The stylist and curator opens the vaults to his archive at Dover Street Market, inviting customers to step into a slice of ultra-rare fashion history

As a stylist, David Casavant has been shaping the image of some of pop culture’s most influential protagonists for well over a decade, and it all started with Kanye West… who he is now suing for over $400,000. “As collaborators, we get along very well. It’s hard to find people that are so creative and have such enthusiasm, because mediocrity is too valued now,” Casavant says. Having welcomed Kanye inside his behemoth fashion archive, providing rentals, and consulting on Yeezy, the lawsuit, which was levelled against the musician for his failure to return 13 ultra-rare pieces of designer clothing, “is just a formality in business.”

It’s a well-worn trope that celebrity lawyers are kept in business with breathless legal battles, but with his latest project, Casavant is cutting-out the middleman, taking to Dover Street Market in New York to pass on some of his most beloved treasures to the public. A feverish collector since his early teens, Casavant’s archive is not just of physical garments, but the people, places, attitudes, and moments that once stood within them. So while shoppers will have access to vintage, hirsute Helmut Lang jackets, Ann Demeulemeester feather boas, and Miu Miu boxer shorts, they will quite literally be stepping into the legacies of Rihanna, Pharrell, and Raf Simons, who have all worn these exact pieces. “I like that the pieces whisper and don’t scream,” Casavant says, despite neon harnesses, mesh vests, and reflective jeans all on the roster. “I’ve always had a preference for minimal fashion, because it’s easy and doesn’t try too hard.”

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Across the media landscape, rental services are frequently hawked as the future of consuming fashion, but this has always been elemental to Casavant’s practice. “When I first wanted musicians to wear these pieces they were actually viewed as ‘used clothes’ and weren’t desirable to wear, which is funny to look back on,” he says. And, somewhat surprisingly, it’s Lorde who he credits with shifting the narrative surrounding second-hand clothes. “She actually wore my vintage Raf AW00 bomber before Kanye and Rihanna, but anytime someone’s the first to wear a piece, it’s kind of a moment.” Though this is perhaps the most well-worn piece in his collection, it’s one of Simons’ AW02 creations that was hardest to part with. “That’s an original sample and was never actually produced. It still has the Totem PR tag on, and is made from such amazing material that it’s hard to describe. It’s like a trash bag with these silver threads that have been woven and quilted on top of it. It should be in a museum as part of history.”

While archival fashion – mostly Versace, Tom Ford-era Gucci, and Roberto Cavalli – has found new currency on the red carpet and resale sites, the whole thing goes against the industry’s dogged obsession with newness. “You might miss the DSM display if you didn’t know or recognise the pieces,” Casavant says. “They aren’t supposed to look new and neatly shipped from the factory. It is about them being something you can acquire from behind the scenes in fashion, hung on a rack as if they were just wheeled-in from a shoot or a changing room. I thought it would be kind of funny if people were like, ‘Oh wait, is this it?’” An insider’s fashion insider, the offering chimes with Casavant’s belief in the talismanic value of clothing. “When I first started-out, fashion was disposable, clothes would be deemed ‘last season’ and immediately forgotten because of that. But I’ve always viewed them as art, their value should only increase with age.”

Casavant decided to skew tradition further still, by launching the sale with a virtual reality-scape film created by artist Jacolby Satterwhite, who is a longtime collaborator. “I’d rather die than have to organise and make an actual fashion show. Everyone is going to view it on their phones, anyway. Jacolby is a genius, he makes amazing animated worlds, and I just let him interpret the video in whichever way he wanted.” As the stylist bids farewell to his babies, he seems to be carving a space for yet more histories, lives and experiences, embodied by one special garment on his wishlist. “A Helmut Lang bubble wrap coat,” he concludes. “The name alone speaks for itself as to why.”