interview by amy kellner
If you are a young female person in New York in 1994 and you are not wearing X-Girl, you are not cool. Does that hurt your feelings? Sorry, but it’s just a fact, and facts can hurt.
So if you are living in a fashionless cave of some sort and you don’t know what I’m talking about, X-Girl is the sister clothing line to the Beastie Boys’ X-Large streetwear brand. It’s designed by Daisy von Furth and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. Together they have created the teeniest t-shirts you could ever hope to squeeze yourself into. In just one year, they’ve opened stores in New York and LA and become the official uniform of hip chicks from Ludlow to Lafayette Street. That’s a lot of blocks!
Stills from the upcoming as-yet-untitled X-Girl movie
I sat down for a talk with Daisy von Furth at Buffa’s, a diner on Prince and Lafayette that she tells me is a really cool hangout. I believe her.
Vice: Tell me how X-Girl came to be.
Daisy von Furth: I was working at the X-Large store on Lafayette Street. Kim knew the Beastie Boys and stuff so she put in a good word for me. Eric Bonerz runs the New York store and he was like, “What we’re really missing is a girls’ line—why don’t you and Kim design a line for girls like the Beastie Boys did for X-Large?”
Did you have previous fashion experience?
Yeah, I was doing some styling for rock bands, like I helped out Sonic Youth for a lot of their photo shoots, and I styled some music videos. And before that I had interned in the fashion department at Sassy magazine and at Mirabella. I styled a fashion shoot that Spike Jonze shot for Dirt, Sassy’s magazine for boys. The model was this cute kid named Marc Ronson and it was about the lost generation of 1978, people who graduated in 1978. Like alligator shirts and puffy down jackets and Rod Lavers. Like preppy but disheveled.
Which music videos did you style?
So far I’ve done “Cannonball” by the Breeders, “Big Gay Heart” by the Lemonheads, and “Sugar Kane” by Sonic Youth, although that was mostly Marc Jacobs clothes since it took place at one of his fashion shows, his grunge collection from last year.
I heard that when you were at Sassy two years ago, in 1992, everyone thought you had the craziest style.
I was really into the 70s then. No one had really done the 70s yet. Me and my boyfriend, Rob, used to do things like pull an all-nighter to drive to this thrift store in Cincinatti called Trivets, and we’d sleep in the parking lot and come back with, like, Stars and Stripes bell-bottoms that smelled like cat piss. But then it became all about boot-cut cords. Finding dead-stock cords in army/navy stores in Williamsburg or Danbury, Connecticut. And that’s kind of what we do for X-Girl. Some of the first pieces that we made are copies of dead-stock stuff, like a football t-shirt or, like, Chloë Sevigny had a Fila sweater and we would just copy it and make the cuts better.
How do you know Chloë? She’s everywhere now, it seems.
When Sonic Youth was doing the “Sugar Kane” video, they were looking for a girl to star in it, and I asked Andrea Linett, the fashion editor of Sassy, if she knew anyone who’d be good for it, and she said, “Oh you have to use this girl, Chloë.” So I met her then.
Did you see the article that gushing Jay McInerney just wrote about her in the New Yorker? He says she’s the new It Girl.
Well, she’s been the underground It Girl for a while now. You know, she had a shaved head, and then her hair was pink, and she’s really involved with Liquid Sky, which is, you know, the raver store across the street from X-Large. But in the last six months, she’s blown up more in public. Now she’s going to be starring in a new movie that Larry Clark is doing with this kid Harmony Korine, who is kind of Chloë’s boyfriend.
Chloë is your fit model, right?
Yeah, she helps us out a lot. We try stuff on her, and she was in our X-Girl guerrilla fashion show and our catalog. We’re making an X-Girl film right now that she’s starring in with this great Hungarian artist named Rita Ackermann and Pumpkin Wentzel from the band Guv’ner.
What’s the film about?
