In a time when everyone with an Instagram account is an influencer, how do you calculate true influence? You can count likes or engagement, test the tensile strength of celebrity friendships and collaborations, or tally up the net profits across Qs 1 through 4, but that will get you no more than results. An Excel spreadsheet, in the aesthetic economy, is sort of irrelevant. To understand the true workings of influence you need to explore the immaterial and malleable world of vibes—the socio-emotional component of the aesthetic world.

All this to say: Few are more successful at vibing and influencing than David Casavant, the 28-year-old archivist and collector. While still a teenager living between Signal Mountain, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia, Casavant began collecting vintage Raf Simons, Helmut Lang, and Hedi Slimane pieces he scored on eBay or through other online sales. “I felt like a lone menswear fan. I used to be really good at finding things on eBay and good deals when online shopping first started for designer clothes,” he says. “It’s insane to me because when I was that age, I thought, These pieces are amazing, but there was just no one else around to talk about it with. Even when I was in college, Raf wasn’t that big of a deal. We got to work backstage at a Raf show once. I was dying and other students that went with me were just like, ‘Whatever.’ ”

After studying at Central Saint Martins, Casavant moved himself and his clothing to New York and began assisting Carine Roitfeld, slowly loaning some of his personal collection to stylist friends for shoots. “My friends who were assistants or stylists would ask to borrow something last-minute because they knew I’d have it. So from there I thought maybe I could figure out a way to pay for this and make it make financial sense.” Loans to brands for ad jobs came next and then, like magic, Casavant and Kanye West linked up around the time Yeezy was launching. One thing led to another: West began wearing vintage Helmut Lang from Casavant’s archive, then Kim Kardashian West did, then Rihanna did, then Paul McCartney did, then Pharrell did, then Travis Scott did . . . the list of celebrity patrons goes on and on and on.

A little bit of Casavant’s success is down to timing. The designers central to his taste—Simons, Slimane, and Lang, were news-makers in 2015, 2016, and 2017 for hirings, firings, and enormous archive sales, which increased attention to their archival work at the same moment that Casavant was formalizing his collection. Simultaneously, a secondary market on Grailed was emerging, as was a growing ecosystem of menswear conversations on social media and forums.

By participating in the rental market, Casavant was partially responsible for the revival of the late-’90s/early-aughts streetwear look: the art-influenced graphic tee, the collaged jacket, the anointing of Raf Simons as the GOAT and of Helmut Lang as God. Casavant’s was the invisible hand, slowing pushing the narrative behind the scenes.

Of course to Casavant, who, may the record show, is totally and all-encompassingly delightful, this was all sort of unintentional. As he would tell it, he’s just trying to make what he loves into something viable for more people, to boost the community around his aesthetic.

Then this happened: On October 4, a Fall 2001 Raf Simons jacket from the “Riot Riot Riot” collection sold on Grailed for $47,000. “Sell all your Bitcoin and put it in Raf!” proclaimed Lawrence Schlossman, the brand director of Grailed, to E! What makes Casavant unique in this new market, is that he’s not doing it for dollars, he’s doing it for love. He has several of these bomber jackets in his archive. He says he purchased the one he wears in the photo here for “less than a couple grand before 2010.” The total sum of his archive, housed in his former apartment in Frank Gehry’s swerve-y downtown building, has been estimated at $20 million. Rather than create his own Scull auction, vaulting the prices and reputations of once-unsung designers to the stratosphere, Casavant has no plans to sell.

Well, not for now, at least. “I would hope if I did ever sell it, it could like be sold in a context where it could still sort of, you know, be in a museum or used in the same kind of way or have the same power.”

That said, he still wants to expand and evolve. This month he released his debut book, David Casavant Archive. It’s not a catalogue of his best hits—“I don’t want to waste my time doing that. That’s not why I do this. I don’t do this to display the clothes in a super specific manner, I do this because I think the point of clothes is to be worn and used”—but rather a personal journey. He will also debut a clothing collection called Archive Club that in its initial launch features backpacks, watches, and, of course, bomber jackets.

Read edited excerpts from our hour-long conversation, below. You’ll want to listen to what Casavant says—his is a true influence.

How do you describe what you do?

Well, I could describe the archive and I could describe me, and I think that would kind of be two different things. I think the archive is like a business, a business I faked. [laughs] The archive took on a life in and of itself faster than maybe I did because I was working as a stylist. It kind of went way ahead of me.

Why did you want to make a book?

