ROCKWELL HARWOOD BY MENELIK PURYEAR
Suit & shirt by Paul Smith
Suit and Shirt by Louis Vuitton
Suit and shirt by Alexander McQueen
Suit and shirt by Boglioli
Suit, shirt and shoes by ZZegna
Suit & shirt by Paul Smith
Suit and Shirt by Louis Vuitton
Suit and shirt by Alexander McQueen
Suit and shirt by Boglioli
Suit, shirt and shoes by ZZegna
In the hopes to reconnect people during these uncertain times through the art of fashion, as well as present the industry with digital experience concepts to inspire the future of fashion show events, this year’s Taipei Fashion Week SS 2021 RE:CONNEXT brought together the classic aspects of a conventional fashion show with a number of virtual, interactive elements.
Taiwan is a country mix of cultures and talented designers who have often studied abroad in New York, Paris, and Italy. As 2020 had an unusual beginning: the energy crisis, global warming, and a worldwide pandemic that has not only created social distances between humans but also redefined how we communicate. Designers remain true to our heritage, returning here to showcase their dazzling and original contributions to a global fashion language.”
Many of designers are taking humanity as its concept, exploring nature, sustainable textile, and the post pandemic complex matters.
#Damur works with textile manufacturers and chemical plants to create water-proof, light and foldable clothes made by grade P2-rated protective medical materials. “We add houndstooth prints, denim flash prints, animal prints on to the non-woven fabrics with 3D printing technology to broaden the use of medical fabrics. These garments will have diversified uses, including travel and in-flight wear.”
“With the advancement of digital technology and materials, we can produce excellent products everywhere. Designing a piece of garment is actually about designing the language of a society. The important key is to find a community that recognizes and resonates with your language or perspectives,” stated Damur Huang as he prepares for his #kiosk project that aims to “up-cycle” clothes.
Stephane Dou and Changlee Yugin, a rare designer duo, is a brand known for many firsts in Taiwan, including a large concept store in the alley of Taipei’s Chung Shan North Road in 2003 and being the first to initiate gender fluidity in Taiwan’s fashion scene. This year marks the brand’s 25th anniversary. For them, the brand is one that comes into maturity, becoming a brand that knows what it wants, what it does not want, and what responsibilities it has. DOUCHANGLEE’s 2021 Spring-Summer collection takes the palette of black, white, hemp, denim and neutral colors such as tones of stone, moss, and cement. “We like natural fibers and we mix them with high-tech materials to make our garments more comfortable and structured.” The play of sporty and luxurious elements symbolizes a mixture of values.
Founded by Jill Shen in 2017, the name Seivson is derived from two French words – Nos and Vies that mean we and inspiration. Seivson’s logo is adorned by a small screw bolt, signifying the pursuit of perfection in details. The designer contemplates deeply on the functionality of her designs. For the 2021 Spring-Summer collection, Jill Shen plays with Hermes carre and the Burberry trench to portray a story from the end of century. Her inspirations came from her dreams and her observations about society: In a theatrical style, she uses multiple looks for daily wear, illogical and oversized clothes. For the fashion show, Seivson collaborated with floral artists to create a stage with withered plants to portray the imagery of apocalypse. Seivson uses the environmental friendly elements and materials, plays with the eco- friendly fabric and naturally-dyed techniques in our new 2021 series. Expressing through Seivson’s signature print developments and the pattern cutting constructions, fusing the design and art energies, Seivson considers the practicability and uniqueness of how a garment can be. Speaking out the reflection of environmental sustainability through the designs.
“The more you stay true to your roots, the more globalized you become.” This is one of the values Justin Chou believes deeply in his creative process. He is very skillful in mixing and deconstructing elements of East and West. Luxxury Godbage, a sub label from JUST IN XX, offers products from reusing and upcycling materials, second-hand garments, used accessories and vintage pieces. To Kuo, it’s sort of like molecular cuisines. Kuo feels the idea of luxury is time – how to express craftsmanship in fast fashion. We may not need massive clothes. We need clothes with meaning, stories, and crafts. He says: “During this time, I had time to think. Being a part of fashion, what can we do to minimize waste and pollution? This is an issue that we all have to think about, not just the fashion industry but everyone on this planet.”
Founded in 2011, Dleet started as a designer for menswear. Upon demands by female consumers after its initial success, Dleet launched its womenswear which rapidly became the main business for the brand. In the beginning, Dleet was a small label showcased in a friend’s boutique.
By chance, Dleet participated in a joint event for local rising designers at Eslite Tun-nan. In the 2-week event, the brand received overwhelming responses. Until this day, Dleet has a strong client base in the Eslite stores with loyal followers. The 2021 Spring-Summer collection takes the theme of dual personalities, interpreted by layering and mixing two individual styles, such as uneven sleeves and collars. His garments are known for sleek lines and high wearability, Dleet has very high aspiration for Taipei Fashion Week. He says: “I hope it would be very energetic and free from boundaries – an event that is not limited to local fashion and culture, but more global in its outlook.”
Just like an epic poem, after the setting from earlier chapters, the story of Shiatzy Chen evolves with richness, broadness, and imageries. As a pioneer for Taiwan’s fashion brand. Shiatzy Chen was one of the first brands that has successfully established itself in the Paris fashion scene. Founder Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia speaks of the brand’s future plans for the international market with lights in her eyes. Starting with pattern-making, selection of materials to making of embroideries, all the processes have become globalized: patterns made in Paris, fabrics from Milan, and embroideries that combine aesthetics of the East and the West. The embroideries are developed by Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia, utilizing techniques and advantages of European court garments, Suzhou embroideries, Miao embroideries, and more to make the ultimate creations. “The key to luxury products is the commitment. When we are committed, we can embark on a road less traveled.” The theme for 2021 Spring-Summer collection is “Circular Journey”. It’s a part of the brand’s mission to expand on the richness of Chinese culture. Although fashion is an industry based on constant changes, Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia has a longer vision. “When we have a global vision, we realize how small we are. That realization allows us to see a different world.”
