Telfar Clemens Authentically Performs Ironoclasm


The next time Tilda Swinton decides to sleep in a glass vitrine at MOMA, Telfar Clemens should dress her for her nap. It would be, I think, a normcore-spectacular sandcastle monument of post-post-everythingness to ponder, probably best elucidated by emoji. In this scenario, historic assumptions of fashion, class, gender and sexuality could be especially screwed-on sideways, with the hope of a resultant lovechild going viral as a meme testament to Clemens’ declaration that the “new norms are that nothing’s normal” (lecture).

Clemens’ proposal of normal-nothing-everything-ness fashion seems to advocate a metaphorical “left over right” (lecture) opportunity for all. While he was referring to his unisex disruption of a traditionally male button placket in this quote, I think it also speaks to larger considerations about how we specify our bodies and our selves. There’s interesting irony here, intentional or not, in that while Clemens defines his vision as “unisex from a male perspective”(lecture) and exemplifies that in the design decision to use a left over right button placket for the construction of his clothes, conceptually left over right could also connote the triumph of alternative perspectives and feminized power. Etymologically, left can refer to liberal social views, as well as carry associations of weakness (thus vulnerability), which are considered feminine characteristics.

But irony doesn’t seem like a surprise regarding Clemens’ work. Rather, it seems intrinsic to his perspective. To me, Clemens’ design calls to mind a pastiche of reality TV series collaged together starting from the middle, positioned for knowingly contradictory consumption, as an example of ordinary-ideality located upon an ever-shifting and constantly present-tense foundation. His work is, I think, an example of a 21st century perspective that can be described by a word documented in 2003, just a few years before Clemens’ first collection: ironoclast. It’s defined by Urban Dictionary as  “one who uses wit to attack traditional or popular ideas or institutions.” Clemens’ position that “anything you wear is fashion” (lecture), paired with his clapping, smiling website and biographical description of being a “fashion prodigy and international celebrity” seems ironoclastic, an intentional transgression of the fashion system’s tropes and cliches.

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