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The Fashion Thief

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He gets an additional one-year sentence from Judge Simpson on a misdemeanor case she’s been holding open for months. The week before he appears in her courtroom, the Times runs a story titled “Behind the Gavel, a Sense of Style.” Simpson is described in the story as “a lover of designer brands like Gucci and Prada.” When she sentences Kevahn, she takes the opportunity to make an example of him to another teenager facing similar charges. “This boy is a genius,” she tells the other kid about Kevahn. “When he goes to school, he gets A’s. But he just could not stay out of trouble.” She asks Kevahn if he’d like to say anything. “I saw you in the New York Times,” he tells her.

I pay a last visit to Kevahn on Rikers in September. It’s Fashion Week, and he’s been following the coverage in the papers. “A few people here, they’re deep into fashion,” he says. “But OT [old-timers], not the adolescents. Adolescents don’t know nothing.” He shakes his head. “You know Chanel came out with men’s sweats now?” he asks. “Chanel C’s come down like this”—he points down the side of his leg, draped in a capacious gray Department of Corrections jumpsuit, cuffed many times at his ankles. “In Jeffreys they sell ’em, and some OT was tellin’ me they sell ’em at Chanel too,” he says, conjuring the startling image of hardened prisoners gathering in corners of the recreation yard to gossip about the latest stock arrivals at exclusive boutiques.

When I ask about his plans for after he gets out of prison, all he wants to talk about is fashion, firing questions at me: “Who does Dior now?” “Who designs Paul Smith?” “Remember Louis Vuitton? Like, a few seasons ago, he did a SpongeBob theme? You know Louis Vuitton started off making trunks, right? In the 1800s?” “Balenciaga, who does it for women’s?” He pauses to learn how to correctly pronounce Nicolás Ghesquière’s name. “You know that Yves Saint Laurent died, right? At 71 years old. He’s the first person, the first designer, to have black people model his clothing.” A burly Department of Corrections captain is supervising our visit, and I’ve been imagining his disdain as he listens to this conversation. Now he interrupts. “He could be good working for a fashion publicist,” he says. “That’s something I can see you at, right there.”

Kevahn keeps talking. “A Ralph Lauren small is not a true small. It’s not no Gucci small. In Dior, I would get an extra-small. In the 21-and-a-half-centimeter Dior jeans I’d get a 28, and in the 17-and-a-half-centimeter—that’s the smallest-cut jean, that’s the narrow—I get that in a 29 sometimes.”

On September 19, Kevahn is sent upstate, to Greene Correctional Facility, a medium-security state prison in Coxsackie, New York. He spends the holidays there. After he gets in a fight, he is sent to Sing Sing, the notorious maximum-security prison, where he spends his 18th birthday, last week. His first chance of release is in late March. But his gilded fantasy was still on MySpace, where Kevahn posted photos of his trophies like a big-game hunter posing with his kills, shot after shot of him modeling freshly stolen clothes, some with tags still attached, against a background of chaotic household squalor—laundry spilling out of a basket, Gucci sneakers posed on grimy linoleum against the fridge. JUST CALL ME A DIOR DENIM MODEL, reads one caption. THERE’S MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM (SERIOUSLY) under a close-up of a Gucci shirt. I TOLD U I HAD MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM. But the illusion was cracking. Under one photo with a caption that read like a list of fashion credits, a classmate had posted a comment: YOU WHOLE OUTFIT WAS STOLEN SO IT DON’T EVEN MATTER.

Is it that once you’re around all that stuff, it just gets really tempting? I asked Kevahn over the phone, before his luck ran out for the last time.

“No, not even,” he said. “It doesn’t get tempting. It’s when I want to do it, when I need an outfit, when I’m desperate for a new outfit—” he checked himself. “It used to get tempting, but—”

But what do you think you’re going to do now, when you’re desperate for a new outfit? What’s going to happen?

“Um, you know what’s going to happen.”

I know what’s going to happen?

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “I’m going to be upstate.”


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