Tara with her creations at OCNY Polaroid outtakes from our studio shoot. Tara's friend Sasha Owen-Longfellow models the dresses on-set. Above: sleeveless silk dress w/flowers sleeveless dress w/fringe detail short-sleeve printed dress one shoulder flower dress quarter length sleeve dress sleeveless dress w/floral embroidery silk cape w/lace detail sheer silk dress w/lace

Imitation of Christ, Part 1

BY Alice Newell-Hanson | Wed. December 31, 1969 | 7:00 PM | OC
In 2005 Tara Subkoff put her cult line, Imitation of Christ, on hiatus. Now, at Humberto's special request, she's picked up her scissors again. IOC began in the early 2000s when the actress-turned-designer began rereleasing Goodwill finds with her own hand-sewn detailing.

This season, the pieces stay true to the designer's original manifesto, combining discarded fabrics with hours of handwork. But, in Tara's own words, this time around she wanted to give us something "from the heart." The fabrics are more beautiful than ever—taken from antique kimonos, turn-of-the-century dresses, and eighteenth-century piano shawls.

In the first installment of a two-part interview, Tara talks about the project's early days in Los Angeles, taking over a subway station, and the line's second coming.

Shop all Imitation of Christ here.

Alice Newell-Hanson: So let’s start from the beginning. What was the first idea behind Imitation of Christ?

Tara Subkoff: I wanted to start a project that was about recycling. The concept was to take things from Salvation Army and Goodwill—the stuff that no one wanted—and to make each piece into a really coveted, one-of-a-kind item. And we really wanted to put the human hand back into them, so it was all hand-sewn.

AN-H: Was this in New York?
TS: We actually started in Los Angeles. I was living between LA and New York at the time, and I started with a partner, Matt Damhave, in 2000. It's evolved since then: Matt left after the first year, and I’ve made a denim line, a shoe line, and a ready-to-wear line.

AN-H: And who did you work with on this collection?
TS: It's been an incredible platform for different people—a lot of young people—coming in and out, and for them to learn about hand sewing, draping and working creatively.

AN-H: How is this collection different from the original phase of IOC?
TS: I’ve gone more into antiques and left the Good Will thing behind. My father is an antiques dealer and I have such a huge love for antique clothing and textiles.

AN-H: Where do you find stuff?
TS: I find stuff everywhere I am: flea markets in Los Angeles, in London, in upstate New York, Paris—I go all over the place, I really do. And I love going to Nebraska with my friend Sasha [our model]. I love finding things wherever I am and going on a search. I did a project in Brazil, at the Carlton Festival of the Arts, using pieces we found at the Salvation Army in São Paulo. It's so interesting; you really discover something about a place by looking at what it's getting rid of.

AN-H: What's the most exciting thing you've ever found?
TS: You guys have it! It’s an early eighteenth-century Japanese textile that was from a kimono. I think it’s like a painting; I would actually frame that and put it on my wall. But I really wanted to give you something that was from my heart.

AN-H: The collection feels so personal—why was this the right time to take up IOC again?
TS: Because Humberto asked me! I stopped doing this in around 2005 but I’ve always had it in my mind to restart it, so when Humberto asked me to do it for Opening Ceremony I was really excited. I wanted to make it only the most beautiful things, to have every piece be really special, so you could feel the handwork—almost like a piece of art or a collage, but on something you can wear.

AN-H: From the start IOC has always had a performance art element going on... 
TS: Oh yeah, we always did shows that were more like performance art. The first one felt kind of Dickensian, with a Post-Apocalyptic feeling. We held it in a Los Angeles subway station that had just been opened on Santa Monica Boulevard—ChloĆ« [Sevigny] was in that show actually. We did it totally guerrilla, with all of our friends coming down the escalators and then going back up. It looked very Blade Runner.

AN-H: And this season's collection was presented as a wedding?
TS: Yes, this one was a wedding. In the past we've done everything from a Sotheby’s auction, to a funeral, to a depressed circus at Chelsea Piers. And this one was an actual wedding—Lydia Hearst actually got married. I don’t know if they signed the marriage license but it was an actual religious ceremony with a priest; it was so beautiful.

AN-H: What are you planning on next?
TS: Because this was so romantic and so feminine, I’m very interested in denim right now, with kind of a rougher, almost 1940s, feeling. It’ll be very opposite; fun, but in a kind of louder way than this.

AN-H: What would you see going with that, in terms of a show?
TS: I can’t tell you. It’s always a secret, but you guys are definitely invited!

Shop all Imitation of Christ HERE.