Chloë Sevigny on Fashion and Occupy Wall Street

“It’s incredible—it’s very much her, it’s very much us,” Opening Ceremony co-founder Humberto Leon told Interview during the rabble-rousing presentation for Chloë Sevigny’s latest collaboration with the brand, which he said used Sevigny’s involvement in the Occupy movement as a starting point.

Never one for conformity, Sevigny eschewed the traditional runway show—or presentation for that matter—staging a tag-team concert of five female-fronted bands at St. Mark’s Church in the East Village. The actress-designer cast Kim Gordon, Light Asylum’s Shannon Fuchness, Thinner’s Lissy Trullie, I.U.D.’s Lizzi Bougatsos, and Bleached to perform while modeling the mod looks of her collection.

The result was like riot grrrl meets a freethinking ’60s protest, the latter being the main theme of the collection. Go-go dancers on platforms greeted guests as models held picket signs wearing protest symbols like berets—which unfortunately won’t be for sale—and pieces laden with Egyptian activist icons like the ankh, the Eye of Horus, and cherries. Sixties-era silhouettes and materials were prevalent throughout—think mockneck A-line dresses, wool miniskirts, PVC trenches, and wide wale corduroy jackets. The actress-designer herself even partook in the action, standing alongside the other models. Sevigny spoke to Interview the day after about her interest in protesting youth, St. Mark’s Church, and why she chose to model in her own presentation.

ANN BINLOT: Humberto said that this all started with Occupy. How did you become interested in the Occupy movement?
CHLOE SEVIGNY: My friend Winnie is very involved and she was down there every day and she was part of the whole thing, so I was going with her and hanging out.
BINLOT: How did that lead you to base your latest Opening Ceremony collaboration on protesting youth in the ’60s?

SEVIGNY: It doesn’t really correspond so much, I was hanging out in the park and seeing all the kids and how they were dressing for the elements and what not and I was watching all these films about protests groups and protest culture, and looking at images and books, and of course it led me back to the ’60s because it was such a big change time of change in America when all the young people were out in the streets in mass. I was just thinking about how, as a teenager, I was obsessed with that period. I think that most kids who are into stuff like that do have a ’60s obsession at one point in their lives. I was just looking at all those images and that’s what really inspired me.
BINLOT: Why did you decide to stage the collection through a series of performances at St. Marks Church?
SEVIGNY: I live around the corner from the church, so I see it everyday. It’s a beautiful space, and there’s such great history there and so many great performers have prayed there over the years—from [Harry] Houdini to Isadora Duncan to Patti Smith— and I wanted to do this band thing with my friends. I just wanted the presentation to be something different than a catwalk show because I did that last season. It felt a little too thin, ephemeral—I know it’s better for the editors and everything, but it’s not the reason why I make clothes. It’s more a thing to do, have fun with my friends. I wanted to have my friends that are in bands to perform, and keep it all girls, and keep it really strong. It was a lot of different sounds to challenge the audience a little bit.
BINLOT: How did you select the girl bands to perform?
SEVIGNY: They’re my friends.
BINLOT: Were you trying to convey a message through the signs?
SEVIGNY: I let each band design the signs themselves. So most of the bands had their band name and the name of one of the songs. I wanted to have the names of the bands up somewhere and I didn’t want to have a banner over their heads, so I was trying to figure out a good way to have the band’s name, and after looking at all the images of the kids, they were always holding the picket signs. I wasn’t trying to make any sort of big political statement. It was more a matter of convenience.
BINLOT: You did something totally different from most designers by incorporating yourself, as a model, into the presentation. Why did you do that?
SEVIGNY: I am an actress and known personality before a designer, and I just knew that if I was in the audience, walking around for an hour-and-a-half, doing interviews and having my picture taken, I thought it would distract from what I really wanted people to pay attention to, and that was the bands. So I thought I have to be there in some capacity, and I was asking all the models to do this kind of test of endurance, standing there for an hour-and-a-half and standing very strong. I wanted to be up there in solidarity with them and avoid having to talk to the press.
BINLOT: You’ve been working with Opening Ceremony for about four years now. How has your partnership evolved?
SEVIGNY: Now Humberto and Carol [Lim] are so busy with Kenzo and they’re in Paris a lot, I don’t get to bounce my ideas off them quite as much. It’s still a collaboration with the design team, but I just feel I have less of Humberto’s eye, which I really wish I had more of, ’cause he has so many great ideas, and he’ll say something like, “Why don’t we try it like this or do it like this, or twist it like this.” That’s what he went to school for, he’s so good at it, and I’m not good at the vocabulary, it’s very hard for me to work with the designers to even explain the fabric, or the style or cut or certain things that I want because I just don’t know the terminology. Sometimes I get frustrated with that, and Humberto always made that really easy—not that the other girls don’t —but I miss him being around there. He used to always be around, and now he’s not there as often.
BINLOT: What’s next for you?
SEVIGNY: Vacation in Tulum hopefully. I’m on Portlandia right now, and I have a couple of movies—one is going to South by Southwest—and I’m trying to find some more work in film.