C.C. Poell – a dream of flesh and drowning

Caroll Christian Poell’s website simply shows a floating boot, its distressed leather and stitching dim in the murky water. An obsession with drowning, flesh and its deterioration comes through everything this Austrian-born designer creates. I actually hesitate to call CCP a designer, because so much of what he makes looks like it belongs in an art gallery. Accurately described as “elegant armor” on jcreport.com, some of his clothes are so stiff they stand up on their own, or so awkward and restricting that wearing them is often impractical.

The notoriously secretive Poell does not talk to media and is only sold in a handful of shops throughout the world. None of his lines are mass-produced, which makes them even more desirable to his growing [and wealthy] cult following.

Here are U-shaped and fused-crotch trousers, thumbs on sleeves of jackets, maternity corsets, box pants and the list goes on and on. Here is leather; blood-dyed, grease-stained, wrinkled, plastered, some transparent with veins still visible. Poell’s used human hair and animal intestine as well. A master of construction, he leaves his coveted jackets un-lined to reveal countless taped seams and panels.

For his recognizable stitching Caroll uses antique sergers, made to sew bags of grain. He advises his leather products be machine washed to maintain and encourage the weathered look he’s become synonymous with.

Poell shows are often more like installations, held in slaughterhouses and kennels. He made headlines in 2003 with another drowning reference – a bare bones orchestration of an outdoor fashion show, models floating in a river, wet garments partially concealed underwater.

His work is darkly provocative, yet it continues to fascinate with underlying humor and willingness to explore fashion industry ideals. This is best summed up by New Yorker critic Judith Thurman, who was present at the floating show:

“Though the clothes were soggy and a little blurred, one read them – as the current turned the page – like the hand-colored images in some mildewed yet marvellous old book. Poell’s idea was so poetic that the magical buoyancy of bodies and clothes (kept from sinking by an invisible flotation device) leapt the banks and infected the audience with a fit of joy.”

Special thanks to StyleZeitgeist for their definitive Poell page.

8 Responses to “C.C. Poell – a dream of flesh and drowning”

  1. q gauti Says:

    There were times when i cursed his name aloud for sending me teetering to the brink of poverty.

  2. the daniel Says:

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read on this site – clearly a lot of research and thought went into this. Kudos.

  3. Zoetica Says:

    Both Q and theD need more Poell in their lives. Why so expensive? Whyeeee!?

  4. DJ Velveteen Says:

    I am a nerd for many things, but a lot of fashion still goes over my head. I love this post for two reasons: its way of effectively highlighting an extremely cutting-edge designer, and its sheerly appreciable nerdiness. Beautifully reviewed.

    I do still feel guilty buying expensive clothes.

  5. sbj Says:

    i love it here.
    it’s like what school *should* have been.

  6. Zoetica Says:

    Miss Velveteen, thank you! I nerd where nerding is due.

    I know how you feel – I don’t think i could ever bring myself to drop $7,000 on a jacket, no matter how droolworthy. Still, a girl can dream and admire.

    Sbj, if only we were taught Poell in high school! What would that class be called, I wonder.

  7. Tequila Says:

    I must second the DJ Velveteen praise…I’d heard of this designer before but usually it was presented to me in a way that totally turned me off (not to the designs but to the pretentious nonsense some people drown his stuff in…)

    So reading this and seeing it from a more approachable angle was fantastic. Really that’s what makes this whole blog work…all of you know how to present the odd, the controversial, the unknown in ways that feel rich and exciting.

    Thank you again.

  8. Zoetica Says:

    Tequila, thank you for that last part.

    And yes, I initially had that same reaction. When I first heard of Poell I thought – another pretentious designer bastard charging $7,000/piece. But the more I learned, the more I realized how much more there is to him and his work. out there.