Fashion’s 11 most memorable tributes to queer culture
From Chanel brides to Grace Wales Bonner’s collections inspired by the great writers James Baldwin and Essex
Hemphill, here are some of fashion’s most memorable tributes to the LGBTQ+ community.
The history of fashion has always been partly intertwined with the history of queer culture. Several generations
of LGBTQ+ designers have left a definitive mark on fashion, from post-war gay designers to fashion visionaries
like Rudi Gernreich, Willi Smith and Stephen Burrows. In his book Work! A Queer History of Modeling, Elspeth
H Brown sees Stephen Burrows’ participation in the legendary “Battle of the Dressmakers” in Versailles in 1973
as the first event to introduce a white and European audience to the incredible energy of the fashion shows that
were held within the black and queer community, a culture that would later be referred to as “vogueing”. However,
the reciprocal influences of fashion and queer culture have only come to light in more recent times, and questions
remain about the sometimes subtle line between collaboration and reclamation.
Vogue has gathered here some of the most unforgettable moments of fashion’s celebration of the destinies, movements
or communities linked to queer culture.
1. Thierry Mugler spring-summer 1992 Adidas Dame 3 Boys Lypsinka at the Mugler spring-summer 1992 show
Photography Condé Nast Archive
Mugler’s sassy and extravagant aesthetic has produced many unforgettable and decidedly queer moments. For his Spring/Summer
1992 show, held at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, Mugler brought in transformist artist Lypsinka, whose art
blended the classic age of Hollywood (actress Joan Crawford) and high fashion (1950s model Dovima). In her act, she
sings in playback while revealing four outfits, each one hidden beneath the previous one. She starts in a 1950s evening
wear revised by the prism of the 1980s to finish with a simple black slip. This incredible performance is just one
of the nourishing exchanges between fashion and the world of drag queens.
2. Walter Van Beirendonck spring-summer 1996 https://blogfreely.net/coltbra45/nike-mercurial-superfly-7-future-lab-nike-mercurial-superfly-boys-nike-mercurial Walter Van Beirendonck at the Menswear spring-summer 1996 show
photography Getty Images
The time of AIDS has hit the fashion world deeply, and the silence and shame surrounding the many disappearances
has only compounded this pain. Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck, a provocateur who has always struggled
with that silence, made his 1996 Killer/Astral Travel/4D-Hi-D collection an explicit response to the epidemic.
The show, which celebrated the freedom and rebellion of queer nightlife, featured bright colors, lots of plastic
(a reference to both fetish costumes and condoms) and farting pillow masks with slogans like “Get off my Dick”
and “Blow Job.
3. Jean Paul Gaultier Spring-Summer 1998 Couture NIKE AIR FORCE 1 Air Force One High Skate shoes Leather Upper FSR LQRPS0408 Gaultier Haute Couture spring-summer 1998
Photography Getty Images
In the small cenacle of the world’s great designers, the enfant terrible Jean Paul Gaultier is known for his extravagant
aesthetic, whether it commands him to dress men in skirts or to play on the homoerotic motif of the sailor suit
(evocative of Jean Genet’s world of bad boys). Over the years, Gaultier has found in Tanel Bedrossiantz a friend
and muse, with whom he has created many striking and sensational images. In this Enlightenment-inspired fashion
show, Bedrossiantz appeared in a corseted puffy dress worn over a shirt and tie. This resounding image was featured
in the Met’s 2022 exhibition catalogCamp: Notes on Fashion.
4. Alexander McQueen Fall-Winter 1998 https://reasoncicada8.werite.net/post/2022/05/28/Converse-All-Star-Suede-Red-Converse-All-Star-Red-Sneakers-Converse-All-Star-Hi Alexander McQueen Fall-Winter 1998
Photography Paul Vicente/EPA/Shutterstock
A history of fashion from a queer perspective cannot be limited to explicit statements of sexual desire and identity,
but must also embrace a whole continent of subtle signs and knowing glances, including the secrecy surrounding the
homosexuality of many famous people. Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 1998 collection – a dark and powerful vision
of mesh, earth tones and geometric shoulders – was inspired by Joan of Arc. With her mania for cross-dressing, the
Maid of Orleans has often been seen as a proto-queer figure, including by Vita Sackville-West who speculates on her
lesbianism in her book Saint Joan of Arc, and even as a harbinger of trans identity. If this is not the approach chosen
by McQueen, he will however comment after the fashion show: “everyone can be a martyr for a cause. Maybe I was a martyr
for homosexuality when I was six years old”.