Inspiring ourselves through sustainability, ecosystems, and ancient crafts to evoke a primitive wisdom of ancient times where humanity suffered but also persevered against the heavens. Land should not be forgotten and each article of this planet has nourished our cultures. We must seek within ourselves for an innate instinct and create value through recycling.
In the “PRIMITIVE SENSE” themed exhibition, we showcase two design teams : SABRA ANDRE and Paru Cunuq as representatives of the aboriginal viewpoints.
The student team of the Taiwan contemporary aboriginal experimental clothing course at Shih Chien University also woven out with their own design language. The beautiful vitality dedicated to this land. Paru Cunuq is committed to the research of traditional fabric crafts, and has long invested in the teaching of native tribal crafts and industrial development, sorted out the development context of aboriginal clothing culture, promoted the development that emphasizes differentiation, and conveyed more precise lichen decoration culture to the indigenous The balanced development of fabric culture in various regions is regarded as the ambition to invest in the industry, and the pattern record and fabric experiment are regarded as the brand purpose.
SABRA ANDRE presents us the first part of the Taitung trilogy this time. Designer ANDRE transformed the childhood memories of Taitung into bright prints and decorations on clothing. The strong colors are impressionist canvases spread out under the sun in Taitung. All the packages displayed are hand-made with the elderly , contributing to the inheritance of Taitung culture. Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines is matched with the second-year clothing design course of the Fashion Design Department of the Shih Chien University, aiming at the in-depth field adjustment and reorganization of the aboriginal culture, integrating the logic of clothing fashion and the use of different materials to produce experimental clothing.
This is an era of rebirth and innovation, and Taipei Fashion Week returns this year with a whole new look. The Digital Terminal, which many will transit, uses an immersive theatrical experience to communicate the designers’ creative thinking. The Fashion Mart provides Taiwanese designers with a window to the consumer market. And for international buyers stuck elsewhere, an interactive matchmaking service in a novel digital format helps with business opportunities, marking a new approach for international fashion.
We cordially invite you to join us for this annual fashion extravaganza, and to be warmed by Taiwan’s glow as it sparkles on the international fashion stage.
– Lee Yung-te Minister of Culture
The pinnacle of the 2020 Taipei Fashion Week SS21 was the SS Launch Party hosted by the Ministry of Culture at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park on October 6th. A total of sixteen fashion shows by Taiwanese designers, two themed shows (Themed Exhibition for Materials & Themed Exhibition for Indigenous Peoples’ Culture), and over forty designer exhibits took place over the course of five days.
The theme of “Re” will connect all the inspirations and creative concepts found throughout the Taipei Fashion Week. The Chinese title of Re:connext leaves a blank space that is open to individual interpretation so the audience may express their own attitudes toward fashion. The English title Re:connext is the combination of “connect” and “next,” a hope for the fashion industry to reconnect on a personal and industrial level following the pandemic and a broken supply chain. The fashion show hosted by the Taipei City Government is titled Re:PLAY to redefine the possibilities of design through sustainability, respect, technology, innovation, urban vitality, and interdisciplinary integration
Fashion by Primitive Sense
Renown designer Yen Po Chun and his team will be responsible for the key visuals. The fundamental element of fiber will be combined with situational backgrounds of a digital era to create an image of culture and technology intertwined. Chun uses vibrant colors as metaphors with blue signifying elegance and personality while red represents passion and sensibility; the two colors connect sensibility with reason. The shifting landscape poses a challenge and we must adapt accordingly. As the primary platform for Taiwan’s apparel industry, how can the Taipei Fashion Week incite new discourse? How will fashion be redefined and how will the industry be reborn?
The year 2020 had an unusual beginning: the energy crisis, global warming, and a worldwide pandemic that has not only created social distances between humans but also redefined how we communicate. Quarantine, telecommuting, face masks, and temperature checks are fictional measures that have now become a part of our daily lives. The whole of humanity is at the crossroads as the unusual has now become the usual while existing norms are rendered obsolete. A shared belief system woven into the fabrics of society throughout the passing of time is now disintegrating and crushing the old world order. This is a sign and a revelation: nature is fickle and this time, the human race has been caught off guard. Now, more than ever, we will be exploring our relationship with the planet Earth, with others, with nature, with organic matters, and inorganic matters; the complex web of interrelationships have never been so provoking.
Fashion by Weavism
For the Taipei Fashion Week only, the Multi-Showcase Exhibition Hall at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park will be transformed into the Digital Terminal, a large floating island. Each and every visitor will become sky walkers that will be led on board by dedicated navigators after their identity is confirmed. The visitors will embark on a journey into a highly-developed dystopian society where conflicting elements of body and mind, the human and the mechanical, and reality and the virtual interweave. The world is filled with modified humans, fantastical creatures, supernatural devices, and extravagant apparel. Visitors will be able to experience the dystopian world for themselves, rewriting their stories and encountering surprises throughout.
Fashion by Allenko3
Digital Terminal is inherently a large imaginative space and each space can be further divided into multiple scenarios. Fashion houses can convey a message or display their artwork which could be outfits, textiles, images or sketches. We encourage brands to think outside of the box and showcase their own unique and untamed creativity.
