Clothing Compares 2 U

Love Letter Day 22.

In 2005 or 2006 I worked on Kenya Hara’s book tour for Designing Design, and heard Hara say some amazing things about the world. But ugh I dunno. You probably think I’m a sucker for enjoying great quips. Still. Hara is without equal in that department. What do you think of public figures with great one-liners?

Anyway, one thing he talks about in his book is how clothing is the most immediate environment to the human body, an ecology we create for our bodies. We know this in theory, of course—it’s why we talk about bikini season and sweater weather. I just loved the idea of clothing being talked about like a house or an ecosystem. Mind you, this wasn’t so much to do with fashion as LQQKs, or “fierce fits.” It was more like “let’s talk about the thing that touches your skin almost 24 hours of the day.” That said, dude was developing fungal prototype 3D fabric before mycology became a trending topic, and as a quintessential pseudo-architect, wore nothing but Yohji Yamamoto, so he was also a fashion guy in his own way. Anyway Hara was mostly talking about textile engineering and how important it was that we look at alternative modalities of fabric as a first point of contact.

I think of skin contact apparel a lot. Some of my best friends are culprits of “head to toe yoga gear” as a daily outerwear look, so I try not to judge harshly, but I do think it’s interesting that the people with the most traditionally beautiful physiques are also the most likely to wear so much shape wear. It’s ironic that most of them have terrible body image issues. I’m sorry if that’s triggering. I had those issues, too, so I empathize. I will elaborate upon why that changed, only if you ever see me naked.

Well, that’s an odd place to put your imagination. Sorry. It’s actually a little disgusting that I did that. Let’s abruptly change subjects. How about fibers? Yes, let’s talk about fibers. Let’s talk about the fibers that touch your skin. What are they as lived environments?

Cotton is America, a land that has never paid for it. First extracted through forced labor, cotton is now subsidized by farm lobbies despite being one of the most ecologically damaging crop to yield, by an order of magnitude. Billions of gallons of pesticides poison the earth so we can wear soft T-shirts.

Polyester is China, all plastic, disposable, fast, economical, older than time, irony. Colors on it never fade because they’re sublimated. What a beautiful word, sublimation.

Nylon, kevlar, acetate, are all futurist. Sequins are camp. Elasticity equals science fiction but actually rubber and latex are byproducts of the sub like everything else magical. The future is petroleum.

Wool is ancient, comes from lamb we pretend will not be slaughtered, just like everything else from the Northern hemisphere.

There is nothing as holy as Silk is in West Asia. It is a grotesquely perfect fabric but love the sinner not the sin. It’s terrifying how wonderful silk feels on my collar bone.

All of my clothing has a story. Yours, too. My body hides inside an unimpeachable fabric. My body uses clothing to gather power and beauty necessary to safely expose itself as a beast to match your expectations. All this pageantry, the pagination of moods, the purpose of an intimate environment, an order of protection against one kind of weather and a mandate to another kind of gaze—all of these environmental gestures can fit in a small chest or a notebook of anecdotes, and if you ever opened either the suitcase or the journal, I would come to you completely and absolutely clean.  

Post-Script: Hey it’s almost Thanksgiving and here’s another reminder that I’m asking fans to send lucre to one of the organizations I serve, in lieu of figuring out how to make this NaNoLoLeWriMo paid. Support the arts!

Asian Arts Initiative

Asian American Writers Workshop

Vox Populi