David Casavant Archives the Subversive

David Casavant Archives the Subversive

The rabid Raf Simons collector collaborates with Kanye West in new book.

The rabid Raf Simons collector collaborates with Kanye West in new book.

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

When stylist and fashion archivist David Casavant started his collecting practice, which favors designers like Raf Simons and Helmut Lang, most of his peers were likely off hunting Beanie Babies. “I say that, in a way, [the archive] started when I was born,” says the 28-year-old. The rest is history: the Beanie bubble burst, while 90s fashion became canon. At 14, growing up in suburban Tennessee, Casavant acquired his first designer piece—a Raf Simons sweatshirt circa 2000. He would breadcrumb-follow his way to thousands more, eventually moving to London to study at Central Saint Martins, then to New York, where he worked as a stylist and established his contemporary fashion archive as one of the largest and most unique around.

Now that archive is the inspiration behind his new book David Casavant Archive (Artbook), a many-limbed representation of his ever-evolving fashion closet. While Casavant's tastes formed pre-Y2K, the book's visuals reflect an avant-gardist search history, with contributions from various artists and friends ranges from hentai fanfiction to vision boards curated by Kanye West. Here, we chat with Casavant about his influences, his upbringing and ownership in the digital age.

How would you describe this book? What percentage of this “archive” is David Casavant versus outside sources?

The funny part about this project is that I wanted to archive to be the starting point. With my archive, it’s about all these clothes that other people designed. But I make them my own by using them in certain ways, or other people use for their shoots. The book is kind of a continuation of this idea. My concept for the book is wanting do a play on ownership, and a kind of play on appropriation.

I wanted to strip away ownership, so there wasn’t a stopping point, like a picture hanging in the museum or a piece of clothing hanging on a rack not being used again. You could keep using it. It's kind of like the internet, how it changed when photographers' images could be used anywhere. I didn’t intend it to be like a Tumblr, but I used Tumblr as a way to describe the book after the fact.

Did you have a Tumblr?

Yeah, definitely. Because you look at Tumblr and you see all these different things that aren’t necessarily supposed to go together. But you can make them your own by how you collage them on your Tumblr page or Instagram page.

You grew up in Tennessee. What brought your parents there?

God... I don’t know. My parents were kind of old when they had me, so they sort had a life before me that I really don’t know too much about. My dad lived in Chicago, New York, Atlanta and I think around when they finally had kids, they just wanted to settle in Tennessee because it was pretty, I guess. [Our town] was on a mountain in Southeast Tennessee. It sounds more majestic than it is.

So was the Internet how you interfaced with fashion?

My dad re-married and my new mom was sort of like a Sex in The City character. She was a lawyer and she was very fashion-aware. I don’t think I really got it from her, but that was kind of at the same time. It was definitely through online. [Online fashion] was so specific back then. It was on things like forums. I was really into those, and I sort of had a blog, too.

Did your peers understand fashion?

[Even online] there wasn’t much menswear interest at all. I could never find any other guys into Raf. Especially guys around my age, who were also into Raf and stuff like that. It was really just only womenswear in the online community.

How did you break into fashion professionally?

I moved to London when I was 18 to go to Saint Martins for school and so I studied fashion there. I interned the whole way through and then I moved to New York. I worked for a bunch of stylists, and that’s how the idea for the archive happened. Before that I just had too many clothes. But they’d need a white shirt for a shoot the next day, and I’d say I’d just bring it from home. I wasn’t even asking to get credited for it in magazines or anything.

Did you enjoy working in fashion?

I got to a point where… It was a night and day job, and had no life. I wanted to graduate out of assisting, and all of sudden I was like, oh look, the world.

Have you worked with any of the celebrities in the book, like Zane Malik [who appears in a drawing by Stewart Uoo]. 

No, that’s him doing that Japanese anime porn...hentai, I think. I don’t know, Stewart is just obsessed with Zane, I guess. (Laughs.)

How did you meet the collaborators on this book, such as Kanye West?

Actually most of them I didn’t meet through work. Just through friends… I don’t know. Kanye has been borrowing from my archive the longest of most the people. So I think his [piece] is more about showing an evolution of something to the next. His is from research he’s done, mixed with some of a fit model trying clothes on. Some is from old books and stuff like that. The way he sent it to me was through an email, and I like the idea of taking that literally with him. So, I wanted it to look like a printed email.

How did the photo with Lola Ciccone come together?

I’ve worked with Jacolby Satterwhite for years. That was probably my first collaboration. What he does is photograph people on green screens, and I started lending him my clothes and styling his videos. Sometimes there’s a person he wants to do in particular, like the one with Lola. That was specifically for her, but he street casts a lot of them. One time we set up a green screen in Fire Island, at a leather shoot at a Grindr party a couple of years ago.

How is your closet or archive organized? Is it like leather, bondage in one corner, sweaters in another?

Yeah (Laughs). I am making this back little corner into kind of the bondage closet now. It used to be more organized by designer, but I changed it to mix things up. So now it’s organized by the type of garment.

See a selection from David Casavant Archive below.

Stewart Uoo

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