Photograph by Fernanda 

Meet the Designer Who Sent Money Clips and Dollar Bills Down The Runway

Kota Okuda will dress the anti-capitalist revolution.

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Sep 17 2018, 4:04pm

Photograph by Fernanda 

Not even the Spring 2019 runways are immune from the looming effects, 10 years on, of the 2008 financial crisis.

In August of 2018, Japanese designer Kota Okuda sent models parading down the Parsons MFA show runway in gigantic money clips and wallets, wearing skirts made of good, old-fashioned American currency.

“My background is in jewelry design, so I’ve always been interested in the value of materials—18-karat gold, silver, diamonds,” Okuda told GARAGE, adding, “I think it’s very interesting how value controls people. People create value, but value controls people.”

The Japanese designer’s sly representation of value using tulle, leather, plastic, paper, and double-stick tape garnered rave reviews from none other than Cash Money Records doyenne Nicki Minaj, who contacted Okuda via DM to compliment the collection.

What did the message say?

“I need it.”

“I hope Nicki will wear my designs,” Okuda reflected, adding that another dream influencer he longs to dress is Cardi B. Could possession of Okuda's plastic dollar bill bikini top, or his ingenious belly chain made of pennies, set off the next Nicki vs. Cardi skirmish?

As far as inspiration goes, Okuda cites Karl Marx's critique of “commodity fetishism” in Das Kapital, Volume 1. Equally influential on Okuda’s 2018 collection are Robert Goossens, a French jeweler known as “Mr. Bijou” who designed for houses including Chanel, Balenciaga and Dior, and French poet Isidore Ducasse.

“Have you heard of the film Who Are You, Polly Magoo?” Okuda asks me, and I briefly contemplate lying (always my first choice) before admitting that I haven’t. Okuda generously briefs me on the 1966 French send-up of the fashion industry directed by William Klein, which features a fictional designer who sends models down the runway dressed in aluminum.

It’s not hard to draw a parallel between Klein's aluminum-forward designer and Okuda’s financially-inclined looks, which look almost sculptural in nature and read—on the runway—like a simultaneous celebration of, and lamentation for, capitalism. Vive la révolution, if it looks like this!