This past Sunday, we attended the Vestoj Storytelling Salon as part of the MoMA PS1 Sunday Sessions. Organized by Vestoj, the multifaceted and intelligent annual publication on sartorial matters, the salon is the second in their series of Storytelling Salons which first took place in Paris in April 2014.
Six individuals from the fashion industry were invited to share a personal story or memory woven around a garment from their life. Told to small groups in intimate settings scattered throughout the museum, their unique and individual experiences inspired and took us for ride into their lives past.
We started inside the VW dome, where we were led to a small tent, inside which designer Mary McFaddon was elegantly seated around some dresses of her design. We gathered and sat cross-legged as she began her story. Unfolding in Johannesburg in 1967, where she was then working as the Editor at Vogue South Africa, she told us stories of witnessing an ancient local burial ritual, meeting kings and narrowly escaping wars.
Our second stop took us inside the museum, down a corridor and inside a small door which led to the boiler room not usually accessible to the museum public. There, Glenn O’Brien shared his love for his leather jacket which provided not only a certain exclusivity back in the day, but also protection from the dangers of 1970s New York City, and a canvas for artist friends to tag on (namely, Jean-Michel Basquiat).
Candy Pratts Price then sped us through her trajectory from dressing windows at a local department store to “conquering” the internet.
We then met Dapper Dan, the extraordinary designer of Dapper Dan’s boutique on 125th Street in Harlem, who pioneered streetwear in the 1980s by co-opting luxury branding from the likes of Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Gucci, with his own uniques designs in leather, mink, crocodile and python. He attracted a cult following, from gangsters to celebrities to the hip-hop crowd. His popular store was open twenty-four hours a day, and made booming business until the companies whose logos he emblazoned forced him to go underground. He shared many funny and outrageous stories, including the time when his clients requested to have jackets embedded with bullet-proof vests. To make sure he wasn’t going to be blamed if they failed his clientele, he had them shoot at the jackets on his rooftop to test effectiveness. He was definitely my favorite storyteller of the day, a genuine character.
Next, we went up to the storage attic of the MoMA PS1 galleries where Patricia Field told us her first memory of fashion, which was a cow-girl outfit her parents dressed her up in when she was five.
Our final story of the day was told by the legendary model Pat Cleveland, who told the story of her Halston dress and nights spent dancing at Studio 54 in her playful and theatrical way.
We left the museum grateful to have heard a slice of some incredible lives and a sense of depth and meaning not always associated with the fashion world.
Illustrations by Caris Reid