Malia Peoples: Doll Clothes and BO
All photos by the WATERS FOUNDATION
Malia Peoples named her line Lady Konnyaku in reference to the gelatin used in a range of Japanese dishes, valued for its severely blobby texture (though it was banned from jelly fruit snacks after suffocation incidents). The looks draw upon the "nonsense and weird and funny" stylings of Asian street fashion—with everything singsongy and heavily bright, and many details pulled from doll clothes: pork-chop pockets, Peter Pan collars, bib tops, and large plastic buttons, like toy parts. There are also suggestions of obi belts and mandarin gowns, pulled smoothly from the past, and silhouettes mimicking the costumes in kung fu movies: high-waist slacks, trim-fit with wide splaying hems, and bloated sleeves floating up.
Much of the outfits' magic comes from the use of vintage textiles. There's a deliberate clashing of patterns, with retro zigzag prints and polka dots and strange geometric shapes resting alongside varieties of delightfully garish flowers, clumped together, impossible to pull apart. And so many colors everywhere, all of them dense and gleaming and bouncing off each other: pool-table green, egg yolk, carotene, match-tip red. The fabrics are rare, and once they run out, the pretty garments become impossible to replace, bringing a greedy feeling while you're picking through.
Malia harvests her supplies from thrift stores and estate sales in hopes that some grandmother somewhere bought a nice swath—a novelty checkerboard print, say, or heat-crimped polyester the color of beer. Perhaps she'd intended to sew a quilted steering wheel cover or a headpiece to bonnet her perm, but died before she could get around to it, which is just as well, really.
Malia never reappropriates previously worn clothes; she buys only sheet fabric. It's less limiting for creating new shapes, and though their prints are distinct and lively, the earlier plastic-based textiles blocked airflow and sealed moisture, entrapping the BO of strangers, "and you just never know where those pits have been." (In the postwar years, the world was so thrilled to embrace the innovative qualities of synthetic polymers—inexpensive, lightweight, resistant to stains and wrinkles—that people just paid the sweaty price.) Today, Malia incorporates modern knits in solid colors, boosting the wearability of her designs and bringing balance. Each garment costs less than $100 and waits for you online.
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