Digital Terminal is a show for the Taipei Fashion Week that blends the virtual and the reality. The Digital Brands Exhibit will deliver an experimental immersive experience constructed by six outstanding designers and creators. The exhibit will take place in a dark venue and will be complemented with audio, projections, interactive technologies, and other forms of digital art. Available to the public throughout the entire day, the exhibit will combine the dynamic with the static. In this giant space, the lines between apparel and apparel, apparel and audience, and audience and others will be intentionally blurred, allowing the audience to roam freely within the flowing space as they get a closer look at the works and become a part of the Digital Terminal. Unlike conventional fashion shows and generic exhibits, each designer has been given a space where they can unleash their creativity and where their models can walk freely among the audience. The audience can interact with the designer and get an up-close look at the collection which will be complimented with installation art, audio, and visuals. The exhibits are open to the public for the entire day to help make fashion an accessible and tangible construct rather than a distant concept.
Fashion by C Jean
DANIELLA: Full Look – Linder, Bag – Kid Super, DONOVAN: Full Look – Linder, Shoes – Angel Chen
Photographer: HENRY LOU
Stylist: ISABEL EVE MIKSIC
Groomer: HIRO FURUKAWA
DANIELLA: Dress – Linder, Bag – Kid Super, Shoes – Angel Chen Earring: Linder, Bag – Maryam Nassir Zadeh
Top – Linder
Sweater – Linder
DANIELLA: Knit: Angel Chen, Blouse: Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Shorts: Linder, Shoes – Maryam Nassir Zadeh, DONOVAN: Full look – Linder
Full Look – Kid Super, Shoes – Linder
DONOVAN: Top (Tee & Knit) Ring & Shoes: Linder, Pants: Calvin Luo, Necklace/Earrings: Stylists Own
DANIELLA: Coat, Dress & Necklace: Linder, Shoes: Maryam Nassir Zadeh, DONOVAN: Oxford: Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Knit, Vest & Shoes: Linder, Pants: Kid Super
DONOVAN: Oxford: Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Knit & Vest: Linder, Pants: Kid Super, Shoes: Linder
DANIELLA: Dress: Calvin Luo, Blouse wrapped on waist: Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Shoes: Angel Chen, Ring: Linder, DONOVAN: Top: Linder, Pants: Kid Super, Shoes/Socks/Ring/Necklace/Bracelet: Linder
Photographer + Creative Direction Josef Jasso
Styling + Creative Direction Adrian Joseph
Style Assistant Carlos Posadas
Makeup director Nicky Andrea
Hair Stylist Ana Estela
Interview by Izabel Rose
Singer, songwriter, and dark-pop provocateur DeathbyRomy pays attention to every last detail. She pours both pain and euphoria into her catchy but heavy music, pitting electronic melodies and propulsive beats against hypnotic vocals and deeply personal lyrics. Now 20 years old, the Los Angeles-born Romy Flores wrote her first song at age 5 and began releasing her music at 15, mining inspiration from the iconoclastic artists she was raised on (The Beatles, Björk, Kanye West, to name a few). With her 2018 debut album Monsters, she soon drew an avid following and found countless fans turning up to her shows adorned in her signature eye makeup. Her Capitol Records debut, 2019’s Love u — to Death EP, was short but sickly sweet, emphasizing her unique interweaving of rap boldness, electronic innovation, and raw rock ‘n’ roll passion. As Romy’s sound has taken shape, so has her DeathbyRomy persona: the Harajuku punk fashion, the corpse-like makeup, and her hard-earned, utterly badass confidence. Stay tuned for more new music coming soon.
How did you find out that you wanted to be an artist?
I was raised in a home covered in art, by two people who were not only artists themselves but who honored and valued art in all mediums. My mom would sing all the time to me when I was little, and museums were a regular outings during my childhood. I started writing at five, but it wasn’t until I had experienced what I knew was real pain, did I know that I wanted to console and touch others who had felt the same. My best means to do so was through my art.
Where do you pull your musical inspirations from?
My biggest inspirations are Bjork, Kanye West, Bring Me The Horizon, and Lady Gaga. But I pull my own inspirations to write from everything around me. From the void, to mania, to pain and love.
Describe the creative process behind your music?
It constantly varies and is not limited to one set formula. I write everywhere. My favorite place to write is on the plane.
How would you describe your fashion aesthetic?
hmmmm…bi-polar? Just kidding, Japanese Lolita meets goth hype beast and a sprinkle of Renaissance witch.
From the editorial shoot, which are your favorite designs?
I loved the Weird Brain Creations outfit best. I love her work.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
To never take anything personally. To not let compliments and high regards to be the only reason I am happy with myself or the only thing that makes me feel good about myself. And in hand, to not let negative energy or comments about me be the reason that changes how I see myself.
What song(s) would you most likely sing in the shower?
Anything that allows me to belt because you sound better with the bathroom acoustics. Maybe “Cry” By ashnikko.
What’s to come from DeathbyRomy?
More music, and infinitely more life.
