Where the runway meets the street

WHAT ELSE? is a series for Highsnobiety by writer/director Paul Black. What’s it all about? Call it the “What Else Factor,” a person with something else besides the thing(s) he or she is usually known for. What else is on the cards? What else should we know? The style of each piece is spontaneous and intuitively responsive to the Voice of its subject at the time of the interview. Next up, Jason Alper.

100% guaranteed you haven’t heard the name Jason Alper – unless of course you actually know him or share the name. Another great name you absolutely do know (assuming you have a pulse) is Sacha Baron Cohen (also known most notoriously as Ali G, Borat and Bruno). If for some amazing feat of nature you don’t recognize these names, in a strange way you wouldn’t be a fool to find Jason Alper the more interesting of the two. Perhaps he is. He did, after all, create the entire look of Ali G. He is, after all, responsible for that stroke-of-genius outfit Borat wore the entire time in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. And he did, after all, come up with 90+ outrageous outfits for the gloriously offensive Brüno, in Brüno. Did he steal that show? Yes.

So what else? Well, would you believe the same year Alper did those 90+ inspired and outrageous outfits for Brüno another costume designer won the Costume Designers Guild Awards for Excellence in Contemporary Film for dressing Jeff Bridges as a cowboy in Crazy Heart? Hello! Whereas Bridges probably could have brought his own clothes, Alper created such things as a plastic two-piece, see-through suit, rubber latex sex suits, customized “Gucci” broken leg boots, green lizard “rocking chair” shoes and a silver two-piece silver leather motorcycle outfit. More. Much more. Let’s just say Jeff Bridge’s standard cowboy outfit did not feature at the Victoria & Albert alongside Borat’s suit in an exhibition celebrating 100 years of costumes in movies. True story. Visionary vs. Same Same. Sometimes Same Same gets the statue, Visionary has all the fun.

Alper wouldn’t call himself a Visionary. More like an Explorer with super sardonic wit and insight. The Visionary thing he does with his eyes closed. Sometimes quite literally – as in the time he created the nine-foot Chanel logo made of LEGO in the colors of Gucci for his first outing as a Pop Artist in the smash hit show “Proletarian Drift and the Enfranchisement of the Bourgeoisie in the 21st Century.”

As Jason describes it: “I got to the studio with a consignment of LEGO that would make any child pass out with excitement. I’m a child myself and I dive in without a thought. Literally. And I forget to check the dimensions of the doorway. Oops. When I finish the piece, I discover it doesn’t fit through the f-ing door!” Six hours on his knees “like a prostitute” doing and undoing the nine-foot LEGO Chanel logo in the colors of Gucci, pretending he was on a flight to Israel (as you do), conceiving of his next piece, a U.S. flag made of grenades (stars) and M14 rifles (stripes) – which sold sight-unseen to an anonymous bidder for $90K USD.

That was his first show. Jason is quietly creating more, living and breeding in LA, with his wife and two children under the age of two. Two children under the age of two. Two children under the age of two…For a man who is hands-on and devoted to everything that begins with a pure act of creation, that makes Jason Alper one of the most restless sleepless visionary Explorers you’ve never heard of – until now! Keep your eyes peeled for Alper’s next fantastically grotesque assault on the Fashion World.

WHAT ELSE? | by Paul Black – lifelong perpetual traveler of mixed(-up) nationality, award-winning writer/director (and sometimes producer) of film and television, devoted father, serious amateur photographer, opinionated Sartorialist, meditator, fan of eccentric visionaries with something else to say.

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