5. Chanel Haute Couture spring-summer 2022 https://www.mixcloud.com/lunchtramp8/ Chanel Haute Couture spring-summer 2022
Photography Kristy Sparow/Getty Images
The bride is omnipresent on the catwalk. She often offers a dramatic conclusion to the shows, often appearing alone
and sometimes chaperoned by a date. This is a striking image of the heteronormative aspirations that continue to
run through the fashion world. Various designers have tried to mess with this, such as John Galliano, who proposed
different configurations of couples in his spring-summer 2022 collection, or Dilara Findikoglu and her inclusive
collection of wedding dresses in 2022. In 2022, Karl Lagerfeld paraded two brides hand in hand on stage as the finale
of his couture collection, displaying his support for the law for marriage for all in France, passed the same year.
6. Raf Simons spring-summer 2022 Vans Classic Slip On Black Embroidery Blanc Raf Simons Menswear spring-summer 2022
Some queer artists have established themselves as essential references for designers in the last ten years.
Whether it’s director Derek Jarman (cited by Burberry Prorsum in its Spring/Summer 2022 show and Matty Bovan
for its Spring/Summer 2022 collection) or painter David Wojnarowicz (Jonathan Anderson has teamed up with his
heirs for his Fall/Winter 2020 collection), these avant-garde figures allow for interesting reflections on the
status of art and the different ways in which a work can be called up. For his Spring/Summer 2022 men’s show,
Raf Simons teamed up with the executors of Robert Mapplethorpe’s will, presenting incredible monochromatic works
by the photographer on a series of garments. Each of the images (from close-up nudes to portraits) transformed
the fabric on which it was printed into a moving canvas. Raf Simons also asked permission from each of the people
depicted, which was a major disruption to the design process.
7. Ashish fall-winter 2022-2022 Adidas Superstar Femme Fleur Asish fall-winter 2022
Photography Estrop/Getty Images
At Ashish Gupta, irreverence and a taste for what glitters combine to form the designer’s signature, recognizable
from afar. Political engagement and queer identity are also central to Gupta’s creative process, whether
expressed through slogans or brand-independent photography projects. His fall/winter 2022 collection was
no exception: it featured glittery rainbows, and a man named Frankie, a real daddy, wore a T-shirt that
read “Why be blue when you can be gay!” [Why be sad when you can be gay]. The following season, Gupta
ventured into darker territory, his spring/summer 2022 collection was inspired by queer witches.
8. Burberry spring-summer 2022
Adwoa Aboah for the Burberry spring-summer 2022 show
Samir Hussein/Getty Images
The fashion’s use of the rainbow flag has sometimes been questionable, questioning the reclamation of queer symbols
and imagery. But Christopher Bailey’s farewell collection for was a heartfelt ode to the LGBTQ+ community: himself
gay and from a disadvantaged background, he was leading a new generation of queer creatives. In addition to managing
to put the rainbow in the traditional Burberry check pattern within a powerful runway show, the brand also offered
material support to the LGBTQ+ community by donating to three associations.
9. Thom Browne Menswear Spring/Summer 2022
Thom Browne Menswear spring-summer 2022
For his Spring/Summer 2022 show Thom Browne sought to reflect from a child’s perspective on the male gender. Presenting
a pair of his gold-covered baby shoes in the middle of the runway, Browne explored the overly strict sartorial
expectations boys faced growing up in his show. To the soundtrack of Sally Potter’s 1992 film Orlando, the designer
presented a series of designs that included striped skirts and elegant button-down dresses paired with suit jackets.
But the highlight of the show was undoubtedly this hybrid wedding suit, a tuxedo with a white train. The following
year, Thom Browne’s Fall/Winter 2022 show worked around the prints of Una Troubridge: a sculptor and companion
of author Marguerite “John” Radclyffe Hall.
10. Wales Bonner Spring/Summer 2022
Wales Bonner spring-summer 2022
Grace Wales Bonner’s beautiful designs are built around many references and connections, most of which reflect
on the place of black masculinity and the history of African diaspora narratives. For her Spring/Summer 2022
show, she provided guests with a booklet to read that included an essay by Hilton Als on love, heritage,
and queer black art titled James Baldwin/Jim Brown and the Children, images from The Homoerotic Photography
of Carl Van Vechten by James Smalls, and a poem by Essex Hemphill. She also cited Baldwin’s 1956 novel Giovanni’s
Room as one of her inspirations.
11. Opening Ceremony Spring/Summer 2022
Sasha Velour in drag for Opening Ceremony Spring/Summer 2022
Courtesy of Opening Ceremony
In recent years, the fashion industry has seen the emergence of many young designers offering a renewed approach
to sexuality and gender: NO SESSO, Telfar, Christopher John Rogers, Art School, Gogo Graham, Patrick Church,
Ella Boucht, Nicolas Lecourt Mansion, Luar, and Hana Holquist to name a few. This corresponded to the birth
of a debate about queer visibility in fashion at all levels: from the casting of the shows to the types of
consumers targeted. Opening Ceremony’s Spring/Summer 2022 show offered a great example of an event that gave
queer designers a prominent place by reimagining the runway format as a cabaret show presented by drag artist
Sasha Velour (winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race) with over 40 LGBTQ+ performers and models.
See also on trydecaf.org:
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