I don’t actually know a single thing about John Malkovich. In my head he will always be the strange bald man who talked funny that I discovered way too young, thanks to my father’s belief that eight was old enough to watch the surrealist extravaganza that is Being John Malkovich. He was, back then, filed away into the part of my brain where I stored the things too weird for me to wrap my head around; the same category in which Michael Jackson, David Bowie, and the general concept of taxes lived. In the time since he has not ceased to be more of a mythical creature than a human, like a unicorn that also helped found Steppenwolf. Part of me wants to imagine him living in some sort of converted space station turned fairytale tower, where swing music plays on a constant terrifying loop and he makes all his guests speak in verse. One time when I was twelve I had a dream that he appeared in the background of, eating an infinite amount of hard-boiled eggs. Out of the corner of my eye I began to realize that the eggs were in fact tiny versions of his head. I woke up screaming.
This monologue has been brought to you by the fact that I, whilst listening to my all-Ke$ha spotify playlist for the millionth time, discovered that he has a fashion line.
You guys, John Malkovich has a fashion line.
This in of itself isn’t too remarkable; plenty of celebrities have made the leap from their field of choice to fashion. According to the about section of his site, it’s been a passion of his for a long time. He has a background in costume design and has been featured as a model in an astounding amount of fashion campaigns. Starting a menswear line isn’t nearly as weird as, say, creating a movie that no one can watch for a hundred years. It’s definitely not as weird as literally any other movie Charlie Kaufman’s ever made. No, the only thing that genuinely surprised me after that initial shock is how much I freaking love it.
I have Feelings about menswear, which is a simpler way of saying that it often throws me into bouts of melancholy and rage. Besides my obvious feelings of the inherent genderless nature of clothes- gender might be a social construct but fashion is the most constructed of social constructs- most menswear is just so boring. Yeah, value is supposed to be found in the quality of suits rather than the design and there is something to be said for a refusal to bow to trends. But for someone like me, who wants more fun in fashion than utilitarianism, it makes my soul hurt. Suits? Super attractive- and haven’t changed much in more than sixty years. The sharp gray suit that anyone who needs to make me swoon might wear? Might look a little strange in the thirties or forties, but after that any potential time traveler can blend in pretty well. There’s a certain refusal to experiment much in suits and the rest of menswear. Just think of award shows, where women look like bejeweled doves in their dresses and the most adventurous man wears… purple.
As someone who sees fashion as just another kind of costume design, John Malkovich’s line is kind of like a beam of light that also hits a prism and turns into a rainbow. They’re clothes for the Wes Anderson protagonist you wish you were, His collections- of which there are two, Fall/Winter of 2016/17 and Spring/Summer of 2017- are takes on old classics that provide enough levity to keep you from going cross-eyed. I’ll be discussing the latter and more recent collection, because despite the fact that it snowed in Chicago a couple days ago it is technically Spring. Hallelujah.
The shirts are richly patterned; my favorite design being the Mr. Mudd print, though I also have a soft spot for a pattern I can only describe as a seventies kaleidoscope explosion. The lookbook feels like stills from a movie that I’d love to see if only for the costumes, all rich colors and bermuda shorts. I’m strangely fond of the bermuda shorts, actually, in all their blue and white preppy glory. This more than anything else makes me want to throw my head back and curse the menswear gods; see what you made me do? I liked bermuda shorts of all things!. This was the final straw. I demand that menswear as a whole follow John Malkovich’s example and get more creative. And fast.
I’m of the opinion that the most important thing a designer needs is a way of looking at the world of their very own, that almost indescribable way of doing things that marks someone’s work as unique. No one is ever going to design like Alexander McQueen, for instance, and no one should try. It’s the equivalent of an author’s voice in their work and equally important. John Malkovich has already developed that voice and I’m genuinely excited to see how it develops. In a world that can be cruel and petty and worst of all mundane, we need more things that exist without hesitation. The impression, more than anything, that one gets from his line is that these are clothes to be worn by someone who lives without doubting themselves. I’m sure they would also be effective for those who want to learn.
Price Range: Very high. This is most definitely an investment, or for like a cool lawyer who spends that much on clothes anyways. Or you could be me and just download the lookbooks and cry over the state of things.
Available: Only, as far as I know, on the site itself. The brand does not yet have plans to do runway shows, so your best bet is just to keep your eye on the site at the start of new seasons.
Vibe: A Wes Anderson movie about a poet who, faced with crippling existential dread, runs away to Venice to fall in love with a gondolier. It ends in a massive musical number where he sings his true feelings for the gondolier in the form of a series of haikus. John Malkovich is in the background eating hard-boiled eggs.