Meet the NYC designer behind these surreal stacked shoes
Dusty's first full collection is inspired by the theatrics of WWE fighters, the Renaissance and designed to make you feel 'lit'.
Photos courtesy of Dusty.
“It sounds like I’m gassing myself, but I'm not lying; it’s true, I always had this confidence in myself because I always styled myself and dressed good,” explains New York-based model/stylist and designer Dusty. Known for his attention-grabbing looks, elaborate face makeup and the stacked-platform shoes that he pioneered, the designer is now working on his first full collection. “I’m calling it Dusty as an homage to my grandmother, who’s a lifelong WWF fan. She gave me my name after her favorite wrestler, Dusty Rhodes.”
Influenced by the spooky theatrics of WWF (renamed WWE) fighters, like The Undertaker and Kane, as well as the romantic opulence of the Renaissance, the brand’s premiere collection will consist of both couture and ready-to-wear for all genders. “Some things you can wear to a fashion show or to a party, but you can’t wear everyday,” he explains. “I want to make something for my friends that they can wear with heels or with sneakers and still be that bitch, you know?” Plus of course with his signature platform shoes, a new selection of which will be available with the launch of the clothing.
Holed up in his hometown of Baltimore, we called up Dusty to discuss where he’s at with the brand, how he came up with the idea for the stacked-platforms and how he’s staying creative during the lockdown.
Where are you staying during quarantine?
I’m in Baltimore, where I came to get away from the madness when it started. I’m with my family in my old room. I’m gucci. I watched this show with Naomi Campbell and she was discussing the importance of routines. So now each day when I wake up, I spend 10–15 minutes sitting in my bed, just gathering my thoughts and focusing on being positive. Then I make my bed and stretch. It’s crazy how when you don’t make your bed, it can make you feel depressed.
Tell me about the brand that you’re launching.
The first collection will be a mix of that wrestling inspiration with a twist of Renaissance — very inspired by the art and interior design. I’m really into it after my trip to Paris this year, my first visit. Paris was great because the French are very romantic and I am as well. That heart is in there. I want the collection to be sexy, but I also want it to be classy and sophisticated. So you can be the hoe that you want to be one day and then sophisticated another day. I got two options. Every day your mood changes. I’ve never been the person who sticks to one style. I don’t believe in uniforms. Even when I had to wear them in school, I would go against it.
The way you present yourself can be very theatrical. Will the collection have that costume-like vibe? Or will it be more ready-to-wear?
When I was designing, I was thinking to myself, do I want to go off and be extra? Or do I want to sell? I have to find a balance between the two. And I want it to be somewhat affordable. I know hella people who love the shit that I wear and I want them to be able to buy it. Support Black businesses.
I have to assume the collection will include a new range of stacked-platform shoes?
Right? Because I’m known for my shoes, when I make the first collection, people will immediately be looking at the models’ feet to see what I’ve come up with. I’ve been speaking with my shoe maker about my designs. I want to make sure to make options that both guys and girls want to wear. That’s all I can say for now.
How did you come up with the idea for the stacked sneaker?
Maybe four years ago, I made my first stacked Uptempos. I wasn’t wearing sneakers at the time at all because they weren’t matching up with my personality and who I was becoming. When I was a kid though, I was a sneakerhead. My mother used to send my brother to take me to get the new drops. I was the one in school known for having shoes that everyone wanted, but couldn’t get because they’d sold out. I was always the first one in the damn line to get mine. So, my brother was asking me a few years ago why I wasn’t wearing sneakers anymore. It got me thinking that maybe I should do something; so I did. And after the amount of attention that I got from platforming the Uptempos and then my Nike TN’s, Nike began to support me. Since, they’ve always been on my side. So, I just kept going. And I also wanted shoes that no one had and I didn’t have the money. So I made them myself.
What was it like for you when you first moved to NYC?
I’ve lived in New York for eight years now. It was kind of scary because I’d never left Baltimore before. People there are scared and closed-minded. They make it seem like nothing is possible outside of the basic jobs that people do to get by. So when I got to New York, I was lost and excited. I was trying to figure out myself and what I wanted to do. I was styling right when I got there.
How’d you start styling?
I was at a Fader magazine party and met Mobolaji Dawodu, [a stylist and fashion director at GQ]. I asked him if he needed an assistant. He said he’d only give me his card if I was serious. I hit him up and he didn’t get back to me for three months. I had high hopes and I was telling all my friends so I was pretty frustrated. But then he emailed me and we spoke. I worked with him for around two years. At the same time, I began getting hit up for modeling gigs. That threw me off a little; I came to the city to style, not to get distracted with modeling. Then I made a song and people loved that. I’ve done performances; I performed on top of a car. I was just getting distracted. But now I’m on my path again. If you don’t chase your dream you’ll be miserable as fuck. But if you follow it, shit will fall in place. You gotta follow the hero path. Fashion is my first focus. Because, not to be cocky, but no one has the vision that I have. Everything that I put together is telling a story. Some people may not know that. Not everyone has taste. Some people are blessed with other things that I am not. I have friends that do things that I can’t. So, I stay away from those things and cheer my friends on for what they’re good at.
How would you describe your taste?
Next level, out this world, on a whole ’nother planet, visionary, extravagant, outrageous. And also lit. Because when I get dressed and leave the house, it’s a performance art for me.
How has being quarantined affected your creativity?
There was a dark moment at the beginning of the pandemic when I was losing my mind. When I’m not creating, that’s the only time I’m depressed. I’m always happy, even when I’m not being booked for jobs, because I’m free to do what I do. There’s no one like me and I know it. And whatever the opportunity, I know that things will fall into place for me. But it’s hard being locked down and not able to create. I didn’t have all of my materials here; everything is in New York. So, I just started to write down my ideas and I bought a ton of new paint and materials. At the store, my mother was just like, “What the hell? You gonna get glitter all over my damn house.” So, I had to sacrifice the biggest glitter jar and put it back on the side by the register. But even the cashier lady was asking me what kid I was buying all this stuff for. And I was like, “Me!” Bitch, I’m the baby. If you saw my Instagram, you would be appalled.
Where did you get the idea to do the face makeup you’re known for?
While in quarantine, I’ve been rewatching the old WWF videos with The Undertaker, Kane, The Rock; they all were my favorite. And it occurred to me that while I’m painting my face, I didn’t realize it, but I was low key inspired by WWF. I was recreating it over and over. I was watching an interview with Tyler, the Creator. He was saying how there’s a kid in you still and sometimes you don’t know how it’s influencing you. Like maybe you loved toy cars and later in life you’re collecting all these Audis. You gotta find that inner kid, that keeps you healthy. That shit holds you down.
What was your style like when you were young?
My mother always said that if you have a funny-looking baby, you gotta dress them well. So even when I was funny-looking — you know that stage we all go through at some point in life — no one could tell me shit because I styled myself and I looked good. I always had the confidence I have today.
What are your upcoming plans? When do we get to see the first Dusty collection?
I’d finished designing the collection just before the coronavirus outbreak and was ready to get things moving. So, now I’m just sketching more and refining things. Speaking with sample makers. Doing what I can. My goal is to have a show in Paris in January. I only want to use models that have the same attitude as me; [that have] personality. So, I’ve spoken with a bunch of model friends and they’ve agreed to walk the show thankfully. I’m working my ass off to get shit done, but some of my pieces are really technical and I want to make sure they’re done well. It’s hard to keep on everything during this pandemic. I want it to be iconic and legendary. I want to celebrate life. That’s my goal; I want people to feel as lit as me on a regular day when they wear my pieces.