What Was the X-Girl?

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Simply put, if you were a cool girl in the ‘90s, you wore X-Girl. Maybe you wore the raver-friendly ringer tees with the label’s graphic logo, or its A-line dresses, or its bucket hats, but at least one of the brand’s pieces made it into your closet. Helmed by Kim Gordon — the ultimate cool ‘90s girl — and stylist Daisy von Furth, the line began as an offshoot of skater-boy label X-Large, but quickly took on a life of its own. Its first fashion show was produced by Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze, and Chloë Sevigny (whom Gordon met when she appeared in Sonic Youth’s grunge-influenced “Sugar Kane” video, which was styled by von Furth) walked the runway in a casual take on the wedding gown. In the audience: Linda Evangelista (with then-boyfriend Agent Dale Cooper, er, Kyle MacLachlan), Juliana Hatfield, J Mascis, Zoe Cassavetes, Donovan Leitch, Ione Skye, Thurston Moore, and the Beastie Boys. Cindy Crawford was also there with an oversize MTV microphone, broadcasting the proceedings for House of Style. “Our friend Marc Jacobs just had a show down the street,” Coppola told Crawford, “and so we figured everyone could just come check this out.” She added — smiling gummily, cheesy PSA-style — “You, too, can do a fashion show.”

That DIY ethos came through in every detail of the show. A stolen sheet was graffitied with “X-girl is #1,” and the show took place on the street, with giggling models shuffling down the sidewalk-as-runway. Von Furth noted that nothing in the line was over $60: “We’re used to shopping in thrift stores.” She added that she rarely spent more than $60 on her own wardrobe pieces, “unless my mother’s paying.”

Even though only a little over a year had passed since Jacobs’s grunge show and the “Sugar Kane” video, the X-Girl crew was already reacting strongly against the grunge aesthetic. “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,” von Furth told a Vice interviewer in 1994. “I recently styled a Sonic Youth shoot with [photographer] 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.” When the interviewer credited X-Girl with “basically killing grunge,” von Furth enthusiastically agreed. “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.” Instead, she and Gordon favored a fitted, mod, Euro-prep aesthetic. (The extra-fitted baby tees raised some maternal hackles. Von Furth later told Paper, “I would occasionally get voicemails from a mother saying, ‘My daughter brought these home and she looks like a prostitute!’”)

Another trend X-Girl was early to: the fashion film. Gordon and von Furth recruited Sevigny, the artist Rita Ackermann, and Pumpkin Wentzel from the band Guv’ner to star in the  bizarre short film above. As von Furth explained in her Vice interview, “We’re really into Godard now and the whole U.N. thing, like things being sort of retro U.N., so we gave [director Phil Morrison, now known for Junebug] that as a starting point and he just took off from there.” Sevigny, sporting a bowl cut that only she could really pull off, strolls around the UN Plaza wearing an oversize hat and a mod minidress, then crashes a Marc Jacobs show held in a hotel ballroom. With a spy cam in tow, she encounters a baby Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Campbell, Donald Trump, Jacobs himself, and plenty of bemused fashion editors, including Suzy Menkes, André Leon Talley, Hamish Bowles, and Kim Hastreiter of Paper. The result is alternately jaw-dropping and mind-numbing — and offers a window into X-Girl’s self-styled anti-fashion stance.

X-Girl went dormant Stateside in the late ‘90s — after being acquired by Japanese corporation B’s International in 1998, it was only available in Japan. But several downtown stores have recently spearheaded a revival. VFiles sells a selection of logo tees, and at Opening Ceremony’s show in February, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim paid tribute to the era with a Spike Jonze photo exhibit and even put one model in a reissued X-Girl Prep track jacket. “It’s something that Spike has that he loves, one of his favorite pieces, so we contacted [the company] to just reissue this exact piece,” Lim told me at the time. With all these high-profile fans, could a full-fledged revival be far away?

What Was the X-Girl?