Meet Lordwag, Possibly the World's Most Dedicated Collector of Jean Paul Gaultier

11 months ago 52
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Clothes are meant to be worn, but in spite of this fact, many archival collectors show off their pieces on mannequins or hangers. Not Steve Karas, who shows off his impressive Jean Paul Gaultier collection on his Instagram page @Lordwarg. In one image, Karas poses on a roof in Manhattan, paying homage to a photograph of Cher wearing a Spring 1996 Jean Paul Gaultier dress by donning a similar look, along his own touch: a mullet wig. In another upload, he sports facial jewelry streaming from ear to nose from the designer’s famed Spring 1994 show. One of the funkiest images is a triptych of Karas in a red cyberdot JPG bodysuit, giving fans of the graphic (including Cardi B and Kim Kardashian West) a run for their money. It’s natural that a collector of fashion’s Enfant Terrible shows off the designer’s wares in an appropriately daring way. At the moment, Karas has about 1,000 archival pieces, the majority of which is Jean Paul Gaultier.

Karas has long had roots in the JPG-verse. He had always gravitated towards fashion, even at a young age. He started out collecting Jean Paul Gaultier as a teenager in his native southern France. He had been thrifting in his town and found a brick print shirt from the Spring 1997 Jean Paul Gaultier collection. Fascinated by the print, Karas then began to research the designer and quickly aligned with his bold philosophy. “JPG was this gay guy of France who dressed weird and talked weird and had strong opinions,” says Karas. “There were men in dresses and he talked about sexuality and I identified right away.” 10 years ago, Karas moved to New York from France and became a hair stylist while on the side. He built up his Jean Paul Gaultier collection and started adding in more pieces by Vivienne Westwood and Stephen Sprouse. Earlier this year, he was able to leave his full-time job and launch his own JPG-minded e-commerce store.

Of course, finding these pieces has become more difficult as time has gone on. (Karas notes that his most requested JPG piece at the moment has been anything cyberdot-themed thanks to its celebrity exposure.) Typically, Karas searches online for pieces, which has led him to meet sellers in the suburbs of New Jersey and villages in France. The hunt is still worth it for Karas who values older pieces more than anything new due to his beliefs about developing a more eco-conscious industry. Wearing vintage means you aren’t contributing to creating new products. “Fashion needs to be done consciously and if it is done consciously it can have so much power,” says Karas. “Right now, it is like a tsunami of fashion. If it was controlled it could have a stronger message and power.”

Collecting aside, Karas is drawn to the designs of JPG because they help him express himself, which he wasn’t quite able to do at a young age. He grew up in south of France, which he refers to often having a nationalistic and often far-right mentality, and was singled out because of his style. “I got insulted just for dressing up and going to work,” says Karas. “And I lived in a modern city with students and five minutes away from my job. New York City gave me the chance to be able to dress up and own it.” Currently, his aim on Instagram is to show off different sides of his personality. “I wake up every morning and what I look like will give a definition to who I am that day. I feel like we all have that to some extent and I’m lucky enough that I can play with it, so I’m showing multiple personalities of myself,” he says. “One day, I might be rough and another day I might be chic. I might be sexy or feminine. It is just showing different facets of who I am.”

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