Part art installation, part fire sale, Bjarne Melgaard threw the ultimate fashion swap meet to drum up press for his soon-to-be-launched retail concept.
It was called “The Purge,” and rightly so.
On Valentines Day, as couples exchanged gifts and headed off to romantic dinners, the fashion-obsessed lined up on a busy New York City block, during New York Fashion Week, hoping to get a chance to shove a bunch of clothes into a trash bag.
The Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard dangled the promise of free clothes—his clothes, to be exact—to fashion insiders and average Joes during New York Fashion Week and, as you might expect, people turned up. Many people, actually, took the chance to score high-end brands or streetwear steals, gratis. Details were scant. Still, they waited.
“I’m not sure what I’m looking for,” said Evans Walker, a 23-year-old marketing intern, waiting in line. The sentiment was echoed by the hundreds of people around her, who found themselves waiting for something elusive inside.
Hosted at the Red Bull Arts New York, Melgaard put out notice that was part of a performance art/fire sale saying he’d be giving away his collection of menswear — ranging from high-end, avant-garde brands to streetwear favorites. Some heard by word of mouth, others saw something on Instagram. They decided it was worth checking out.
The way it was supposed work is that small groups of 100 people would be invited into a room to “shop” his collection on a first come, first serve basis for 10 minutes, getting their hands on labels like Comme des Garçon, Eckhaus Latta, HUF, Issey Miyake Jeremy Scott, Lanvin, Margiela, Raf Simons, Stussy, Supreme, Telfar, and Yohji Yamamoto, again, all for free.
This event is merely the grand opening for the artists’s longer project, which begins February 16th and is being dubbed a “multilevel psycho-pathological department store” where he’ll debut his own streetwear clothing line, aptly named MELGAARD.
“I was never so extremely interested in fashion,” Melgaard says about his relationship with fashion. Though his vast collection seems to indicate that his relationship with style is a bit more complicated. “I guess the emptiness of it has it’s appeal,” he says. “I first did a show in a museum in the early 2000s where I gave away all my earlier artworks and this is something along that line,” he explains of how he came up with the idea. Asked what it all means, the artist replied in rather enigmatic terms: “The meaning derives from it’s non-meaning,” he said. “This can mean so many things it’s better to leave it up to the audience to decide what it means.”
A crowd lined up all the way down a city block, waiting for the chance to get their hands on something ineffable. One girl, who was dressed in a tame manner but inexplicably had sequins glued to her face, said that she had been waiting for two hours in the cold, and wasn’t even at the end of the line.
Inside, demented mannequins wore oversized sweaters and looked over piles of unorganized sweatshirts and printed T-shirts. People were given red plastic bags and then unleashed, like dogs, to pick through the garments. Some gingerly looked through while others violently stuffed their bag with anything they could get their hands on, pushing people away.
Sadly, after only two rounds — and an increasingly rowdy crowd pushing toward the front entrance, security guards broke-up the scene, telling people that the goods were gone and they should go home.
Crowds loitered on the street for a while. Apparently Melgaard was on site, but he went undetected.
Regardless if you think it’s a commentary on commercialism, a thoughtful reflection on the fleeting nature of clothing, or just a sick, and cheap, way to restock your closet, it drummed up a lot of attention.
Perhaps most surprisingly is how blasé Melgaard said he was about the whole thing, which is part of his renegade spirit, or the ultimate put-on. When asked what, exactly, he will miss most and why, he has a surprising answer. “I won’t miss any of it.