Clothes Are Baggage

Investigating four fashion archives and the emotional power of second-hand threads


Sitting outside Bar Italia, I see a boy wearing a saucy little outfit. Girl, like a Courtney Love costume (rumpled icy-pink camisole, fishnets). Boy, like a guy Lana Del Rey would write a song about (fur-trimmed hood, cigarette held between forefinger and thumb, cargo shorts). Then — Clark Gable moustache, loafers, old Hollywood Brylcreem hair, purple tartan waistcoat. It’s all over the place. Bonkers. The kid looks great. Trends now move so fast that we are approaching a point at which they are becoming irrelevant. We reference and collage. Chimera ensembles. Frankenstein outfits. An era in which anything goes. Creating distinct personal style and rebuking trends — or perhaps having a dalliance with them — using secondhand pieces is delicious and feels truly sustainable. Fashion archives such as Haut, created by Hanna Samson, offer such a possibility. “With the ‘buy now’ culture, everything is readily available, from sex, to clothes, to food. Everything has sped up so much. Why do we constantly need new stuff?” Samson tells me. “I love finding pieces that remain timeless and even trendy – trendy is fun – and to allow these pieces to be worn, communicated, have a life of their own beyond being owned by anyone, with different people, have different conversations.”

Cardigan RAF SIMONS from STOF Belt Stylist’s own Trousers Stylist’s own
Jacket RIP CURL from 403RCHVE Skirt CHANEL from Haut Shoes PRADA from Bajo

STOF is an Antwerp-based archive created by Maude Van Dievoet and Karina Zharmukhambetova. Van Dievoet describes how the archive took shape through a combination of the “appreciation for the timelessness, craft, taste and mystery that embodies Belgian fashion” and childhood experiences: “Our mums were our first and biggest role models in developing a personal style. We grew up with these adventures of always searching for something with that little extra touch, even when it was secondhand.” Van Dievoet continues, “we want to build something that’s here to stay and for people to be able to reappreciate all that has been made already. With us both having backgrounds in fashion, we wanted to stay away from the typical cycle of trends and seasons.” Archives offer a curated collection of rare secondhand pieces that can feel daunting to try and find yourself, scouring through eBay or charity shops. Gorgeous pieces STOF has let go of include: “A.F. Vandevorst fury boots, yellow Ann Demeulemeester chainmail hoodie, Maison Martin Margiela burgundy sweater sack bag SS95.” More than this, the idea of an archive immediately positions fashion as consequential in the same way as art or literature. “Personally, we consider the combination of craftsmanship and true passion as art, whether this is reflected in a piece of clothing or in a poem.” Dievoet notes. Samson also touches on this: “I like the idea of a gallery, how things come and they go. I see myself as a curator, presenting these garments to a community then seeing them off.”

Jacket DIESEL from 403RCHVE Top ANN DEMEULEMEESTER from Haut Skirt MARITHÉ + FRANÇOIS GIRBAUD from Haut Jeans Stylist’s own
Jacket JUNYA WATANABE from Haut Top A.F. VANDEVORST from STOF Skirt PRADA from Bajo Shoes PRADA from Bajo

Violette Marrel, who runs Bajo archive, describes how she comes “from a family of hoarders, a term I use affectionately — I love collecting things, learning their stories and discovering how you relate to a garment, what it brings you and what you bring to it.” She goes on: “I read this quote recently from Balzac that says “l’homme qui ne voit dans la mode que la mode est un sot”, which reads as “the man who only sees fashion in fashion is a fool” — I think that clothes are so important and relevant to how we carry ourselves in culture and society.” Clothes are baggage. We remember the weave of a mother’s jumper, the party shirt we wore when we met the most beautiful boy with that hot-fudge voice, face toward a six-o’clock sun. Clothes are emotional. People have nervous breakdowns over a pair of shoes. When my 1999 Miu Miu wallet was stolen in Athens, long, deranged hours were spent rooting though markets in the dicey part of town where thieves re-sell their stolen goods. Contents — irrelevant. Wallet — everything. Sometimes the emotion isn’t personal but cultural. Marrel regrets parting with “a pair of Prada Mary Janes that Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) wears in Legally Blonde when she has her trial breakthrough moment. I feel like I let go of a little bit of me when I parted with them.” So often when buying archival designs, there is a personal relationship that has already been established between the piece (a personally significant collection, Elle Woods wore it) and the buyer, before it even comes in contact with the body. This meaning rarely exists with fast fashion. For Marrel, “the purpose of collecting clothes lies in all the hours dedicated to finding the season, the collection and the context that piece of clothing was made in. I love the story behind it and finding out what the designer was trying to say, what kind of person they were trying to show.”  Samson describes her personal relationship to clothes differently. “Fashion is the industry; clothes are a separate thing to that. Clothes have helped me separate myself from the world, it’s this mix of expressing and escaping along with connecting with people. It’s helped me understand my emotional attachment to things, to ideas, and to process information around me too.”

T shirt HELMUT LANG from Haut Skirt COMME DES GARÇONS from Bajo Top from Bajo Shoes A.F. VANDEVORST from STOF

“A sucker for early 2000’s Diesel”, Roshan Whittaker, who runs 403RCHVE, believes “the secondhand clothing industry plays a large part in enabling fashion to be sustainable.” He continues, “I see fashion as an art form to express individual, cultural and political ideologies… The craftsmanship that goes into these archival pieces requires the equal care and preservation as art… my personal style was developed through a passion of treasure hunting for these one-of-a-kind pieces. The exciting part always came from not knowing what was going to be found, that’s the beauty of it!”

Jacket PLEIN SUD from Haut Top JEAN PAUL GAULTIER from Bajo Skirt from 403RCHVE Boots from STOF

Uniting these four archives is an obsession with beautiful, layered things. Garments that have more running through them than the fibres they’re made from. “They’re pieces that stand powerfully by themselves, with important backstories, or that reflect the designer’s creative process, and build a community that appreciates this sentiment,” Samson says. “I think about the quote: ‘Some designers make clothes for the customer; some make clothes to express themselves.’ In a way I want to further the garments that were an expression, an output of the designer’s thoughts at the time, to the present-day.”

Photography Ellen Stewart

Fashion Editor Julie Velut

Hairstyling Kei Takano

Make up Kosei Kitada

Models Monyjok Ngor Deng at Linden Staub, Sasha Krivosheya at Elite

Casting Clémence Orozco Bello at The Line

Assistant Callum Su

This article is taken from Port issue 32. To continue reading, buy the issue or subscribe here