Dress & Jacket: Christian Wijnants, Latex Pencil Skirt: Honey Birdette, Necklaces: Dálmata, Earrings: Madame Baloge
Photographer: Sam Ramirez
Wardrobe Stylist/Creative Direction: Jacquie Trevizo
MUA: Grace Phillips using Fenty Beauty
Hair: Samantha Lepre
Creative Consultant: Ton Aguilar
Photo Assistant: JJ Geiger
Natalie Brown as Aaliyah
Top: Custom Reconstructed, Pant: Kesh, Belt: Loeffler Randall, Choker: Manokhi, Earrings & Rings: Lara Heems, Wallet Chain: Dalmata, Shoes: Free Lance
Jacket & Pant: Pyer Moss, Bralette: Joah Brown, Sneakers: Free Lance, Sunglasses: Tako Mekvabidze, Sunglass Chain: Ellie Vail Jewelry, Ring: Iris Trends, Earrings: Lara Heems, Necklace: Johnny Dang
Top & Pant: ICEBERG, Coat: Claudia Li, Rings: Adinas, Necklace 1: “BABY” custom necklace by Dálmata, Necklace 2: Custom “A” Initial Necklace by Gold Presidents, Belt Chain: Madame Baloge
Destene Marie as Lisa Bonet
Top: 8 by Yoox, Skirt: Vince, Hat: Sourced Vintage, Necklace: Sourced Vintage Bohemian, Earrings: Aaryah
Gloves: Vintage Lace Gloves, Jewelry: Vintage Bohemian Jewelry, Earrings: Aaryah
Jumpsuit & Jacket: Raquel Allegra, Rings: Aaryah, Beaded Bracelets: UNICEF Market, Earrings: Aaryah, Material Bracelet: Stella Jean, Cuff Bracelets: Sourced Vintage Bohemian
Jayden Robison as Sade
Top: Baja East, Earrings: ESHVI
Top: Bella Dahl, Pants: Kesh, Bra: Serpenti, Sunglasses: Bonnie and Clyde, Earrings: Tata PR
Jacket & Pant: Steven Khalil, Bralette: Joah Brown, Earrings & Bracelet: Ellie Vail, Necklace: Dálmata
Photographer: Greg Swales
Stylist: Marc Sifuentes
Jacket, Shirt & Jeans by Linder
Boots by Teddy VonRanson
Jacket, Jeans & Boots – Teddy VonRanson
Shirt by Linder
Trench and Shirt by Teddy VonRanson
Linen Union Suit by The Salting
Shirt and Pant by LaQuan Smith
Sweater by LaQuan Smith
Shirt and Pants by LaQuan Smith
Jacket and Jean by Linder
Dress and Coat by Versace
Photographers: Fionayeduardo @fionayeduardo
Art Direction: Louis Liu @herecomeslouis
Styling: Marc Sifuentes @marc.sifuentes
Hair: Austin Burns @austinkburns
Make-up: Agus Suga @Agus Suga
Production Assistant: Benjamin Price @benprice4real
Location: Colony Studios @colonystudios
Interview by Regina Moretto
Top by Marc Jacobs
Hunger Games alum Willow Shields deftly navigates her acting career with the confident beauty and grace of an ice skater.
The beguiling illusion of easy jumps and spins requires many hours of handwork and tenacity; quite similar to the dedication, preparation and training expected of an actor, which makes watching this young star transcend new roles all the more intriguing. Starting out with a box office smash at the early age of 12, surrounded by the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the precedent was set for Shield’s strong work ethic which helps drive her blossoming career.
We sat down with Shields amidst her busy schedule to talk about her latest project; Netflix series Spinning Out. Spinning Out, created by Samantha Stratton, is a series based on a figure skating Olympic hopeful struggling to balance her dreams of competition and the state of her family’s battle with mental health all while her dream of winning takes a dizzying hold. Never one to remain idle for too long, Shields shared with us a few additional projects her fans can look forward to seeing her in soon.
When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I started acting when I was about seven but working on my first big film and experiencing the creativity and tight knit community involved in the acting world was when I knew I would love this job.
What was your first big break into entertainment?
I did an episode of a show called In Plain Site when I was about eight and that was my first experience on set. But I guess my big break into entertainment was two years later when I did the first Hunger Games film.
Fans know you from your role as Primrose Everdeen in The Hunger Games, can you tell us the best part of working on these films?
I truly feel like I learned so much from working on these films. I grew up on set for five years learning from the most brilliant actors from Jennifer Lawrence, to Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and so many more but aside from being able to watch and learn from them everyday I was also able to witness other brilliance from the technical side of filmmaking watching our director Francis Lawrence working. I feel like after those films I had more of an understanding about filmmaking and every detail that goes into making a great film.
Being cast in Hunger Games at age 12 and being surrounded by a cast of seasoned actors, what are the most important lesson you learned on set with this crew?
To work hard, show up on time but to also give yourself room to be creative and have fun at the same time.
Do you have any funny or memorable Hunger Games stories you could share?
We had so many cast members as a part of our whole series that there was always so many fun stories being told everyday on set. When you’re in a room with Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson, you know you’re gonna be laughing all day with those two.
Jacket by Zadig & Voltaire
Tell us about your new Netflix series Spinning Out and how did you land the central role as Serena Baker?
Spinning Out was a very exciting project for me after reading the script. The story elements are something I’d never seen in a show before and it deals with a lot of pivotal emotional and physical stories that I feel need to be seen.
I fell in love with the character of Serena because she feels like a real teenage girl who’s very complicated. She has a very unusual home life and deals with a lot of emotional ups and downs between her family life and her time in competitive figure skating. It felt like a bit of a dream come true to play a figure skater as well.
Your character is training for ice-skating competitions, did you have any formal training in your past?
I did not. I came into this show with zero ice skating abilities but I trained for about two months everyday prior to filming the show. My goal was not only to be able to do as much of my own skating as possible but also experience what it was like to train that hard everyday. I came home black and blue all over my body from falling everyday but it helped me understand my character Serena and how figure skaters train.
The show brought on Sarah Kawahara, a former figure skater and Emmy winning choreographer who has worked on “Blades of Glory” and “I, Tonya”…what was it like to work with Sarah on this series?
