We Spoke To Derek Ridgers And Tara St Hill About Their Film For Vestiaire Collective X Byronesque
Since 2009, Vestiairecollective.com has been fashion Mecca for the most coveted pre-owned clothing. Not ten years have passed since its founding, but the online marketplace has already amassed a global community of just under seven million devout rail-riflers across fifty countries. With over thirty thousand new items submitted each week this is circular fashion on an industrial scale, a harbinger of a time when looking back is just as alluring as looking forward, and the need for escape from fashion’s relentless drive towards ‘new’ and ‘more’ is bigger than ever.
As part of a project to modernise the perception of vintage clothing and promote sustainable re-use, Vestiaire Collective are launching their Archive Series with a digital pop-up curated by vintage personal shopping app and champions of subcultural clobber, Byronesque. Together, they are launching an archive capsule collection of two hundred one-off pieces, that are certified originals from bygone eras of design, and part of the history that shaped them. From Margiela’s 1997 Semi-Couture dressmaker’s bodice apron, to Comme des Garçons’ seminal 1986 show robe, to Johnny Rotten’s Mohair jumper, authenticated by Westwood, Byronesque’s edit traces subcultural style over the past fifty years, while providing a portal to some of the most memorable looks in fashion history.
If there’s one man who knows about subculture it’s Derek Ridgers. The renowned photographer and long time friend of Ten has spent over forty years on the periphery of Britain’s underground tribes, documenting their subversive styles and refusal to conform. Together with Tara St Hill, Byronesque’s newly appointed Fashion Director (and our very own Senior Fashion Editor-at-Large), they have created a film featuring the best bits from the Archive Series. We spoke to them to find out more…
FINN BLYTHE: How did this project with Byronesque come together?
TARA ST HILL: I met Justin (Creative Director at Byronesque) through Nick Woplington. We were at a gig together and he took my drink and jacket in and I thought, ‘that’s nice, people don’t normally do that.’ I invited him to karaoke, we ended up not going but became friends, and I got to know Gill [Linton] over the past couple of years. One day they said, “we want you to be the director of fashion” and I love them, I love their aesthetic and everything they’re about, so was completely up for it.
DEREK RIDGERS: It came through Tara who I’ve worked with before. Byronesque care about authenticity and approached me via Tara because they wanted to create an honest document and homage to an era I know very well.
FB: What was it you wanted to portray in this project? Was there a particular story you wanted to tell?
DR: The brief from Byronesque was to capture a moment in culture when “what you wore was more important than who you were”. We’re retelling that story with a new generation who believe that today.
TS: Yeah, like those really fierce kids on the cloakroom, probably looking better than anyone in the club, taking the coats, losing the tickets, taking someone’s Chanel lipstick out of their bag and putting it in their pockets – just that punk ethic of yesteryear. I mean you go to Savage or whatever now and it’s that kind of energy where everyone’s made an effort, wants to look different and is trying to create their own little identity. So it was more about building a character around a person, rather than an overall vibe, which I find easier.
FB: Can you tell me about the faces you cast? We heard that Michèle Lamy and Suzi Leenaars have cameos.
DR: The point of the casting was to bring people together, not because of an affiliation to a particular trend, but because of a shared attitude. That’s why Michele Lamy and Suzi Leenaars work well together in the same setting. There are also cameos from people who really created subculture like Harri Peccinotti and an original model from early Margiela shows. And of course Tara herself.
TS: We wanted it to feel modern, not dated, but with that aesthetic from the Blitz days or new romantic days. I think we’re in quite an experimental moment with kids dressing up more, going out more, pushing what they’re wearing a bit more. I suppose we wanted to honour that spirit but do it with a modern feeling. Obviously Michèle has a relationship with Byronesque, but we didn’t want to feature people and be like, “that’s Michèle Lamy she’s famous”. I was blown away by the amount of people who came and got involved and sat in a freezing cold club without complaining.
FB: What does vintage clothing mean to you?
TS: I suppose it’s clothing with a life, really. I’ve got t-shirts that I shot in the 90’s on [Boy] George that I now shot a year ago on someone else. It’s a completely different t-shirt, twenty years it sits, broken apart, and it becomes something really beautiful. It’s got a life of its own. I suppose there’s things in my wardrobe that I’ll look at and they will just remind me of a moment; running to catch a sunset with Corinne [Day] or being on the beach with Leon [Mark] or trying to find a location. Having those little connections with clothes conjures up memories, feelings and moments with people and that’s how I work, I respond to those things.
FB: Your work among British subcultures is as much about documenting clothes as it is the political and social attitudes that shaped them. Do you still see those underground tribes as clearly now as you did then?
DR: No, not really but that has far more to do with me than the underground tribes. I’m 67 now and my ear isn’t as close to the ground as it once was. Besides, I’m not sure that any recognisable youth movements, be they subcultures or whatever, need people like me to sit in judgement. I don’t need to study, describe, define and categorise them. I’d far rather give them a bit of space, free of my opinions. I’m certainly happy to photograph them, in due course. But they are only going to be properly understandable to someone of my generation, looking back.
TS: Yeah, I think it’s more about cliques nowadays. I don’t think it’s so much a subculture thing, I think that kind of died with ecstasy and the rave scene. It murdered it actually because everyone just put tracksuits and trainers on and took E’s and raved.
FB: You’ve been photographing people in clubs for more than forty years. Over that period, have you sensed a change in the purpose of clubs and what they represent?
DR: Well the main purpose of clubs is for people to let their hair down, dance, drink, show themselves off and hook up. I don’t think that’s changed much. As to what clubs represent… that’s a much harder question. In the past they facilitated the genesis of various subcultures insofar as the adherents had somewhere to meet and interact. Originally, in the ‘50s, I suppose it would have been jazz clubs, dancehalls and maybe motorbike clubs. In the ‘60s, youth clubs and discotheques. But whether that is what they “represent”, I don’t know.
Nowadays nascent youth movements don’t need nightclubs. They can meet and show themselves off on Instagram and Facebook. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. The Daily Mail, readers and their like, can insult and belittle the way someone looks without leaving the comfort of their own home too. Did you see what the Daily Mail recently did to Sophia Hadjipanteli?
Shop the Byronesque X Vestiaire Collective video and exclusive edit online from 17th April 2018.
Director Derek Ridgers
Stylist Tara St Hill
Creative Director Justin Westover
Make-Up Lucy J Bridge
Music by ADULT.