Nirvana in Dries van Noten

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Kurt Cobain in a Dries Van Noten sweater, Dave Grohl in a Todd Oldham sweater, Krist Novoselic in a Joan Vass sweater, all scarves (worn as skirts) by Gene MeyerPhotography by Stéphane Sednaoui

Yet another reason why Nirvana were amazing

Twenty-one years on from his death, Kurt Cobain remains an icon, but his appeal extends far beyond the average star-who-died-too-young. There are those who worship at the altar of classic grunge, those who are eternally enamoured with the hazy mythology of the 27 Club, those who revere his unique brand of exhilarating, sweat-stained performance. But a key demographic of Nirvana worshippers are the feminists, who responded to the band’s singular attitude to women and gender boundaries.

Against a backdrop of aggressive male artists – such as Guns’n’Roses and Rage Against the Machine – Nirvana set forth a pure, if at times clumsy, standpoint on equality. Their alternative rock, instead of being a thrusting assertion of their dominant sex symbol status, in fact exemplified a new, alternative breed of rock’n’roll, one that was unafraid of blurring the previously intransigent barriers between masculine and feminine strength. From lyrics informed by the Riot Grrrl subculture, the band making out with each other on Saturday Night Live, to this glorious cross-dressing spread from Mademoiselle magazine shot by Stephane Sednaoui, Nirvana were brave enough to comment on the insidious forces in society. "I'm definitely a feminist," Cobain said. "I'm fucking disgusted by the way women are still treated. It's 1993 and some people think we're in the 1950s...Everything is dominated by males and I'm fucking sick of it." And they didn't just speak their views – they literally wore their feminist hearts on their Dries van Noten sleeves.

Here we speak to Siska Lyssens, who discovered this amazing image, about her favourite band member and the album that (sort of) marked her coming-of-age.

Why did you love this picture?
It’s such a striking, unlikely combination. Very upbeat too, which was the last thing on my mind after having just watched Montage of Heck, when I found the photo. And it shows Nirvana’s irreverence towards gender conventions, which I love.

Where would you keep it if you owned it?
I’m not sure where it comes from, but I’m guessing a magazine, so I’d keep it on my coffee table.

What would you wear to hang out with Nirvana?
Something comfortable, like white trainers, a bleached pair of jeans and a white t-shirt. 

Kurt, Dave or Krist?
Kurt, despite the fact he’d probably be the worst of influences.

What’s your favourite Dries van Noten collection and why?
It’s hard to pick one, but S/S05 was a standout for me because of the set design: models walked down a runway set as a dinner table, complete with porcelain, glassware and silverware, and crystal chandeliers hanging above.

What is your favourite cross-dressing moment in culture?
For the sentimental reason of watching this as a kid with my family: Mrs. Doubtfire.

Who was your coming of age band/musician?
Looking back, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was my first kind of grown up album, even though I’m sure I didn’t understand half of her lyrics – I was only about 9 years old!

What are you looking forward to about summer?
My brother’s wedding.