Sarah is phenomenal. We were all so excited to work with someone so brilliant in this specific field. She helped us train in Toronto and choreographed all of our routines. The coolest thing about Sarah is she was right there with us on set when we filmed these scenes so any detail that was off she was able to help us fix in order to pull off all of the intense skating involved in our story.
Did you have any difficulties learning to ice skate or learning the choreography for the series and how did you work through these challenges?
It’s definitely one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I trained for hours everyday and was so determined to learn as much as I could. But one of the most challenging things I did was for the final episode of the show I did a portion of my routine in front of an actual crowd of about five hundred extras so it really felt like a performance for me. Which is both stressful and exciting.
In what way is the character you play in this project different from the roles you’ve played in the past?
Her athleticism is unlike any character I’ve played in the past so that’s very different for me. But just like any young woman she’s full of so much life, emotion, drive, and confusion in her teenage life so those were similarities that I’ve seen in characters I’ve played in the past.
The series seems to focus on mental health. What steps did you take to ensure your role was true to her character when handling her mother and sisters disorders?
My first step was to allow room for Kaya and January (my sister and mom in the show) to dive into those emotions and have room to experience that. I tried everyday to approach playing Serena in a very honest way, I thought through a lot of what she would go through on a daily basis living with her mom and sister who are both bi polar and how hard that truly is for a young woman who is struggling herself with things. But at the end of the day they love each other more than anyone and that was most important to portray.
Top and Skirt by Marc Jacobs
How have your fans reacted to your role in Spinning Out?
They are so excited! It feels great to have fans that follow and appreciate any project I’m a part of.
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects When Time Got Louder and A Fall From Grace?
I am currently filming When Time Got Louder in Vancouver and it’s been an incredible experience. Our story is complex and raw following my character Abbie and her family including her brother Kayden who has non verbal autism. Abbie leaves home to go to school and falls in love with a girl named Karly while at college but struggles with being away from Kayden after being there for him his whole life.
Do you have any other projects coming down the pipeline that you can tell us about?
Nothing I can talk about yet haha
Do you have a daily mantra?
Just to be open minded and open to learning from your accomplishments and mistakes throughout everyday.
Photographer: Emma Craft @emmacraft
Stylist: Angel Emmanuel @angelemmanuel
Photo Assistant: Michael Decristofaro @m.decristo
Editor in Chief: Marc Sifuentes @marc.sifuentes
Creative Director: Louis Liu @herecomeslouis
Interview by: Dustin Mansyur @dmansyur
With his fringed masks, rhinestone suits, and shoegazing lyricism, Orville Peck is every bit the part of “lonesome outlaw”. Reimagining tropes of tradition, Peck’s take on country music reinvents the genre as a decorated landscape ready for queer expression.
Orville Peck is a nomad. Like a cowboy on a cattle drive, home is an elusive feeling; the masked musician who’s been described as every imaginable synonym for “enigma” feels happiest hanging his hat just off the highway in a roadside motel. The open road is a part of his DNA, having traversed and inhabited several continents, countries, and cities as a boy. His incessancy for wanderlust belies a romantic narrative spun in the stories of his songs, lulling his listeners on a quixotic journey through a memoryscape evocative of another time and place.
Releasing Pony in March earlier this year, Peck’s sincere approach to his storytelling and lyricism is reminiscent of Lucinda Williams or Patsy Cline, intimate and unadulterated. His vocals are as hypnotic and coaxing as a desert oasis on Route 190 through Death Valley. Somewhere between the inexplicable pain of loss resides the unparalleled elation of love and lust. It is the proverbial longhorn skull and rose motif. As a queer artist who croons about gay hustlers or doomed love affairs, his sincerity is the foundation for his music’s transcendency, appealing to longtime country music fans while attracting a younger, more diverse audience to the genre. In an era demanding the commodity of content, Peck deciphers himself apart from the formulaic clout of music industry contemporaries through his visceral ability to be truthful. It is this vulnerability that cannot be faked nor bought, and an even rarer quality for a performer as sensitive as Peck, fearlessly weaving the stories of his experiences and muses into the embroidery of his album; Pony is forthcoming and unapologetic. While the illusion of his shrouded pageantry may have him pegged as the “musical outlaw”, coupled with the intimacy of his music, it creates a contrasting dichotomy that is equal parts mystifying and infatuating.
Ready to saddle up and lead a cavalry of change in the country music industry, IRIS Covet Book shares a conversation with the artist just before he embarked on the European leg of his tour.
Listening to your album, really took me back to my experience as a gay person of color who grew up in the rural Midwest on country music, struggling to find acceptance in the 500-person town I was raised in. Because of your music’s authenticity, one might easily assume you had a similar experience. Where are you from and what was your experience like growing up?
I mean I grew up in a bunch of different places, by the time I was in my early twenties I reckon 5 different countries and many many cities. I’ve lived in Africa, in Canada, in the States, and in Europe—so I moved around a lot. My parents were both from kind of humble beginnings and whenever they did kind of have any money they would put the emphasis on traveling and getting to go and experience new places and cultures. So I think I grew up with a pretty diverse view of the world, in general, but especially in music and art. And I think country music always connected with me because, not only did I love the instrumentation and the themes, but I also related to the environment that it’s set in. I was born and grew up in a desert area, so there were obvious connections to it. As a young gay weirdo, I was really drawn towards the campness of it, the bold storytelling, the theatrical nature of it, which also ran kind of congruent with a lot of sincerity, heartbreak and loneliness which are all kinds of things that I felt and I still carry around with me now.
