By Joseph Gregory
Photography by Jasper Soloff
“This year's show feels more important than ever. Over the last eight months, we have seen attacks against our LGBTQ communities and the various intersections in which we exist increase by direct orders from the Trump administration or the indirect normalization of bigotry resulting from the Trump administration's rhetoric. The National Center for Transgender Equality has created a running list of anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans actions that the Trump administration has taken, from announcing that transgender individuals can no longer serve in our military to withdrawing protections for transgender students in public schools. R/Evolution is an act of defiance. It is our space to stay visible in the face of attempts at erasure. It is in honor of all efforts of resisting, to the activists being arrested in protest to the individuals whose impactful act of resisting is smashing the binary by getting up, getting dressed, and just existing!”
-Anita Dolce Vita, Owner of dapperQ
On Thursday, September 14th, hundreds of queers gathered under the magnificent domed ceiling of the Beaux Arts Court at The Brooklyn Museum for dapperQ’s 4th annual NYFW show, R/Evolution. Featuring looks by Audio Helkuik, Bindle & Keep, By Nicole Wilson, Clio Sage, Stuzo, SDN Brooklyn, Sir New York, Kris Harring, The Tailory, and a collaboration by TomboyX and Clear Coated, R/Evolution celebrated queer and non-binary ingenuity. The largest presentation of queer and nonconforming fashion in New York, R/Evolution highlighted the intersection of gender nonconformity alongside race, ethnicity, and culture.
The show commenced at 6pm with a “Sip + Shop”, featuring drinks provided by the legendary lesbian bar Henrietta Hudson, pop-up shops, snacks, and access to museum exhibits. Guests mixed and mingled to sounds by DJ Mo as Qween Amor weaved and spun alluringly through the crowd with a cross in hand.
Backstage, the excitement was palpable. Models, separated by designer, sat wide-eyed on stools in front of makeup artists and hair stylists who painted and coifed until they were transformed to fit the overall aesthetic prescribed by their designer.
At 8pm, we took our seats. Inclusive and intersectional, the models and designers of dapperQ’s R/Evolution represented beauty, strength, and pride. There was a real sense of unity and coming together in the air as the crowd stood and applauded the final walk. This sense of togetherness made approaching an uncertain future that much more promising.
DRØME had the chance to speak with some of the designers taking part in R/Evolution. See what they had to say below, and check out our exclusive photo coverage above.
Interview with Audio Helkuik
DRØME: What is the aim of your design practice?
Audio Helkuik: My brand's motto is "Live brave. Dress brave." I design clothing and accessories that empower the wearer through the act of getting dressed and accessorized.
How would you describe your collection for this show?
The collection I'm showing is called Stone Spirits. It is spandex and mesh base pieces trimmed in gold ruffles, layered with cream sheers and then draped with leather and pearls. The concept was born out of a studio day pondering the question "If I were to design modern day fertility sculptures, what would they look like?" I thought about fertility not in the sense of procreation, but of creativity overall. I let myself dream up something that touches on history, our world's current state, with a bit of decadent escape. It knew it was time for me to do a dreamy collection. Stone Spirits is beautiful, powerful, active and ornate.
Is there a specific message or concept that you feel is most important to this body of work?
I am exploring the idea of gender on multiple spectrums with this collection. While gender identity is on its own spectrum, the spectrum I am highlighting is gender presentation, specifically the idea of feminine presentation across many gender identities.
How do you see style as a tool to explore or express one's identity?
I started Stone Spirits after I realized that I used my own wardrobe to help ease my body dysphoria. A huge part of my own coming out story and transition involves letting myself slide across the gender presentation spectrum in my outfits. I was able to feel powerful and in control in whatever style suited me that day. After I came out as non-binary, I started seeing clothing and accessories in a less binary way. I found freedom.
What makes you proud to be who you are?
It makes me proud that I have a successful business. I am a non-binary designer in a very binary industry; on top of that, I have a niche market because of my brand's aesthetic. The odds have always been against me and many people have made that clear. Yet, there are people who really connect with my work. They love putting on their outfits or harnesses because it makes them feel so good. That's what makes me proud.
Interview with By Nicole Wilson
DRØME: What is the story behind the name?
By Nicole Wilson: My name is Kat, but Nicole is the middle name given to me by my adopted mother and my biological mother gave me the middle name Wilson. I found out I was adopted about 4 years ago. This collection is two years in the making so I feel like everything is fresh and about new beginnings, combining old with the new.
What was your inspiration for this collection?
The inspiration for this African print was my love for color and where I came from. The denim, the linen, and the other intricate types of fabrics represent another side of me. There is a colorful side, there is a playful side, and there is a serious and bold side, which you see in everything that I do. I like to use fabric that I have never seen before. I want to bring something fresh by using African prints that most people have never seen before.
In the face of an oppressive administration, it feels like such an important time for queer and non-binary artists to be producing work. What was your inspiration going into this line, and how do you feel your identity found its way into your work?
There were a few designers that I followed before, like Ikiré Jones, who use African prints as well, but it is always geared towards men. I don’t like to be placed in a box. I wear lipstick, earrings and nail polish. I want to make whatever it is I have, work for me. If I want to wear a skirt, I’m going to fucking rock that skirt as a queer person, I want to make pieces that everyone can wear, regardless of identity. If you like it, buy it, wear it, rock it, period. I want more queer designers to be present and out here.
In the making of DRØME we hope to showcase a community of doers and nourish an attitude of empathy in a world that teaches us to pass judgment rather than practice kindness. The stories, images, and people shared in this magazine are an amalgamation of perspectives often overlooked or explicitly excluded from art and media worlds. The dearth of diverse identities and viewpoints within the arts is harrowing, especially for a young generation that is fighting its hardest to overcome conservative notions of order ultimately practiced as acts of discrimination against the very people and things we find most inspiring. In DRØME, the featured creators and creations encourage us to never shy away from who we are and what we want. Each artist, in sharing their story, embodies their own definition of agency. Against a mainstream ideology that indoctrinates patriarchal, capitalist, and hateful theories turned into policy, the artists in our first issue represent the ways in which art can take power back from society's denigrating control.