The book is maybe a good way for me to catch up to that and say: “Actually this is my vision and what I’m about.” I always say that the archive is differentiated from other vintage places because it’s all executed under my vision and my taste. I didn’t create it as a business—most vendors are created as a business where they think, People want this product so they get more of it. Because I don’t sell my archive it is more of a passion project in a way. It’s all my aesthetic and my vision, and so the book was a really good way to execute how I see it. That includes celebrities. When I loan to a celebrity and they wear it, I still see that as under my vision in a way—I like to have these satellite visions all over the place by loaning the clothes out.

How did you decide on the collaborators for the book: Jacolby Satterwhite, Wu Tsang and Boychild, DeSe Escobar, Xavier Cha, Joyce Ng?

I just started with friends I had who were in art, like Jacolby [Satterwhite]. I’ve worked with him on his work for like three years, so that was like a good starting place. Then I just started asking people that inspired me who I knew would just be down for the fun of it. I also wonder why the fashion world isn’t utilizing people like these, so I wanted the book to be a platform for [unsung talent] as well. I didn’t want it to just be like me pretending to be some museum curator who picks, you know, whoever the perfect artists are. It was also people that I thought would interpret this project [in a] really cool [way] and not, you know, be divas. [laughs]

You’re known for the celebrities you’ve dressed, but there are not many in the book.

I love the celebrity aspect of what I do because I did it at a time when you’re not supposed to do that. You know, I’m pretty sure Raf and stuff wasn’t loaning to the type of celebrity I was dressing. Now I feel like they would all kill to dress these people. But what I started doing, it wasn’t a thing. I do it because I think they’re cool, I view them as performance artists. I view Kim as like a Renaissance-painting model of our time. I view it differently [than some brands], but I think it’s because I’m young, grew up on the Internet. In the book and in my view there’s no reason a cool celebrity can’t be next to a piece of fine art next to a fashion editorial because that’s what you look at on Tumblr.

David Casavant Archive book

What has it been like to see your aesthetic become the predominant one in menswear?

I know I’ve been into this aesthetic and building it for a long time, so it is weird to see it take off. It’s also confusing because it’s not like I’m a designer and I made these clothes. I don’t know how you calculate exactly what [my role] is. But for me it’s more about that growing up I didn’t see companies or designers or celebrities or people paying attention to what I was into, which was fashion, and specifically these clothes. So instead of saying, “Oh well, there is no market for it.” I just thought, Well, I’ll try to help create the market for it.

I don’t think I necessarily created all the value, but I didn’t just get these clothes and sit back and do nothing either. I got them. I had this vision. I remember like my accountant told me when I was younger, when I was spending all of my money on clothes, he said, “Clothes do not go up in value. They lower in value.” I was like, “Well, not these! I’ll show you.” I thought if the clothes got used a bunch in cool things that will just make people want them, but because it’s a loan, I will still own them. That will make it more valuable. It sounds very like calculated business, but really it’s because I love the clothes and I don’t want to get rid of them. If I sold them all for a bunch of money tomorrow, probably at this point I’d try to like buy a house or something, but then after that I’d just want to buy more clothes because it’s what I enjoy.

Do you ever get feedback from the brands or the designers whose clothing you’ve collected?

What do you mean by feedback?

Anything from a note just to say hi to a thank you for putting Rihanna in their clothing. Do you have any sense what they think of your work?

I have no idea, to be honest. I don’t know what they think. I don’t know. I mean, this is what I would hope they think, and this is what my intent is. Raf, Helmut, Hedi—all the designers I collect, I’m sure it’s a bit weird to have me hijacking their PR by putting it on people who are so publicized and maybe not the way they want it to look or something like that. But that means that what they did is successful because their legacy is not creating, you know, some jacket that sits in a museum perfectly preserved for a million years. Legacy is about all the lives you touch by doing an inspiring thing, by doing what you do. I was really inspired by what they made and because they made such things that inspire me, it made me want to do something to like this, to show these pieces the world, in a light that I see them in.

What do you want to be doing in five years?

I’m really into the idea of working with other brands. I would love to make Walmart the most amazing place for young people to get clothes because I already got tons of stuff there that I wear all the time. I just know how to pick the right pieces and use them as a base for what I wear. Why does Walmart not have like this really cool section that’s like the perfect go-to hoodie and stuff like that that? Kids that live everywhere could shop there, get that whole look and it looks really cool and nice and costs not that much and it also isn’t this awful sort of fast-fashion thing where it’s like ripping off designers every five minutes and producing more clothes each month to throw away. That cycle can be slowed down if you just create the right sort of base items, which I think places like Walmart or The Gap are already good at, but could be better.

I guess it’s a little more business-minded, but to me I also see it as like trying to start from scratch and create a clean slate for the future going forward. The way it’s going to become is that people will buy a cool, old piece on online or on eBay to wear with something from Walmart to wear with a really cool, trendy, like sneaker. I think people aren’t going to be disposable with their clothes.



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