It’s funny because country music has this stigma surrounding it that it’s supposed to be for well-adjusted conservative, aggressive, white men. It’s sad because like you said yourself, a lot of queer people of color or marginalized people that grow up in small towns feel outside of country music. But the stories within country music—even going back to artists like Patsy Cline—I think those stories speak clearly to people like us. I think also that’s why it’s so obvious that someone like Dolly Parton is such an icon for gay people because she’s someone that had to blaze her own trail and really really convince people to listen to her by dressing provocatively and wearing crazy wigs and essentially being, you know, like a drag queen. But, she could also write some of the most heartbreaking gut wrenching songs of our whole civilization. I think country music has always been written by outsiders and it’s always been for outsiders. I hope to help to break that stigma down because it’s not supposed to be only for white men in trucks or whatever.
How did you break into the music industry; was it something you always imagined you’d be doing?
I was a performer since I was about 10 years old. I started with acting and I was a dancer for a long time and I’ve always been a singer. There were always instruments around my house, I never had formal lessons but I taught myself how to play guitar and piano. I think I just always knew that I was going to be a performer in some way. I’ve been in a bunch of different types of bands all through my twenties, but I knew that I always wanted to make country music and I always wanted to really sing and I never had the confidence to do it for a long time. Then I took a break from music for about 6 years at one point and then when I came back to it I knew I wanted to do country music because it had always been in the back of my mind.
You’ve toured extensively with punk rock bands. Do you find a correlation between the genres and your approach?
Definitely, there’s a similar rebellion, of course. I think there’s a similar aesthetic in some ways. The punk that I grew up loving was early seventies kind of punk. Those people all had pseudonyms; they all had costumes that they wore. You know they spent more time on hair and makeup than most musicians probably do now. So I think that there’s a lot of correlations between country music which is essentially pageantry and drama mixed with vulturous sincerity and heartbreak and I think that that’s kind of what punk is too.
Returning to country music, did it feel like you were returning to your roots in a way?
What I do now feels so easy in a way because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s the easiest thing to just be yourself. The best qualities about you are the most sincere ones. Of course, I still struggle with insecurities about it and I have self-doubts, but the older I’ve gotten, it’s become easier for me. Even though I’ve been a performer for so long and been doing it as a job for a long time, I think this time I can really sit back and enjoy it for the first time because it’s become fun and easy to be myself.
You’re about to embark on your European Tour for “Pony”. You’ve described yourself as a “born drifter”, which kind of furthers the romanticism of your musical canon and persona. What is it about the open road or a nomadic lifestyle that calls you?
I’ve just always felt anxious. As I’ve said, I moved around a lot when I was younger, so I think the idea of moving to new places and kind of making your home wherever you are—that’s always just been part of me I suppose. I find it very hard to put roots down. Oftentimes I’ve tried to stay in cities for long periods of time and I’ve always kind of gotten anxious and not really known where my place is. Part of what appeals to me now is that I’ve learned to really find the adventure in it and not look at it as a downside. When people ask me where I’m from and I say lots of places, it’s not to be obtuse or enigmatic, it’s just because I genuinely feel like I have left little pieces of myself in all these different places that I’ve lived. That to me is so special because I can go back to those cities and feel like I’m right back at home in a way that I’ve gotten to meet incredible friends and family all over the world. So I think those are things that appeal to me about it. I’m just someone that’s never been able to sit still.
Do you feel most at home when you’re on tour?
Yes, I do. I definitely feel most comfortable. When I’m stuck in one city and I have a lot to do like I am right now— I’m about to leave in two days again for tour—but I tend to have the most anxiety and stress when I’m stuck in one place. I do feel at home on tour; I just feel at home when I’m traveling.
What is your song-writing process? How often do you write? Is it an ongoing discipline or something you do only when you apportion studio time for it?
I’m kind of writing all the time. It’s all different. Sometimes it’s an idea just based around a concept for a song. Sometimes it’s based around a melody that I have in my head. Other times it’s based around one lyric or a line that I want to try to incorporate. Oftentimes I start from more of a visual or kind of an emotive place where I know what kind of vibe I want the song to be or what emotion I want to evoke for the person listening to it. Then I go from there by making it personal to me and hopefully telling a good story at the same time.
Pony was released in March earlier this year and received with splashy critical praise as well as excitement from your fans who’ve been waiting for it since your single release of “Dead of Night” in 2017. What are you most proud of about the album, and can you share any personal anecdotes from the recording process?
What I’m most proud about and just generally about the past year is that I’ve been able to express myself as an artist. That includes collaborating with people, which is something I never used to be very good at doing. I’ve learned in the past year to really embrace that. And I find it really fun and exciting now being able to work with people on videos, visuals, aesthetics, stylists… as an artist I think it’s really important. Then in addition to that, getting to do what I’ve wanted to do since I was little, which is to be a singer and really sing, and sing about heartache and things that are important to me and things that are sometimes difficult for me to sing about. I think the bonus of that is everyone enjoying it; it’s more than you could ask for and I find it very fulfilling.
I’m curious if you ever struggled with proclaiming yourself as a gay artist right from the start or did you ever feel that you would embark on your career and let it come out naturally? How important is it to your brand?
I’ve never struggled with it. I think it’s important to me and it’s also not important at all in a way. As an artist, if I’m going to write songs with any kind of authenticity they’re going to have to be from my perspective and my experiences. And my perspective and my experiences happen to be of someone who has been with men. To me it’s kind of a non topic in a sense, but not because I’m dismissive of it, but because to me I’m just following in the footsteps of every other singer and songwriter who sang about the people they were with and sang about their problems. I just feel like I’m being genuine to myself so of course it’s going to be about men if that’s who I’ve been with. So I think on one hand it’s a huge part of who I am, what I do, and what I sing about. I’m completely proud and open about being gay and being part of that community, but I also think it could hold just as much weight if it wasn’t my background either.
