Figure 1. Homme Less poster Homme Less 2015, Homme Less, New York, New York, viewed 23 August 2015,<https://fashionphantasmagoria.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/f8511-hommelessposter_small.jpg>.
From the outside it seems like Mark Reay is living a glamorous life as a fashion photographer in New York. A good-looking man in his fifties, always well dressed in designer suits. But while he pursues his normal life during the day, he has no home to return to at night, because Mark is “home less”.
In 1986 he was discovered in France and started modelling for luxury brands such as Versace and Moschino. In 2008 he changed his career to fashion photography but decided to move to New York to live the American Dream.
However, he soon began to realise that the glamorous vivid city, also had its dark sides and that it was tough to make a living. Since 2008, Mark has been living on the roof of a building. He uses public toilets or the gym to wash and groom himself whilst working as a luxury fashion photographer and model. (Focus 2015)
Figure 2. Mark Reay gets ready for a modelling job in one of New York’s public toilets Dazed 2015, Dazed, London, United Kingdom, viewed 23 August 2015,<http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/25728/1/the-untold-story-of-new-york-s-homeless-fashion-photographer-mark-reay>.
Figure 3. Mark Reay as fashion photographer Dazed 2015, Dazed, London, United Kingdom, viewed 23 August 2015,<http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/gallery/20243/6/homme-less>.
We usually associate homelessness with people who look dirty. We assume they are homeless by reducing them to their looks, distance ourselves from that stratum of society. Although we may pity them, we draw a line between them and us. But what if homelessness is closer to us than we think?
With the documentary Homme Less, the director Thomas Wirthensohn addresses an unknown issue about the invisible homelessness, which is getting bigger around America, especially big cities like New York. (Homme Less 2015)
“What if homelessness is already part of our so-called ‘normality’?” (Homme Less 2015, p.1)
Over the years, deconstructed fashion has grown popularity amongst the fashion industry. The “homeless” look, such as ripped jeans, unusual colours and material combinations were seen as Avant Garde. It was something that had never been explored. Even though homeless people did not think about the combination of clothing, many fashion designers sought for inspiration of their fashion choices in order to create a new trend. The choice of clothing of the homeless was not based on style or to follow the current trend, but simply to be practical and to keep warm.
Some brands, such as Comme des garcons, label their fashion after the aesthetics on poverty. This can be seen as insensitive to homeless people, who don’t have any choice of fashion and have to wear what is available. (Berry 2015) Raising poverty fashion to the catwalk is ironic and glamorises a world that we can hardly understand. However, it should make us aware of the power of fashion and how popular fashion brands can simply take a piece of clothing from the homeless and turn it into an expensive luxury must-have.
Figure 4. Pei Kawakubo, Comme des garcons (1982) Berry, J 2015, ‘Week 3 – Avant Garde Fashion’, retrieved from Griffith University, Queensland College of Art, Learning @Griffith website: <https://bblearn.griffith.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-1510365-dt-content-rid-5018993_1/courses/2432QCA_3155_SB/Course%20Content/Week%203%20Avant%20Garde%20Fashion/avant%20garde%20fashion.pdf>.
Like many others, Mark was embarrassed to tell anyone about his homelessness. The movie shows the contrasts and irony of the protagonist living between glamorous parties and fashion shows, and the struggle of surviving on the streets without shelter and food.
Berry, J 2015, ‘Week 3 – Avant Garde Fashion’, retrieved from Griffith University, Queensland College of Art, Learning @Griffith website: <https://bblearn.griffith.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-1510365-dt-content-rid-5018993_1/courses/2432QCA_3155_SB/Course%20Content/Week%203%20Avant%20Garde%20Fashion/avant%20garde%20fashion.pdf>.
Focus 2015, ‘Mark Reays unglaubliche Geschichte: Tagsüber Model, nachts Obdachloser’, 9 August, viewed 23 August 2015, <http://m.focus.de/kultur/mode/dokumentarfilm-homme-less-mark-reays-unglaubliche-geschichte-tagsueber-model-nachts-obdachloser_id_4868910.html>.
Homme Less 2015, Homme Less, New York, New York, viewed 23 August 2015,<http://www.homme-less.com/about-the-movie/>.