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Fritz Haeg

Los Angeles

I’ve never had anything made for me before but on the occasion of having an installation in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, I decided to ask my designer friends, Feral Childe, to make me an outfit to wear to the opening. I wanted something that felt connected to my work in the Biennial, Animal Estates, a project that attempts to reintroduce and reconsider animals that had previously lived in that region, but have been displaced by humans. Since it had been a raw and chilly March, I also wanted something that would keep me warm.

We began by thinking about the 12 animals that made an appearance in the first edition of this artwork that was installed in the Sculpture Court of the Whitney Museum: the barn owl, flying squirrel, bat, beaver, bald eagle, salamander, wood duck, beaver, possum, and a few other residents of that land 400 years ago. The designers just went from there, taking their inspiration from the animals. Lots of layers, a hood that makes me look like a monster from the woods, a colorful lining that looks like a Chanel tweed, a reversible furry vest, and really form-fitting stretchy wool pants with a side applique.

It was a warmer evening than I’d expected, and I remember sweating like hell. I went with my friends A.L. Steiner and K8 Hardy who were wearing something interesting, so I didn’t feel too strange. Bill Cunningham was at the opening. He came up to us and said, “Hey, if you young kids aren’t going to ham it up, then what else do we have?” I guess we did because he took our photo and we wound up in the Sunday Style section of The New York Times.

I went through that strange gesture of having something made for the opening night because it was a turning point for my career. It’s not like me to do that—I dress very simply, in yoga pants or as close to pajamas as possible. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve worn a tie. I don’t have any pressed shirts or suits. The outfit was an anomaly that evening, but I wanted to celebrate.
I hadn’t looked at this outfit in five years until just now, yet it’s definitely the most special piece of clothing I have. It sounds really corny but it’s almost like a wedding dress. I just put it away after I wore it, like it’s for the archive, one part of the story.

As told to Emily Spivack

Photo by Ally Lindsay

Fritz Haeg is an artist whose work includes gardens, dance, performance, ecology and design.