Derek Burgess, a designer based in Pittsburgh, PA, is currently working on a reconstituted denim line that’s far removed from what we normally consider designer jeans. At $1,200 per pair, his “Wastelanders” don’t run cheap, either. The name of the collection, loosely based on his interest in post-apocalyptic fiction, encompasses both the process of creating the garment and its affinity to modern, performance art. Simply put, Burgess records anything of interest that happens while wearing the jeans, from fist fights to sexual encounters, and makes it part of that garment’s history.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU WEAR
After the jeans are worn out, Burgess patches them back using only found materials. This first piece, pictured above, is a special-edition pair of Levi’s 514s that has seen its fair share of catastrophe through two years of constant use.
“They traveled to NYC, L.A., San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, and Maine,” he tells Ecouterre. “As an artist, I wore them during the creation of 20-plus large-scale oil paintings, as well as six months of carving 2,000 pounds of wood into a sculpture. They have been through hundreds of hours of farming, landscaping, ‘tree-hugging,’ and hiking. I wore them during the G20 protests. I helped install three custom waste veggie-oil fuel-delivery systems in diesel trucks. Did I mention dancing? Partying? Multiple sexual encounters?” And don’t forget that aforementioned fist fight.
“I wore them during the G20 protests,” Burgess says. “Did I mention dancing? Partying? Multiple sexual encounters?”
In the interim, the jeans have suffered through amputation (Burgess cut the legs short one summer) and at least one blown-out crotch. To repair the pants, Burgess grafted on leather from an old lacrosse stick and pieces from a castoff flannel shirt.
Prurient interests aside, the work conjures up some interesting questions about our relationship to clothing, as well as the sentimental significance they carry. Burgess is currently wearing and working on the next piece. “This pair should be much more interesting,” he says.