ABOVE: YANG LI X GENESIS BREYER P-ORRIDGE SS 2015. PHOTO COURTESY OF SALVATORE CAPUTO.
Agender, the temporary, androgynous concept installation at London’s Selfridges, is stripping a whole host of designer labels of their boy/girl associations. Dismiss it as novelty if you will, but symbolically it’s a big step—a project that devotes a high fashion floor to a dynamic selection of gender-less styles, disguising them in custom garment bags inside a Faye Toogood-designed art space, and inviting shoppers to explore pieces based on their true aesthetic appeal.
It’s a progressive idea and, although worth writing about in itself, risked paling in comparison to one of its own events Tuesday night: a live performance and film screening by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, the cult New York-based, British artist and musician whose very being embodies the “agender.” Initiated by Chinese-Australian designer Yang Li, P-Orridge’s performance fêted the pair’s graphic partnership for Li’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection entitled “So Destroy The Expected,” named after a slogan taken from P-Orridge’s extensive backlog of political and philosophical writings. The products stem from P-Orridge’s revolutionary work at the head of industrial music groups Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle, as archival images become t-shirt prints, with bold mottos layered under diaphanous silk blouses and coats, and a limited edition signed zippo-style lighter engraved with P-Orridge’s high-impact words.
Before a live performance on Selfridges’ rooftop, the evening opened with a private screening of P-Orridge’s seminal short film The Ballad of Genesis & Lady Jaye, an autobiographical narrative recounting the extraordinary relationship between Genesis and her late wife Lady Jaye. It includes a heartfelt, honest account of the radical transformation the artistic couple undertook together throughout their lifetime, from joint wardrobes to matching breast implants, and the gradual merging of their physicality into a singular being. “As we developed the idea of looking more alike in order to say that we reject society’s idea of what we become, we reject what DNA says we should become, and we reject any kind of gender archetype, then looking alike became more important to dissolve boundaries and dissolve differences so that people had to reconsider what we were saying to show a commitment,” P-Orridge explained.
Of the artist’s first foray into the fashion world, P-Orridge admitted, “It has been a revelation to work with Yang. We saw fashion as something very superficial and endlessly repeating,” she continued, speaking perennially in the royal we. “Working with Yang, we discovered that a whole other level of fashion was possible. That is why we worked together, because we learned from each other.” Li countered that sentiment, citing P-Orridge’s work as being at the very centre of his own design philosophy: “This is my way to show the audience of fashion, or whoever wants to listen, a little bit of the noise in my head. Fashion is a kind of reflection of a designer’s mind, and of society so to speak. One of my ultimate wishes is to seduce people, not just by the clothes but by the world around them.” Li continued that, although omitting gender in fashion altogether seems impossible for now, it is a genderless attitude that counts. “I am very inspired by the people I meet,” he said. “The kind of people who can have an intellectual conversation at lunch and then the same night rolling around on the floor listening to music at a concert. They break the constructs of what people should be doing. People who can say fuck off to gender in an intellectual way are very attractive.”
SELFRIDGES’ AGENDER PROJECT RUNS THROUGH APRIL 24, BOTH ONLINE AND IN-STORE AT SELFRIDGES’ LOCATION ON OXFORD STREET.