Never pay retail for WILD designer jawns—the Rachel Tashjian way

The GQ staff writer is a heat-seeking missile when it comes to these yard sales, thrift stores & Etsy pages

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Rachel Tashjian: she’s either yr favorite fashion writer or yr favorite fashion writer’s favorite fashion writer (UNLESS YR FAVORITE FASHION WRITER’S TASTE IN THE WORK OF THEIR COLLEAGUES IS TRASH, IN WHICH CASE, GET A NEW FAVE!!)

At GQ, where she’s a staff writer, Rachel routinely gets off these EXQUISITE PROSE-CLUSTERS about, e.g., ppl copping Bearbricks on The Real Real, what pop stars rocked at the Covid VMAs, what Melania Trump rocked at the Covid RNC — and what it all means. (Links below.) She also musters these AERODYNAMIC VERBAL SHURIKENS as a co-host GQ’s “Corporate Lunch” podcast...

If u read her stuff and follow her on IG u know that Rachel’s interest in clothes is idiosyncratic & far-ranging, but she has a special soft spot for under-the-radar joints — so we asked her to choose a rare & cherished personal possession to tell us about … She sent us pics of a DOPE / LUNATIC suede bomber, above right and below, from Hood By Air, the NYC creative collective whose clothes a visionary writer at the New York Times Magazine once called “beguilingly weird” in a piece that should have been at least 5x as long. Hood By Air went defunct for a minute but recently announced a relaunch, so we were that much more excited to CHOP IT UP with Rachel about them…

Blackbird Spyplane: This jacket is cool & deeply strange. Why’s it meaningful to you?

Rachel Tashjian: “So I was extremely aware of this jacket from the moment it went down the runway — it was Hood By Air’s Fall 2014 collection, which is when a ton of people started to hear about them. Fashion people were already following them closely, and streetwear people were, and people who like cool music were, but this was the collection where it felt like they really blew up.

“I was excited because I grew up idolizing New York fashion in the ‘90s and early 2000s, where it felt like you had these tribes — people who only wore Rick Owens, or only wore Helmut Lang. That was so cool to me, but by the time I moved here, things in New York fashion had become more homogenized and Gossip Girl-ish — a lot of socialites designing cocktail dresses. So when I first heard about Hood By Air I got super jazzed, because it seemed like this harkening-back.”

Shayne Oliver, second from the right, with Hood By Air, photographed in 2014 by Jason Nocito

Blackbird Spyplane: And their s**t was not homogenous !! The garment burned into my brain from this collection was the blue-jeans version of this jacket, structured the same way around zippers and corset-lacing

Rachel: “Their clothes looked totally insane. I remember one show where they showed the same look like 6 times in a row — this little shrunken black jacket and jeans.

“So when I saw this particular jacket, it was major. It looked like something a super-rich woman in the ‘80s would wear but, like, the most-advanced rich woman, like the type who’d let Basquiat sleep on her couch.”

Blackbird Spyplane: So u copped it??

Rachel: “Well, the most amazing thing happened, which is Chloe Sevigny and Haley Wollens used to have a yard sale every few years they have storage units in, like, suburban Connecticut filled with all the incredible stuff they’ve gotten over the years. And in 2016 they did one of these sales in Alphabet City and I went to it and this jacket was at the sale. I think it was Haley’s — she styled a lot of HBA shows so maybe they gave it to her. My jaw was on the floor, I said, ‘I don’t care how much money this is, I’m gonna buy it.’ And it was only $150. I still have the little price tag they put on it — one of their friends who ran the sale made all these cute price tags. As I was paying for it, the woman was like, Is this a joke? Why is this only $150?”

Left, Wollens-Sevigny next-level fit-legend IG documentation; right, a highly popping unreleased Wollens t-shirt design

Blackbird Spyplane: Shayne Oliver had no formal design training — when I interviewed him he told me that HBA used to bring bags of thrift store finds to seamstresses and tried to communicate ideas by pointing at details they liked — how do you see that “outsider mindset” manifesting in this jacket?

Rachel: “I’m looking through pictures of the show now and the jeans you mentioned that have the zippers in all these impossible places. That’s a big part of it: using these things that are not typically decorative as the decoration and letting them make the piece of clothing fit the way it fits & sit on your body the way it does. This is overused but it’s ‘Margielaesque’ — it reminds me of this waistcoat Margiela made out of lambskin gloves, taking something that isn’t meant to be where it is and turning it into the most extra version of that thing. That’s such a wonderful impulse.

“Another defining part of what HBA did is this mix where it’s an extremely intimidating silhouette in a lot of ways, but also luxurious. The cuffs and shoulder are soft and even though HBA is pretty aggressive and confrontational in many ways, this jacket actually slowly unzips itself as you’re wearing it, so it kind of slides off you in this sensuous way. HBA was and is so much about emotion and movement — at the end of the show they’d have vogue dancers come out, because ballroom culture is such a big part of what Shayne did, and this epitomized that: it was about the clothing changing as it was worn.”

A$AP Rocky in HBA back in the day; ballroom dancers closing out the FW14 show

Blackbird Spyplane: At the time, HBA’s stuff looked super over-the-top to me but then so many other designers absorbed their ideas and helped make them feel, if not more normal, more mainstream …

Rachel: “It definitely looks like something Riccardo Tisci slapped on the moodboard the next season for Givenchy. You can see how other designers like Tisci and Virgil Abloh responded to what HBA were doing. Definitely Demna at Vetements — that big beefy silhouette and attitude for sure.”

Blackbird Spyplane: Beyond this jacket, are u a big rare-joints accumulator / thrift-store digger / eBay trawler?

Rachel: “I’m a major thrift-store digger. I do buy some new clothes once in a while, mostly by Marine Serre and Chopova Lowena, where there isn’t much of it on the secondhand market yet. But in the before times I’d go to Housing Works like every other weekend. And I use Etsy a lot.”

Left, Willi Smith circa 1981, photographed by Kim Steele; right, a work jacket he made to commemorate Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 1985 Pont Neuf wrap-piece

Blackbird Spyplane: What r u checking for these days ?

Rachel: “Lately I’ve been looking for things that look like ‘80s Yves Saint Laurent — things that are puffy and sort of stodgy and a little romantic. I’m looking for the perfect black leather fisherman sandal — there’s actually a perfect version by the Row but they’re $990. The other thing I’m really into right now is quilted jackets, especially if they have a frog closure down the front with a little Nehru collar. Anything Yohji, I’m always looking for that. The other thing I want is, Willi Smith did some merch for Christo and Jeanne-Claude, so I’m looking for one of those pieces — but they’re really hard to find.

“Oh and I really want a pair of earrings that look like lobsters. The ones you tend to find are abstract interpretations, whereas what I want are actual red lobsters, maybe with some crystal eyes.”

-Rachel’s on Instagram and Twitter
-Her GQ columns are here
-The Corporate Lunch podcast is on Apple here

-We put a bunch of SICK vintage Christo & Jeanne-Claude tees in the Blackbird SpyMall
-You can ask questions about under-the-radar joints yr trying to track down — and give yr own fire tips to fellow BBSP readers at our new “Classified SpyTalk” chat room.

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