Portrait of Shana Nys Dambrot by Austin Young and Victor Wilde
Posted on 24 July 2014
Portrait of Shana Nys Dambrot by Austin Young and Victor Wilde.
“Victor! What the hell happened to the dress?!”
That was me, when I first saw this picture in its augmented state. The photographer Austin Young had been wanting me to sit for one of his studio portraits, and I had been putting him off for months, maybe more than a year. I was terrified for various reasons having to do with body image and self-consciousness and all that lady stuff that even proud, independent, powerful feminists go through. But eventually I realized I wanted to do it, and of course, I had to wear Bohemian Society. I am the Story Editor here after all and if nothing else, this was a story. But this is not a story about my existential crisis. It’s a story about the dress. Although it’s not really about the dress either. When the image was ready, Austin thought it needed more action, “like if an artist were to draw on it.” At the time, he didn’t even realize Victor had gone to art school, and had a whole thing as a visual artist that very much informed the fashion work. So it was pretty psychic, and we delivered a print to the Bohemian Society HQ for treatment. “I was thinking about what I wanted,” Victor recalls. “I picked up a Sharpie for that Haring, street art, simplicity and feel. I write and draw directly on my clothes a lot, I wanted to work on it like that. And I was thinking about you, and Minerva just sort of came to me. Look her up you’ll see why.* I just started. I had no plan; it’s just what I saw and that’s what happened to the paper.” *Minerva, it turns out, is the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. She was the virgin goddess (Why are they always virgins? I call bullshit.) of music, poetry, medicine, commerce, weaving, crafts, defense, and magic. I can relate to that; and in a way, that kind of empowerment is what the clothes are about. They are unconventional, sexy, smart, hand-wrought and kind of magical or alchemical or something. But then, you know, you can’t see the dress in the picture anymore, which did not seem at all strategic! So there we were and I’m thinking, “Victor! What the hell happened to the dress?!” It turns out, for this particular designer it’s not about the dress. It’s about what it means to wear the dress. Acknowledging that you can’t be naked all the time, the clothes are there to help you be yourself in the world; an occasion for self-discovery and pagan graffiti. The clothes are both the products and the sites of many kinds of transformations. As physical garments, the clothes are literally made by destroying and reconstituting other clothes. As works of art, the clothes have the power to change how the wearer sees themselves and the world. As storytellers, the clothes accumulate and communicate history in ways that it turns out can surprise even their own maker. -S. N. D.
Hair and makeup by Taryn Nicole Piana. Iconic Luna Parachute Dress by Bohemian Society.