INTERVIEW WITH DAVID CASAVANT 1/2
There are several collectors around the world you simply have to mention when talking about the archive items designed by Raf Simons. One of them is John Skelton, who worked as a buyer for Selfridges and Harrods before and did various archive projects as the creative director for OKI-NI and LN-CC over ten years ago. Panos Yiapanis is known as a talented stylist who has supported fashion designers like Rick Owens and Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. Finally, the Instagram account @raf_simons_archives, which has kept sharing precious items and visual materials to its fans from his early period.
Each of these has in their own way contributed to the overall value of the archive, but the person responsible for the most drastic influence on the market, pushing these items from the underground into the mainstream has to be David Casavant.
Living in New York City, he has created The David Casavant Archive, focused on items not only by Raf Simons but also people like Helmut Lang as well as the Tom Ford for Gucci and Dior Homme by Hedi Slimane collections. He has also continued to lease his items to our modern idols like Kanye West and Rihanna who keep on creating today’s culture.
If it hadn’t been for him, we might have never seen a bomber jacket from the 2001-2002 Autumn/Winter season being sold for over $50,000 or seen Raf Simons himself introduce his revival collection Raf Simons Archive Redux with items from his past collections. More than anything, today’s kids would never have known past masterpieces or would definitely had less chances to get in contact with one of history’s most legendary designers.
In his younger days, David Casavant lived in a countryside town in Tennessee, away from the world of Raf Simons and fashion collecting records, where he started collecting archive items through eBay. Why did he start his collection? How did he end up leasing his items to artists? What kind of person is he anyways?
When we contacted him via e-mail for an interview, we got an immediate response saying “Thanks for contacting me’. We ended up having a 90 minute interview on Zoom call.
Nice to see you David, thanks for doing this. Actually I love the archives of Raf Simons and Helmet Lang too, and obviously I know about you from ages ago. So, I'm happy to have this opportunity to interview you this time. Could you briefly tell me about yourself?
I'm happy too! I have vintage archives of clothes, mostly menswear and I rent them. I consult for friends sometimes, and do sort of collaboration projects. I used to say I was a stylist, but I started to do a bunch of things and didn't take some normal paths. So I ended up in this situation.
How did you get interested in fashion for the first time? Especially in designers’ vintage?
Actually I've been thinking about this over quarantine, like “Ok, how did I end up here?”. I'm from Tennessee, so it's not like I grew up in any kind of fashion environment or world. My mom had a cancer for a year and I took care of her for the whole year, and then she died when I was twelve. That changed me and I always describe my childhood, “I was like a child actor.” Growing up in this weird way, you're like more grown than everyone.
I don't think reclusive is the right word, but I got a bit withdrawn and it's hard to relate to people after that. So I was always really into art and creative, and I had the Internet from that age. And I just got into the whole fantasy of fashion. At that time it was huge but very much about womens, and menswear wasn't as good. That's how I got really into Raf Simons. Because at the time, he and Hedi Slimane were really the only people who were really doing menswear. Doing something different with it and being avant-garde around that age. I just really relate it to providing a fantasy and characters you could create with the clothes. I just fell in love with it and so I got super immersed in it just through the Internet.
And you started buying those clothes?
Yeah but obviously I couldn't buy anything like that where I lived, so I just bought them on eBay. At the time e-commerce started to come around but it's funny because no one would shop online back then. People were very hesitant about it, like “oh you buy it online. How do you know if it fits?”. But I got a bunch through that way. I never really bought it necessarily but I loved it and I wanted to own it... And I was insane!
Which brands were you buying on eBay?
Raf, Helmut and Prada products I liked. The funny thing is back then I didn't really buy Hedi because it was really expensive even on the resale market. But Raf and other designers were not, and they'd sell for nothing.
That's interesting. So you started buying and collecting archive pieces when you were just around 13.
Yeah but there wasn't a big menswear community back then. And then I moved to London when I was 18 and I kept collecting but even then Raf was not that big. I moved back to New York around 2012, Raf did Dior and then that's when Raf really started to take off like he went for. Basically I've seen the whole rise of the market and the popularity of it all, and it's just funny because I was just a teenager who was so into these clothes. And now it's so normal for people that age.
The rise of the archive market was the reason why you came up with the idea to start renting your collection?
No, it sort of happened by accident. Basically I decided to drop out of school in London and I started working for Carine Roitfeld in New York. I had tons of clothes but at the time they were still just my clothes. I had dressed amazing everyday and she loved it. I was in charge of getting the clothes for the shoots so when we were missing this kind of belt or this kind of jacket, I would say “oh, I have one at home. I'll bring it to the shoot tomorrow.” And it sometimes ended up getting shot in the magazine. And then I had two other friends saying “you should just start your own archive business.” Then I established the idea of having an archive. Just friends who were assistants would borrow for shoots and I didn't charge anything. Eventually it became “maybe can you credit me?”, and that’s how it started.
When you started it as business, those archives in general were still not that big like past few years, right?
It wasn't that big at all. The first time I saw someone kind of do a thing about Raf Simons Archive pieces was Oki-ni maybe around 2010. That's kind of funny for me, because I already had them.
I remember the feature of Raf Simons archive on Oki-ni and LN-CC. It was really cool and innovative, but no one was really into it back then and people just thought “Well, 10,000 USD for the used bomber jacket, that’s crazy”.
Yeah, I went through it all. When I used to wear Raf Simons it just looked like normal clothes for people. Or I'd wear a sweatshirt with the patches and they'd be like “Oh, did you go to St John's Academy?”. It was kind of fun for me to see if they knew. Also at least in America, people don't wear used clothes. It wasn't archive or vintage, people just didn't want to wear used clothes because they were “used”.
What did you think about the situation then?
I thought these were so much cooler than what anyone was wearing at the time, and I really want hip hop artists or rappers to wear the archives. I was always looking at my clothes and thought “they should wear these ultimate menswear clothes”. Once I worked with Kanye then I worked with a ton of those artists.
Kanye West already knew about Raf Simons archive or you educated him in a way?
I think both. He definitely knew, but it was kind of his first experience with the pieces all in front of him. When he first came over, he was just so excited to finally find someone who had them in person.
I remember the scene was changing in a drastic way after Kayne and other rappers wore Raf. I was in London back then, and artists and celebrities suddenly started wearing Raf. Then people like kids with more streetwear styles started wearing Raf too. For me it was great because younger generation start knowing about Raf. Also they wore in a very different way, like styling with Supreme.
I wanted this to happen because I was so alone. There were not really other people at my age who were into Raf, even when I was in school for fashion. I've always been so used to not being cool, so it's just funny that it's so cool now.
interview text_ YASUYUKI ASANO