It's no secret that Walter Pearce, cofounder of Midland Agency, is one of the most talked-about casting agents in New York right now. Anything attached to Midland is sure to buck convention or outdated standards, especially when it comes to models. So to see him walk down the runway, as a model, this season for Vaquera —large bow on his head—was affirming. It signified a partnership between Midland and the label, two fashion outliers who focus on the unusual or underrepresented, which will likely last as long as either is in business.
Vaquera's Fall 2018 line brought new form to things often overlooked like New York postcards and casino tables. It also, as it always does, took and remade new and iconic images. After popular Instagrammer Diet Prada "exposed" the design collective for taking inspiration from brands like Chanel, rather than buckle, Vaquera doubled down. It's long been part of their mission statement to repurpose old ideas from historic labels, and they have never claimed to do anything else. This season, was all about ecclesiastical icons—a virgin bride, a nun, a devil — which is sure to ruffle some conservative feathers.
Vaquera is known for its anti-establishment sentiment. So it was a shock when they took a famed piece of punk iconography and sent it down the runway this season, putting a sure-to-be high-fashion price tag on counterculture. Anyone familiar with punk music will recognize the "S" faux-spraypainted on a shirt and a tie hanging over as a reference to the best-known photo of the Dead Kennedys. The story behind that photo goes:
On March 25, 1980, the Dead Kennedys were slated to perform their hit "California Über Alles" at the Bay Area Music Awards. 15 minutes into the live televized performance, though, lead singer Jello Biafra yelled "Hold it! We've gotta prove that we're adults now. We're not a punk rock band, we're a new wave band." Each member of the band had come out to perform with a spraypainted "S" on their shirts, and the intent was made clear when they pulled ties from around their backs to make the same dollar sign depicted in Vaquera's show. That night, the Dead Kennedys performed "Pull My Strings," a song lampooning corporatism in arts, for the first and only time.
It seems odd to bring that onto a New York Fashion Week runway, invoking a feeling akin to those photos of Guy Fawkes masks being mass-produced in Chinese factories. What price point will that Vaquera shirt sell at? Who will be able to afford this anti-capitalist statement? Or is that the point? Wouldn't it be great to see that shirt selling in a luxury department store? No one the wiser of its history.
See the full show below, courtesy of Corine & Lecca.
L'Officiel USA has reached out to Jello Biafra for comment, but received no response by publishing time.