the appeal of the positive unknown.
well, the world did not end at 2k. genetic engineering had not resulted in a monster taking over the world. since then, the hgp was finished with the mapping, and we've been left with an incredibly informative, but slightly disappointing sequence, i.e., the human genome did not offer the revelatory information expected – after all the project started with the assumption that every human trait had its individual genetic pair – but proved slightly more complex and merely offering the basis for further research. moreover, speaking "gene" is so habitual that we're hardly aware of it anymore.
i heard somewhere that whatever style one embraces in the early years of their twenties, it sticks with them for life. i was experimental – even radical – then, excited by the novel and unexpected, and continue on the same path – albeit less radical, i presume. perhaps there's a point to the hearsay then. in the following years levi's continued to use the red line as an exclusive and experimental workshop, and, needless to say, my love affair lived on. i kept on buying things from their collections because they were miles ahead of denim innovations anywhere else. i have everything stored away since the garments have not lost their interesting qualities to this date although many of their design elements have become more commonplace. self-evidently, the exclusivity market has since exploded and lost much of its credibility, as well.
my love for unexpected silhouettes has definitely stuck and the affair with twisted seams feels as fresh as years ago. levi's red and engineered were re-produced as 10th anniversary collections – complete with the original hemp and cotton mix culotte i fell in love with – but naturally in more limited numbers. since for me it is a trail already treaded, ten years later my love story continues somewhere else: this time with a pair of loose woolen trousers repeating the wrapping movement around my legs.
tank top by filippa k, trousers by fifth avenue shoe repair, all white converse lo-tops.
fifth avenue shoe repair have excelled at producing unexpected shapes from quality materials and these pants are not an exception to the rule. 100% wool and a pattern that defies explanation, they warp and twist to create a loose, dynamic shape of comfort. my favorite accessory to team the trousers with has been this necklace made from chunks of plexiglass. ten years and information incumbrance later, i feel the need for some naïve scifi.
necklace from h&m.
now that "the future is here" isn't it fine to see some shapes retain their interesting qualities through years and years of wear?