Our friend Phil Morrison wrote it and is directing it. We’re really into Godard now and the whole UN thing, like things being sort of retro UN, so we gave him that as a starting point and he just took off from there. It’s about bringing things that aren’t really talked about in fashion into street fashion and trying to make it really random. We brought a hidden camera into a Marc Jacobs show to film some scenes for the movie and we’re filming some scenes outside Gitane, a café in Nolita that we all hang out at a lot.
Chloë Sevigny, Daisy von Furth, Pumpkin Wentzel, and Rita Ackermann on the set of the X-Girl movie
Mike Mills designed the X-Girl logo and your store and some of your shirts and posters. Where did he come from?
We met Mike through the X-Large guys. He totally gets our whole idea about the UN and heraldry. We want to bring non-punk, non-indie-rock things into our clothes, subverting street fashion by making it really kind of conservative. I brought him Tennis Magazine to work with and he designed the X-Girl logo based on that. That was his interpretation of it.
Is there a scene of contemporary designers in New York that you feel like you’re a part of?
Well, we’re competitive with Label, this brand that makes floor-length dresses out of Adidas suits. Their store is across the street from us on Lafayette Street. We copy a lot of agnès b. clothes, in fact our first t-shirt had “x-girl” written on it in the same script as the agnès b. logo. And we’ve definitely “borrowed” a few things from APC. There’s a girl’s line called Poot who also do skate stuff. They still do the ringer tees, but for our next season we’re really trying to move away from that and more toward Godard-influenced, three-quarter-sleeve beatnik dresses and corduroy A-line dresses.
Are there any trends that you hate and are trying to counteract with your designs?
Well, everything these days is Lycra, which is so unforgiving. So we want to bring some structure back to dresses. We hate white t-shirts underneath sundresses. The whole “kinderwhore” thing—hate. We’re also sick of vintage. We want to make vintage-style clothes but with bright colors. We’re influenced by tennis clothes—tennis hats and Fred Perry shorts, Izod shirts with the long tail. Everything is neat and clean and mod and preppy. It’s very radical for the indie-rock scene to be wearing preppy clothes right now, although hip-hop has been doing it for a while. I recently styled a Sonic Youth shoot with Corinne Day, and she thought all the bright, preppy stuff was really queer. She’s still doing the washed-out-waif thing, which was another thing we’re reacting to.
What about grunge fashion? You guys have basically killed that.
Oh yeah, we are definitely reacting to grunge. Doc Martens, to me, that’s hideous Canal Jean Co. stuff. We’re sick of flannel and skinny black jeans and that whole East Village rocker look. Or, like, cut-off Dickies with a bikini top. I actually did a thing for Spin a few years ago that was “What to wear to Lollapalooza!” and it was exactly that: Dickies with a bikini top. Very skater girl circa ’90, ’91.
What is the ideal look for girls in ’94?
Bright miniskirts with a ringer tee and Rod Lavers. Maybe a puffy down jacket over it. Mod dresses that are cut close to the body but are not stretch. Daryl K vinyl pants are really big now. They’re cut really low, like hip-hugger style, which is something you don’t see at all these days. We do that too. Our waistbands are really wide because it’s all about hip-hugging skirts and pants.
And teeny-tiny t-shirts, right?
Yeah, well, t-shirts are usually so big and boxy and oversize, so we wanted to make tight t-shirts that fit right into the hip-huggers. People are calling them baby tees now because they’re so small. We actually get calls from angry moms from New Jersey, leaving threatening messages on our answering machine. Like, “My daughter came home with these ‘X-Girl’ clothes, and what does that name mean? Why is this shirt so small, and why does this skirt barely cover her ass?” The truth is just that the clothes are small because Kim and I are small.
What kind of stuff are you planning for ’95?
We’re calling it “international beatnik style.” It’s influenced by Godard’s Contempt, the UN, t-shirt graphics from art fairs in 1976, very jet-setter and very French. Stretch hip-hugging blue jeans in a moderate boot-cut, dresses that skim the body but aren’t tight, and hipster A-line just-above-the-knee-length skirts. No more Lycra minis!