They started moving into position around 1 p.m. on a chilly April day. The low clouds were threatening. The models were cranky. The walkie-talkies crackled. Several blocks away from their headquarters on Wooster Street, in New York’s SoHo, their spies — along with the most powerful people in style and pop culture — were exiting the Marc Jacobs show and heading their way. As the biggest names in fashion wandered toward Wooster, the X-Girl fashion guerrillas sprang into action.
To the strains of Bikini Kill on the beatbox, MTV’s House of Style cameras began rolling. The X-Girl show’s master of ceremonies, Donovan Leitch Jr., started barking through a megaphone from a windowsill, and the front line of photographers let loose their motor drives while unlikely models paraded down the impromptu runway. Victory! The fashion industry had been hijacked.
“We thought it was sort of appropriate just to do it in the street,” says Kim Gordon, the bassist for Sonic Youth and a co-designer of X-Girl clothes. “The show was meant to be playful. We don’t take ourselves seriously as designers.” Gordon, of course, was one of the architects for the day’s event.
If you hype it, they will come and they did. Linda Evangelista, Kyle MacLachlan and photographer Steven Meisel stopped to check out the action, as did Juliana Hatfield and artist William Wegman, with one of his Weimaraners in tow. A host of Gordon’s friends showed up as well: Beastie Boy Ad-Rock and his wife, lone Skye; Zoe Cassavetes and Francis Ford Coppola (His daughter, Sophia, summed it up like this: “You, too, can do a fashion show”).
No Naomi, no Cindy, no Vendela on the sidewalk runway, and none of the usual three and four-digit price tags. No stretch limos for the models — they were brought to the show in a U-Haul cargo truck with no seats. No elitist front-row seats where the front-row types get champagne (unless you count the champagne sprayed on them from the runway at the end of the show after the models had earlier given them the finger). The models, such as Pumpkin Wentzel, a member of the indie-label band Guv’ner, tended more toward alterna-types. And the clothes tended more toward the retrocasual: simple, straight dresses (“You can be Jackie O — like ’62 — or if you wear it tighter, it could be like Charlie’s Angels,” says co-designer Daisy von Furth) as well as ringer shirts “like the T-shirts you wore to gym class in seventh grade,” says Von Furth. Everything in X-Girl’s line is cheap: $60 and under.
Offstage, Gordon is a surprisingly subdued version of a riot grrrl, wearing a floralprint maternity dress and tennis shoes, sipping iced coffee. Maybe it’s because her baby is due in about two weeks (Gordon is married to Sonic Youth guitarist and vocalist Thurston Moore). Much of her conversation is about childbirth and its repercussions. (“Are my breasts going to get really big?” she asks anyone who will listen.)
Gordon and Von Furth met a couple of years ago. Both women had developed an eye for style by haunting thrift stores. Each has a detailed story about how they were both wearing flared cords from second-hand-clothing stores five years ago. And now, they sigh, everybody’s wearing them. “I’d go to thrift stores a lot when Sonic Youth were on tour, but now I’m kind of burned out on that,” Gordon says. “Now everyone shops in thrift stores….It’s harder and harder to find new challenges and stuff, so I was happy to start doing our own clothes.”
X-Girl was born last year when Gordon and Von Furth’s friends at Los Angeles’ X-Large store — including Beastie Boy Mike D, who’s part owner — decided they could use a women’s line. “They thought Daisy and I would be a good bet because we’re constantly shopping and talking about shopping,” says Gordon. Are her band mates in Sonic Youth interested in fashion? “No,” she says. “Not at all. They’re just boys. They’re not into fashion at all.”
With X-Girl’s first season under its belt — and Gordon getting set for a Sonic Youth tour after having released Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star earlier this year (and having given birth to Coco Hayley Gordon Moore on July 1) — X-Girl is now looking for a store and an office. “One of the things that will be cool when we have our own store is that we can have an office and, like, do it up right,” says Von Furth, who, in her apartment, keeps track of the company’s daily paperwork. “I just got a binder,” Von Furth says with pride in her voice.
Although there’s already an X-Girl annex to the X-Large store in L.A., Gordon and Von Furth are still looking for a location in New York. “We’re thinking about making an X-Girl mobile home that goes around the city,” says Gordon. “We could park places like Prince Street, in SoHo, where the rent is too unaffordable. I like that idea a lot.”