It’s rare to find someone who blends styles, silhouettes and designers with as much whimsy and as much ease as Styleforum’s ghostface. He has an incredible eye both for texture and for color - and he’s perhaps unsurprisingly erudite, which comes across in his responses to interview questions as well as in the way he dresses.
What drew you to clothing? Did you have a long gestation period, or did you roll out of bed one day and think, "You know what, I need a change"?
I’ve always been drawn to beautiful natural materials, weird textures, clean lines, and organic shapes. The earliest manifestations of that attraction drew me to alpine mountain environments and, when back in civilization, to amateur interior design. In both cases I was seeking and finding a certain kind of aesthetic experience, a sense of harmony that included elements of risk and imperfection. It was only natural for this interest to spread eventually to clothing, since choosing what to put on our bodies is just a more intimate, direct version of shaping our personal environments. But I only made that transition in a deliberate way five or so years ago. I suppose that does make it a long gestation period.
One of the things that No Man Walks Alone has discussed in the past is dressing in a manner that suits your context. Is this something that you consider?
Absolutely. I’ve been working on a Ph.D. in philosophy over the past few years, so I have no real constraints on what I wear. I could dress in a folded bed sheet and no one would tell me to stop. But I do dress differently on the days when I’m teaching, or when I’m presenting a paper, than on the days when I’m just writing in a café. One part of that choice comes from the recognition that clothes have meanings for the people with whom you’re interacting, however contingent those meanings may be (2000 years ago, of course, a single sheet of fabric would have been a fine uniform for a day of cultivating young minds). Another part is that dressing within a given set of constraints can allow for different types of creativity or playfulness than you could achieve with no constraints whatsoever.
You’re very happy to play with colors - sometimes many at once. How do you make sure you don’t come out looking too busy?
Hmmm, I guess I just look in the mirror and make a judgment? I’m something of a minimalist at heart, so I normally want colors and textures to complement each other such that everything hangs together in a kind of organic, coherent whole.
Let’s go the other direction - you also seem quite at home in black. What place do black garments hold in your wardrobe?
Yeah, black is very central to my wardrobe. I wear black pants probably four out of five days. That’s partly just to keep the color palette from becoming overwhelming. But I will also wear all black, or something close to it, when I want to emphasize form or silhouette. Black doesn’t have quite the same cultural cache it once did—identifying the outsider, the rebel, the mysterious stranger—since so many regular style-conscious people have recognized how good it can look, but it is still a very powerful “color,” aesthetically speaking.
Do you have a general approach or focus when you’re getting dressed?
I’m sure I dress according to mood to some extent, though I think that operates as a kind of subconscious filter rather than a kind of conscious, deliberate method. I’ll wear more colorful or experimental things on days when I’m feeling more outgoing, and vice versa.
Is there a particular set of inspirations - a time period, a design movement - that you look towards for inspiration?
A lot of my Comme des Garcons jackets reference 19th century peasant-wear, but with a Japanese twist. There’s a strong connection here to wabi-sabi—a kind of weathered elegance, an embrace of imperfection and impermanence—and also a reference to a time and place when people had a different, perhaps more intimate relationship with nature and with personal objects. I’m also interested in various kinds of monastic uniforms. On the other side of things, I’m also drawn to the work of designers like Helmut Lang and Rick Owens that seems to reference a near-future dystopia. There’s also a connection to impermanence here, though in a more pessimistic vein.