Gogo Graham's trans-femme label celebrates it's tenth season
Her AW20 collection 'TenkX' is comprised of sustainable evening wear and inspired by Japanese mythology.
Photos by Pierre Crosby.
In its tenth season, Gogo Graham’s eponymous trans-femme label continues in its mission to create gorgeous designs specifically for fellow members of the transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary communities. Titled “TenkX", the collection is comprised of artfully crafted, sustainable evening wear, made with upcycled vintage pieces and donated deadstock.
“I was thinking about Japanese mythology,” she explains. “They have this recurring fox entity called a Kitsune. They’re these women who take the form of a fox and seduce men for hundreds of years, sustaining themselves on taking sexual energy from them. After a certain point, each century or so, they gain an additional tail. After I think 1,000 years, they become a non-physical being, more of a spirit. When they want to take over a body in the physical world, that’s called a Tenko. I named the show after this but I threw an X on there because it’s my 10th season.”
i-D spoke with the designer at her studio in Brooklyn, days before the presentation to catch up and discuss her process.
Tell me about the the show "TenkX".
There are things that I always touch on when I make the soundtrack and when I put together the clothes — which are just my own experiences. For this show, there’s a lot of Japanese silhouettes and Japanese court music. It’s like traditional Japanese instruments, droney and a little bit intense. There’s a lot of percussion and bells and you’ll hear these mouth organs — which look kind of like upside-down wind chimes made out of reeds and they make this crazy sound.
What inspired the silhouettes?
A lot of the shapes in the show are influenced by the 10s, post-Edwardian shapes. During that decade people in the West were really into Chinese and Japanese cultures. That’s where the emergence of the villainesses in Hollywood came from — which were of course pretty racist depictions of Asian women. They’re very conniving and treacherous, there to mislead or take down the protagonist at the time. It’s a time period that’s full of content that’s really inspirational for me.
The whole show is more evening wear than in the past. More gowns, more stuff you’d see at a special event. Not typical ready-to-wear. A little fancier than some of the other stuff I’ve made, which is partly because I’ve just learned that that’s what I’m good at doing. There are so many brands that can make stuff that people want to wear daily, in a better way than I can. I’m better at one-off pieces for more special occasions.
Who are the models?
They’re all people that I know, friends, artists and people who’ve inspired me. That’s typically how I do it. I have a pretty good idea of how to dress people once I’ve seen them in person. Seeing their body shape and knowing what silhouette would flatter them. There are also a couple of my co-workers in there as well.
Where do you work?
I work at this place called Translatinx Network; we provide services for anyone really, but they started providing services primarily for the trans Latinx community. They help with counseling and immigration lawyers. There are health events with sex education, discussing ways of preventing the contraction of STIs. We have a community closet where people can get clothes if they need them. They coordinate government services, like healthcare. It’s just all things people need to live, because it can be hard to navigate that stuff if you don’t have the right knowledge.
I love that you’re focusing on evening wear with this collection. I feel like we need more of that these days. There’s so much streetwear. I miss the 30s, with designers like Adrian, when women in Hollywood would wear such extravagant things.
I don’t know if it’s fair to make a parallel, but the class disparity is in a similar situation. A few people had so much wealth in Adrian’s time, which made them able to produce those things. So many people were in extreme poverty and that’s kind of when you have the most flashy, big, attention-grabbing silhouettes in fashion. Because that’s what some people are able to afford. And that’s what all of the people who can’t are aspiring towards. Some of Adrian’s more extreme silhouettes are definitely not stuff you’d wear on normal occasions. I love it. I try to dress how I want. I know that sounds stupid, because everyone dresses how they want.
They do, but I think people also consider how they’ll be received in public.
Yeah, I think I’ve always tried to balance that. I’ve always tried to wear something that felt very me, but also would not put me in a position to draw so much unwanted attention that I can’t enjoy being around in whatever I’m wearing. Nowadays, everyone is just wearing these uniforms. It feels that now, more than ever before, everyone really wants to look alike — which is the opposite of what I want.
You always make such a statement with the makeup at your shows. What was the idea behind what you did this season?
I did something similar to last year’s show, where I made these masks and I put makeup over it. This time the masks are in the shape of a fox. And I’m embellishing them to add some interest. They’re these little freaky things.
You also recently did the makeup for the Women’s History Museum show?
My roommate is in Women’s History Museum, this duo, this brand. And they have their own art and fashion shows. I’m into doing show makeup. I’m pretty fast about it. It’s thrilling to get it all done in time. I also did some of the hair for their show this past Saturday. I made these rafia wigs, inspired by the “bad hair day” wigs of the 20s that nightlife girls would wear when they didn’t want to style their hair but still wanted a fashion statement.
It’s so impressive. You do everything — clothing design, makeup, hair. And your show’s soundtrack!
Yeah I still need to do the mix for the show actually tonight.
How do you make them? Do you pull sound clips from the Internet?
Yeah, YouTube is my friend. And I’ll sometimes record my own voice and distort it so you can’t tell. I’ll also do text to speech stuff and record that so it has a weird robotic effect. I do everything on my phone because I’m not very computer savvy. I have a music-making app and I’ll make a few things and mix it with the samples and the voice-over stuff.
Have you been focusing on any artwork lately?
I’m really into painting. I want to do it more. It’s so calming in comparison to other activities I do because it’s so contained. It takes up one little area. Fabric takes up so much space and stitching it together, it can be unpredictable if it doesn’t work properly with the machine. Thread gets tangled. It can be a real nightmare. But with painting, it’s like, canvas, paintbrush, paint. Simple. It’s hard though, people don’t really take you seriously if you do other things. Especially with fashion, if I do a paint show, fashion people will think, "Oh she’s just a designer making paintings." They’re not really open. But currently fashion has been my main focus and I’m going with that for now.