What has been your greatest internal or professional challenge that you’ve had to overcome as an artist thus far?
My biggest challenge I guess has been trusting and really believing in myself I guess, which is something I learned through the help of other people a lot more in the past couple of years. I always was a creative child. I knew what I always wanted to do; I knew that I could write songs and I knew I could perform and make people smile and clap. But I think I still had a lot of barriers and defenses up,and in some ways I still do. I just never had much opportunity to really collaborate with people growing up, so that’s been a big learning curve for me. It’s interesting because I used to think that opening myself up to working with other people or even really opening myself up to sharing personal things about myself through my art would in some weird way dilute me as an artist. But it’s only just really enriched me as an artist and made it far more exciting. That’s been a struggle for me but it’s been a nice struggle in a way — It’s important to be far more open than I used to be.
Was there a defining moment in your career that proved to be a turning point or breakout moment that propelled you to the next level?
I think a lot of artists and creative people struggle with the fact of embracing that they’re going to do this for real or whatever. Like of course you have to supplement art with an income and usually that means working some job you’re not really interested in and that’s kind of soul sucking. But it’s also about a state of mind, just fully deciding one day that you know you are going to do it for real and you are going to own it. Even though I was a performer since I was very young, I still had those fears. It wasn’t until maybe my mid-twenties that I decided that I’m only going to be an artist and everything else is purely to facilitate that. It’s just that mine is a change of mindframe and a “jumping-out-the-airplane” thing. You just have to do it.
Queer people working in media and entertainment have enriched the sector, and provided more representation for fans who identify with and relate to what you’re creating as an artist. When you were growing up, did you have any queer icons you looked up to?
Definitely, I was a fan of the obvious ones like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. I grew up loving dance and theater so there was no shortage of queer icons in that world. But I also grew up with a lot of icons who weren’t queer, I never felt outside of those people being references or inspiration for what I do. I never let the fact that I was gay define anything about me as an artist. Of course it’s enriched me in lots of ways, but I never let it be a barrier.
Now that you have this platform and visibility, how do you hope you can influence a younger generation of LGBTQ fans through your music?
It’s really lovely when I hear from young queer or trans people that tell me I represent something for them in country music that they never thought was there, or that they never felt a part of. If I can be that for someone, then I feel completely honored and thrilled by that. I hope that people feel welcome to express themselves and be a part of anything that they feel they want to be a part of, and not feel like the color of their skin or their gender, sexual orientation, or anything else should limit them. I think as marginalized people we tend to have to stand on the sidelines and be a fan from a distance or feel like maybe we don’t belong. I hope it inspires people to take up more room and get on and be a part of it because it is part of them, it’s already part of them, and there’s no invitation needed.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews the landscape of country music is diversifying to include many new types of sounds and voices. How important is it to you to expand the genre and/or to receive acceptance from the mainstream country music industry?
I think it’s important to me in the sense that country music has always been diverse and there’s always been people of color making country music, there’s always been gay people making country music. Unfortunately, those things haven’t been able to be very visible. So I think it’s been a long time coming now that those different perspectives in country music are visible. I think it’s happening quite quickly now, and those walls put up by industry people in mainstream country music are starting to crumble. We’re getting a lot of weird new voices in country music, some have always been there, but they’re starting to creep through the cracks now. I think that’s great because it’ll just start ending the stigma about who country music is for.
You’ve talked about your mask as having dual-purpose: an element of showmanship and a tool that allows you to be more raw / exposed as an artist. How did you arrive at the mask? Did you create the first one or did you work with a stylist or designer to engineer the look?
It’s all me and I make them. I think it was just my version of following in the footsteps of many country performers who had bold, camp, flamboyant visual imagery to their performance. There’s a huge lineage of that and a lot of them are very straight, conservative people in country music that would wear bedazzled rhinestone suits. Dolly Parton would wear 3-foot high wigs. It’s all in that sphere, so I’m definitely not the first person to do it. Maybe for newer country musicians it’s not as common, but that’s basically where I’m coming from.
Do you connect more with your audience because of the mask?
I think so. I think it eliminates a certain amount of pretense. I think it destroys the mask that people walk around wearing everyday, which you know, isn’t a real necessarily mask. I think it eliminates a lot of bullshit especially. It’s the same as when people feel so comfortable around a drag queen or someone like that. Something about it just puts people at ease and makes them feel like they can be comfortable and be themselves. That’s what I experience in my shows with people and they all look like they’re really connected to the performance because of it I think.
You’ve been described as a musical “outlaw” and the mask reinforces this idea. In a way it’s reminiscent of a bandana-wearing bandit hero, like Zorro or the Lone Ranger. Do you think your audience responds or relates to it because of this idea of a hero-like figure?
I think so. I think people project a lot of different interpretations of it. That’s what I love about it and that’s also why I hate to talk too much about it because I don’t want to put too much narrative on top of it. I actually like that people can have their own interpretation of it. Some people look at it and think of the Lone Ranger and then some people look at it and see an S&M mask and it’s like, well that tells me a lot about that person. That’s what I like about it—that it is open for interpretation. And it allows people to be involved in what I do. For a fan to feel involved in it and that they can get a piece of that too, then that is what you could only hope for as an artist. People not only enjoy what you do but they’re invested and they feel a part of it. Some of the musicians, visual artists, actors, filmmakers, and authors that I still respect to this day are people that made me feel like I had some ownership of what they did as well.
