Every year, the world’s biggest fashion designers put together a show for Paris Fashion Week. Designed solely for the runway, many of the show’s entries are never intended for wear but, instead, to represent the designer’s interests or elaborate upon their aesthetic.
Just this year, during the Milan Fashion Week, Jeremy Scott — creative director for Moschino — released one of the most comprehensively bizarre collections to ever grace the runway. In one entry, Scott — a devout adherent of all things pop culture — presented a chic upgrade to the traditional McDonald’s uniform. His models, dressed in slim, form-fitting red, gold and beige dresses, strutted down the lighted lane with plastic trays in hand. With vibrant red visors overhead, the models displayed a number of kitschy fast-food related accessories: quilted purses and totes that bore a suspicious resemblance to McDonald’s famous Happy Meals.
In some ways we’ve come to expect runway shows to confound us. Many people falsely believe that the shows are intended to give the audience a glimpse of the designer’s upcoming collections. This, however, is not always true and leads to a number of frustrated, bewildered and occasionally disgusted commentators asking, “Who would wear this stuff?”
The answer, of course, is runway models. The average consumer is neither expected nor encouraged to purchase these bizarre creations. Like works of art, they are created — sewn — upon a specific canvas and typically exist only in the moment when they are viewed.
That doesn’t mean, though, that ready-to-wear collections don’t occasionally celebrate their own idiosyncratic elements. In this list, we focus on garments (and accessories) created by notable entities in the fashion industry that are intended for wear. We’re not interested in high-concept runway pieces. Instead, we take a look at eight bizarre fashion projects that existed — or exist — outside the narrow confines of the runway.
8 Ring Of Skin
Designer: Sruli Recht
Every artist puts a little piece of themselves into their work. Typically, this infusion is spiritual or conceptual in nature. However, in 2013, Icelandic fashion designer Sruli Recht elevated the idea to a purely literal level.
Undergoing a surgical procedure to remove a 4.3-inch strip of skin from his abdomen, Recht removed the fat from the skin, and then salted and tanned it. The resulting leather was then inlayed into a 24-karat gold ring — called the “Forget Me Knot” — which can be purchased at his online store for the modest sum of $500,000.
7 Plain White Tee
Designer: Kanye West x A.P.C.
In 2013, Kanye West paired with French brand A.P.C. to produce a ready-to-wear collection that sold out within minutes of its online launch. With each piece curated by West to ensure that it fit into his “kingdom of dopeness,” rabid fans swamped A.P.C.’s US website and brought it to a crashing halt. When the site finally recovered, the collection was gone, vanished as if Yeezus himself had deigned to transform matter into whines.
Online review sites whinged about the lack of availability and the dearth of opportunities to cop West’s pieces. Then people started looking at the collection and noted its obvious minimalism. The highlight — or lowlight, if you will — being a “very loose” $120 white T-shirt that differentiated itself from regular T-shirts only by dint of having “A.P.C. KANYE” silkscreened inside.
6 Ox Blood Dyed Pants
Designer: Carol Christian Poell
Austrian-born designer Carol Christian Poell is a genius. Worn by a wide range of celebrities, from Brad Pitt to Mary Kate Olsen, Poell’s garments are constructed in a way that combines an artisan’s attention to the finer details of tailoring with an artist’s innate sense of playfulness.
Throughout his career, Poell has experimented with all manner of methods and materials, from ties made of human hair to pants dyed with actual ox blood. In the case of the pants, industry commentators have noted that “the color actually ages and oxidizes over time [which] is the most interesting aspect of this process.”
5 Swan Dress
Designer: Marjan Pejoski
During the 73rd Academy Awards, musician Björk wore what would eventually become the Daily Telegraph’s ninth-most iconic red carpet gown of all time. The dress, designed in the form of a giant swan whose oversized head wrapped around the singer’s neck initially met with mixed reviews. Canadian fashion critic Steven Cojocaru remarked that it was, “probably one of the dumbest things I've ever seen.”
Björk, however, defended her decision to wear the dress, insisting that it was, after all, “just a dress” and that it spoke to her primarily because of her adoration of swans. Regardless, the cultural influence of the dress has grown over the years with parodies of it appearing on film and television.
4 Face Masks
Designer: Rick Owens
Rick Owens started his label in 1994 and things sort of snowballed from there. Known for his oversized high-tops and menacing leather jackets, Owens’ line is worn by everyone from Jude Law to Kim Kardashian.
Not exactly known for his subtlety, Owens has produced a number of statement pieces throughout the years, from Dune-esque heels to full-length men’s skirts. However, one of the strangest entries in his catalogue must be 2012’s knitted face mask. With reviewers noting that it left them “feeling itchy, claustrophobic and with a serious case of hat hair,” it’s difficult to envision a situation where the $250 mask would be comfortable, functional or appropriate.
3 Meat Dress
Designer: Franc Fernandez
Worn to the 2010 MTV Music Video Awards, Lady Gaga’s “meat dress” earned accolades from Time magazine and criticism from animal rights groups. Crafted out of flank steak sourced from a local butcher, designer Franc Fernandez explained, “when I saw it in the monitor [I knew] it would be big.”
Knowing that the dress was an ephemeral piece, Fernandez expressed his hope that it would be preserved as a “type of jerky” after the awards ceremony. In the end, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hired a taxidermist to treat and recondition the dress in a way that preserved its original appearance.
2 Boiler Suit
Designer: Boris Bidjan Saberi
With the rising popularity of the workwear trend, it’s not uncommon to step outside and see Dockers pants, steel-toed boots or military pea coats. Functional, durable garments have always had a hefty share of the market and, for the most part, people seem to enjoy not needing to have two sets of clothing. German-Persian designer Boris Bidjan Saberi, however, looked at the trend and asked, “Why not go further?”
To that end, Saberi released a black, waxed cotton, one-piece boiler suit. It’s not a complete diversion from Saberi’s usual aesthetic, which focuses on “the human body, to be empowered and protected as if covered by additional armors,” though the practicality of the suit is somewhat questionable.
1 Ketchup And Mustard Set
Designer: Chrome Hearts
The perpetual collaborators Chrome Hearts have cranked out a seemingly never-ending series of luxury fashion products. Sunglasses, purses, jewelry, even bicycles… no industry is safe from the brand’s iconic Old English font and stylized fleurs-de-lis.
Even having established the company’s rampant proliferation, some combinations just seem out of place. Take, for example, Chrome Hearts’ recent entry into the condiment dispensing game. Releasing a limited number of ornate, sterling silver toppers for ketchup and mustard bottles, the brand left fashion — and culinary — experts scratching their heads.