The Glass Wardrobe Files – we interview Etienne Bolduc the founder of My Clothing Archive

WITH an inimitable intent to fill in the many unfortunate gaps in menswear fashion history, Etienne Bolduc began My Clothing Archive in a hope to set a new precedent within the community for documenting archival fashion. A trailblazer of kinds, Bolduc has already been accredited to sharing unseen before footage – e.g. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s runway appearances – and revealing crucial facts even the designers themselves may have forgotten. Vintage fashion is his taste, modern methods are his goal.

Etienne Bolduc – creator of My Clothing Archive

How did you begin your collection?
It was a succession of steps that occurred organically over the last 5 years. I started buying clothes for fun, then looking for information about them, documenting them, gathering printed matter, making videos and sharing information across multiple platforms. Each step was motivated by a frustration about the lack of comprehensive material and a desire to do better. I consider as part of my collection not only the clothes, but the documentation I have put together so far.

Can you tell our readers more about My Clothing Archive and its purpose?
My Clothing Archive is my clothing archive, quite literally. It is my attempt at showcasing the complex and dynamic web of connections between objects and people.

To me, the main purpose of My Clothing Archive is not only to share information, but also to set new, higher standards in the way we research and communicate such things. For example, I try my best to share my oddly specific research in a way that is both compelling and accessible to a broader range of people and not only to fellow collectors. Doing so requires constant innovation and proper reflexion.

Issey Miyake Spilled Dye Set from AW93-94

Bolduc: This is easily one of my most eccentric outfits. I wear it nearly every year on my birthday. The suit is actually one of the very first (if not the first) Issey Miyake pieces that I have ever bought. It is perfectly chaotic. I don’t think that I have ever seen another one like this.

Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme leather jacket from AW91-92 6.1 THE MEN.

Bolduc: I bought this leather jacket because I knew I never wanted to wear any other leather jacket in my life. While it comes from one of the most recognised menswear collections in the history of fashion, I simply love how it looks on me. It is so simple yet incomparable.

How do you source and organise all of the historical material when piecing together a storyline for your Youtube channel?
When approaching a certain subject, I lay out all of the information that I deem connected in some way. From an account of what happened at the show to the appearance of a piece of clothing in media to a quote that explains the broader historical, social and artistic context. While most of my knowledge comes from doing research on the different topics, a lot also comes from finding something by accident.

The community is important in this regard because some things appear in the most unexpected places. Then, it is just a matter of finding a good narrative to convey and connect all of this information.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
I would describe my aesthetic as one of an old man, one that has been tamed through experience, which results in me looking eccentric most of the time.

Issey Miyake once said the following in an interview, “Designers should bring good news to people. There is so much depressing news today that I believe clothing is the one place in life that we can be positive and uplifting…. I like to think that I’m not only making clothes, but that I’m also spreading happiness. This is what I consider to be creative – at least that’s what I hope it is.” His message has always been a huge inspiration for me.

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Psychedelic Velour Hat from AW01 Looking at a Different World

Bolduc: I first saw this hat a while ago when I was investigating the collection. I was amused by how fun it was, a psychedelic pattern with an exaggerated structure – almost like a clown hat. I then bought it because of its uniqueness in the history of Comme des Garçons, but also because it shatters the idea that the brand only produces dark and mysterious items.

Since then, being a clown has become part of my aesthetic. It is also special because I have made a 3D model of it and an AR effect from that. Anyone can wear it on Instagram now.

Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme Crocodile cotton sweater from SS93.

Bolduc: This is one of the very first Yohji Yamamoto collections that I have documented and that have bought the catalog from. I never quite understood why it was not more popular. In any case, it represents fraternity and freedom to me. I like this piece in particular because of how fun and unique it is. Who doesn’t like a child-like pattern? There is something personal about the reverse side of clothing, something closely related to the emotional part of the wearer. It is a secret between you and the clothes. It also shows a more conceptual aspect of Yohji Yamamoto’s work.

What draws you to collect the coveted Japanese brands that you do?
I think my first encounter with Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons was, in a way, an experience of identity. I am drawn to wearing those Japanese brands because they feel less hostile to me, and to others too.

In them I feel free. We are witnessing an ideological shift in materialism, whereby people are looking for the real thing. It is a great feeling to know that when you wear these brands that you are wearing a piece of history: you feel part of something greater.

