While sartorially conservative, New York clothier Seize Sur Vingt has a rebellious, tongue-in-cheek underbelly. The name of spin-off line Troglodyte Homunculus is evidence enough, but the true spirit of the line is most apparent through an quirky art program that has included sponsorship of the Vice Magazine Photo Annual and the presentation of a short film, “The Returning of the Sun,” by Japanese contemporary artist Noritoshi Hirakawa. The Seize Sur Vingt shop has hosted exhibitions by Larry Clark, Ryan McGinley, and John Waters… artists whose take on fashion and youth culture balance the traditional garments of SSV with a bit of radical counterculture brilliantly.

Seize Sur Vingt is currently showing photographs by Nan Goldin – beautiful transvestite portraits – at the 78 Greene Street flagship. With that, I took the opportunity to speak with James Jurney, who founded SSV in 1998 with wife Gwendolyn, about the role art plays in the brand’s identity.

Read the Q&A and view some more of Goldin’s fabulous photographs after the jump.

Photography by Jason Malihan.

CR: How did the art program at Seize sur Vingt develop?

JJ: When we first opened on Elizabeth Street in ’98 we hung what we thought were some pretty cool pictures, but just amateur stuff by friends.  A month or so later, a new customer was talking and simply offered to loan us some “better” stuff.  He’s been curating the space ever since…

CR: What is the mission of the program?

JJ: No grand plan except just that we got addicted to hanging ridiculously awesome art alongside our clothes.  We even designed the new boutique on Greene specifically to balance the art with the clothing.  Popular “wisdom” when we first started was that strong art detracts from the clothing, but we think they are very complementary.

CR: The current exhibition is a selection of works by Nan Goldin. What is the attraction to her portraits and how do to they connect to Seize sur Vingt?

JJ: How can you not love Nan’s portraits, especially the transsexuals?  Every day they’re fresh and carry all kinds of meaning that sharpen your mind each time you pass by one.  That series has a particular relevance for us in the exploration of both clothing and other visual trappings as messages of both gender and sexuality.  As a brand and with our designs, we obviously play it “straight-laced” but yet there are plenty of gender-bending opportunities even within an aesthetic as seemingly direct as ours.  In a way, it’s all an allusion to the perennial mystery of “what’s on the inside?”.

CR: Having shown Ryan McGinley, Larry Clark, John Waters, etc. before… I wonder what the attraction to counter or youth culture is given the relative formality of the garments produced by Seize sur Vingt.

JJ: As above, our “marketing” theme is to dispel the notion that clothes should play into stereotypes.  While we believe strongly that clothing is the strongest single message medium you can use (especially unintentionally) to communicate who you are, we also believe that once you’ve realized this, you can use this in any way you’d like.  The realization becomes empowering and even slightly rebellious.  Counter-culture art helps make the point.

CR: How did you get involved in the Vice Magazine Annual Photo issues shows?

JJ: We actually made a co-branded line of clothing called “Seize sur Vice” back in ’03-’05, before collaborations were the hot topic.  Vice had retail stores in a few cities and we both sold the line (we produced the clothes).  That’s one of the ways we got together.  Besides we made suits for all the Vice guys, including a few wedding suits.

CR: Who are some artists you’d like to share in the store in the future?

JJ: Gregory Crewdson is top of my list.  Of course it would be phenomenal to flip it all around and showcase some Dutch masters, but that’s not likely.

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