The dichotomy of being an openly queer artist while hiding your physical features is a striking juxtaposition. Do you think you’ll ever “out” yourself physically from under the mask?
I don’t know. To me I don’t feel like I’m hiding at all. I feel like I wear my heart on my sleeve in a lot of ways. We’ll see what that evolution is. At the moment I’m really happy just doing my thing as I’m doing it.
Your music explores the nostalgia of Americana and its sound. It’s a staple source of inspiration for many iconic popular country and folk-rock ballads. Having such a diverse international background, what inspires you most about Americana?
I think it’s the seemingly normality. I think Americana as we’ve been told to believe is apple pie. It’s very clean and neat with a picket fence. The reality of American culture is far weirder and darker than that at times. It involves a lot of trauma and craziness. I think that’s the part of Americana that I find far more fascinating. I think that is the real Americana. I always talk about how I love motels because the idea of this like chic version of a hotel that is on a highway and it’s very cheap, there’s no questions asked and sometimes people live in them for months at a time. That doesn’t even exist anywhere else in the world and that’s like a whole culture of America that is of its own. I find that really fascinating and I think the people and characters that inhabit those kind of worlds are really interesting.
So many artists reinvent themselves over the course of their career. With your musical training, background, and musical influences being so diverse – Do you think you’ll stay exclusively a country music artist or begin to incorporate other sounds into your work?
I think I’ve always been kind of incorporating different sounds into it, but at heart I’m a country boy and I’ll continue to be a country musician. I think I’ll always try and push that to not leave it strictly in what other people’s idea of what country music is.
That darkness has, in recent times, become much more visible. Concentration camps have quickly become a new norm in America under the current administration. Trans rights have been challenged through rollbacks on protection for military service and healthcare provisions under the Affordable Care Act. Do you foresee this escalating its target on more LGBTQ+ people?
Unfortunately, I think I do. I think across the board not just with LGBTQ people, but also people of color, women, and marginalized people. In America we’ve been allowed to believe that things are changing but at the root of it nothing has been changing. Now that’s become more obvious to us and I think, strangely, not to sound flippant about it, but I believe that’s where this resurgence of cowboy aesthetic has actually come into play in our culture. To me being a cowboy has nothing to do with wearing a cowboy hat or being a rancher and roping cows or charging steers. I think being a cowboy is being someone who is intrinsically, innately on the outside of things and given a bad rap, maybe getting the short end of the straw, and forced to live on the outskirts of town. But instead of letting that be a negative, it’s about finding the power within that and the adventure and the freedom. The idea of getting on a horse and riding into the sunset, I think that sounds really beautiful for people like us right now where we can find our posse of rebels and cowboys, make our own rules and essentially live as outlaws. Those all sound like motifs and pastiche kind of ideas, but they do hold bearing. I think that is what being marginalized is about. It’s about not assimilating to the status quo, finding our community, our power, and charging ahead in the face of whatever. I think it’s a powerful thing, and I actually do believe that is why we’re seeing so much cowboy imagery in fashion and sub-culture and because there is something adventurous and powerful about that.
You alluded to this earlier in our conversation and in previous interviews drawn upon similarities between the Old West and the present state of affairs today saying, “We lived in a recent time when we hoped everything was going to be okay, that the powers that be were going to sort it out. But now everyone’s fending for themselves because they’re disappointed. Everyone’s on their own horse, doing their own thing.” So, if we’re all on our own horses, do you think we are equipped to become a calvary for change?
I think so. I do like to believe that. Listen, I have lived in countries other than America where I have seen, witnessed, had to live through massive social change on a really huge scale. I think it comes through perseverance and I think it comes to sticking to your guns and not swaying from who you are and what you believe in. I do believe that is powerful enough to make change because I’ve seen it happen. I think it’s time for all our posse, to find our community, and do exactly that—form a calvary and stick to who we are in the face of no matter what for change.
STUDIO 54 ON TOP OF THE WORLD!
On Saturday, December 7th the New York glitterati from the worlds of Art, Fashion, and Nightlife mingled with the society set from Zurich in a Studio 54 themed gala atop One World Trade.
The event, to celebrate the Swiss beauty innovators Haleh and Goli Abivardi, culminated with a private concert by Boy George. Transforming the entire floor of the event space ASPIRE, MAO PR outfitted the cavernous space with 15 foot high disco ball inspired islands, a 25 foot LED wall projecting pulsating lights which synced with the retro disco music played and even recreated Studio 54 famous Moon with the coke spoon (replacing the spoon with a toothbrush with a nod to the Abivardi sister’s dental care brand).
Guests, who took the 70s dress code to heart, included Lynn Ban, Michael Musto, Peter Davis, James Aguiar, Gabriella Forte, Grazia D’Annunzio, Edmundo Castillo, Stephen Knoll, Shannon Hoey, Christopher Makos, Mathew Yokobosky, Miss Jay Alexander, Susanne Bartsch, model Dara Allen, Dianne Brill, Romero Jennings, Victoria Hayes, Joey Arias, Freddie Leiba, Amanda Lepore and the original Studio 54’s very own Carmen D’Alessio.
All photos courtesy Andrew Werner
Robert Christy as Divine
Corey Grant Tippin
Miss Jay Alexander
Yana Dobroliubova,Valou Weemering, Luisa Laemmel, Grace Valentine
Goli Abivardi, Boy George, Haleh Abivardi
All photos courtesy Andrew Werner