“At least sixteen or seventeen years ago, I was on the bus and I heard ‘Natalie, come sit here’. There was nobody I knew on the bus and it turned out to be Grayson,” explains the auction’s catalogue. Natalie Gibson founded the fashion print course at CSM in 1981 and co-instigated the project. Perry was “looking like your old auntie in a sudden skirt and a cardigan,” Gibson explains, “apparently, I said to him, I think my students could do better than that’.” The pair dreamt up the project and every year since fashion students have taken up the challenge.
Each student is given money to cover material costs, and if Perry is impressed by their work he takes it home and pays. This project serves to support the arts economy with all proceeds going back into Central Saint Martin’s Fashion department. The culmination of the project is “like a Cabaret,” according to Gibson. The ceremony, accompanied by music, comprises Perry trying on every outfit. “He does a dance. He brings shoes to match everything,” explains Gibson. “In the year Brexit came out, he bought everything.” Perry creates a ceramic prize each year for first, second and third prize winners.
The entire auction has been a student-led project, with the Fashion Communication cohort heading up the project from the styling and photographing of the garments to the listing and research. Cailee Moy, a Fashion History and Theory student who styled the project, explained a little about the project’s structure. “The turnaround was extremely quick with everything coming together in under 3 weeks,” explains Moy, “the photo shoot took 3 days, with 7 models and a team of 5 students.” The visual identity of the shoot including its set design and colour palette was heavily influenced by the life and work of Perry.
The garments are presented on faceless models, something Moy stressed was central to the project, “the pieces were originally designed solely for Grayson, so we wanted to respect that. The primary-coloured tights tied around the models’ heads in strange ways felt like a humorous approach and turned out great on camera,” explains Cailee.
Designers whose work is up for grabs include Mimi Wade and Maia Bergman. The various ensembles are composed of sometimes subtle, but often obvious references to Perry, including Bergman, who designed a satin dress depicting Alan Measles, Grayson’s childhood teddy bear and a recurring character in the artist’s work. The dress contains “a light makeup stain from one of Claire’s iconic looks.” Also on auction is Koko Kasugai’s colourful Peter-pan collared dress worn by Perry at the Royal Academy of Art summer exhibition party in 2009, on which “some staining is present on the inside of the neck.” The idea here is that the buyer is not simply purchasing a garment but a piece of sartorial, even art history, due to its prior embodiment by Perry.
We’ve taken a look at eight of the unique garments with the help of the students of the Fashion Communication course at Central Saint Martins, who have researched each of the thirty-nine ensembles up for sale.
The auction is open until this Monday the 20th of February.