How do you source your archive clothing pieces?
I mostly source my archive clothing pieces from Japanese websites and often auctions especially because of the thrill. People often ask me how I choose what to buy but I simply focus on what is practical and fun.

For example, I love to wear an apron when I cook, so I have a few special ones. They were not expensive; they are just rare. But when it comes to real clothes, I would say that I tend to focus on clothing from my favourite collections.

Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme Cowboy hat, patchwork wool tie, and patchwork wool sneakers (Urban Cowboy Accessories) from AW95-96.

Bolduc: While most people know me today as the Digital Cowboy, few of them know that this hat is what truly started my descent into the cowboy life. The collection itself was an expression of the urban cowboy, so it is only fitting that I would have the cowboy hat. Those accessories are not what you would expect from Yohji Yamamoto, but I think they represent his approach to menswear in the ‘90s well.

Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme and Ground Y Rin the Phantom Dog Plush from SS18.

Bolduc:  First and foremost, this is an unusual fashion accessory coming from Yohji Yamamoto. Considering how much Yohji likes his dog Rin, I knew I had to have this in my collection. But my need for the item goes deeper than that. I was extremely touched by the seller’s description in which they mentioned their dead grandfather and their wish to learn fashion design in France. I feel a certain responsibility to take good care of Rin because of that.

Which items tend to become your most treasured and why?
The items that tend to become my most treasured are usually those with a compelling history. I feel a certain responsibility in commemorating them while simultaneously incorporating them into my aesthetic.

How does seeing and touching a piece up close alter your understanding of it?
It helps me understand the importance of space between the body and the piece, and of the interaction between the light and the shade. I can better understand a piece once I can see the work involved. The physical world is a stochastic and it goes well beyond the image.

What opportunities has your collecting afforded you?
So far, collecting has afforded me the opportunity to interact with amazing people that I would have never met otherwise. I am incredibly grateful for that. In a way, collecting has allowed me to build up some credibility too. On a more personal level, it has made me realise the impact that individuals and communities can have on one another and also the amount of information that is not being properly documented.

I feel like I have nearly completed a complex puzzle with the recent developments in my collection. I cried tears of joy not too long ago because of that. My years of research are finally getting somewhere.

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Pink Panther Polyester Half-Zip Polo Cycling Jersey from SS05 Pink Panther.

Bolduc: I used to have all cycling jerseys from this collection, but this is the only one I have left. It is a lot of fun and everyone can enjoy it. This collection is one of the very first that I have investigated in great detail. It even gave me the chance to talk to the models from the runway! This is an important piece in my collection because it is such a recognisable and iconic piece from Comme des Garcons – and it looks beautiful!

Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme psychedelic polyester shirt featuring Saeko Tsuemura from SS02.

Bolduc: I think this is the piece that most people know me for. I bought it years ago for almost nothing. No one really cared about the collection until recently, which I find funny. It shows how quickly public opinion can change. I have had crazy offers for it, but I simply do not want to let it go. How will people recognise me without it?

Many people consider the ’90s to have been the era to produce the most iconic fashion collections – what are your thoughts?
This is a complicated topic. I think that it has a lot to do with the proliferation of fashion in mass media in the ‘90s. While they are indeed iconic fashion collections, they have also been thoroughly documented and presented as such; they are widely accepted as such. We see them as foundational as we forget what came prior for them to happen.

In any case, I think that they were taking more risks at the time and that it was right before the democratization and commodification of the fashion industry. We often base the success of a collection on its commercial success nowadays. And things are going so quickly. We simply need time to reflect upon their impact.

In your opinion, what does our love affair with archival fashion mean for the fashion industry at large?
I have no idea. We are starting to see the fashion industry somewhat adapting by releasing reissues of past collections like we’ve seen at Helmut Lang, Raf Simons, Yohji Yamamoto, etc. I think this is great because it is an acknowledgement that design is not linear. However, it may have a negative impact on new fashion designers.

I still think that there is a place for both. A better understanding of the past may also push new designers to even higher grounds. Some of my favourites are Paolina Russo, Pierre-Louis Auvray, and Mowalola. What I see in them is an idiosyncratic and modern execution inspired by works from the past.


by Lily Rimmer