“For someone like Agnes Martin, she wore utilitarian garments. And those utilitarian garments became a way of actually existing, of having utility in your life. By wearing them, she could live. Functional clothing allows you to function, full stop.”
Fashion critic, journalist and author Charlie Porter joins the show to celebrate the US publication of WHAT ARTISTS WEAR (WW Norton). We talk about the Agnes Martin photo that inspired the book, the ways we look at artists’ clothes and what they say about our notions of art, culture, gender & society, Charlie’s history with fashion and with art, the liberating nature of writing fashion criticism, the notion of art as infiltration, his fashion-epiphany in Mexico City, and the reason he gave Picasso only one line in the book. We also get into his editor’s suggestion to emulate John Berger’s Ways of Seeing when it came to integrating text and image, what’s REALLY going on in fashion criticism, the shift for artists’ clothing from utilitarian workwear to other garment choices as art shifted from painting and sculpture to other forms, the way jeans went from utility to luxury product and what Warhol’s preoccupation with jeans may have signaled, the first time Charlie saw someone with a tattoo of the book’s cover design, his experience donating his designer clothes to the V&A Museum, the glory of Tabboo!, what it takes for us to get away from the fashion industry and be happy with what we wear, and more! Give it a listen! And go read WHAT ARTISTS WEAR
“Fashion is so derided and seen as frivolous and facile . . . and once I got used to that, I could write about politics, about sociology, about misogyny, about homophobia, how humans relate to each other. You can do all this work in fashion journalism, and no one knows you’re going to do it.”
“I’m very suspicious when anyone says fashion is art, because it’s not.”
“If you separate ‘fashion’ from ‘fashion industry’, then you can start seeing it in a much more benevolent way, and much more connected to human beings and how they exist in the world.”
“I’ve come to think that everyone is an expert on clothing, because we all understand these signals, these uniforms.”
About our Guest
Charlie Porter is a writer, fashion critic, art curator and lecturer in Fashion at the University of Westminster. He has contributed to titles such as Financial Times, Guardian, New York Times, GQ, Luncheon, i-D and Fantastic Man, and has been described as one of the most influential fashion journalists of his time. He was a juror for the Turner Prize in 2019, and lives in London.
Follow Charlie on Instagram.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at an undisclosed location on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Plaid photo of Charlie by Rob Porter; t-shirt one by me. It’s on my instagram.