dapperQ is Loudly Reinventing Fashion

Subcultural fashion guru Katya Moorman said, “THIS is Queer Fashion […] dapperQ succeeded where Camp failed.” Heavy on her mind is the much-memed 2019 Met Gala, whose failed – and painfully straight attempts to evoke the delicate art of camp through its Sontag-inspired “Camp: Notes on Fashion” theme has lingered like a collective trauma on the queer psyche ever since. And where the MET’s good intentions felt like an appropriation of an entire subculture and aesthetic to create a pompous red-carpet theme, dapperQ has this year curated a fashion show both for and by queer folk, celebrating those very people the Met Gala felt eager to let be seen but not quite be heard. 

 

Photo by Grace Chu. Look by Buckethead Productions.

 

dapperQ is a digital fashion publication with a clear aim: spotlighting those bodies that big fashion brands would never dare let breathe near a catwalk or photo shoot beyond their thinly veiled diversity quota. The publication’s tagline – “ungendering fashion” – says it all, birthed in 2009 from queer founder Anita Dolce Vita’s “long-term, very unhealthy relationship with fashion media.” dapperQ has since grown to become one of the preeminent voices in queer fashion globally. Transforming clothing into a form of visual activism, its flagship protest rolls around with each New York Fashion Week in the form of their annual fashion show, held at and in collaboration with the Brooklyn Museum. 

 

Photo by Grace Chu. Look by Guvanch.

 

This year – which marks the eighth instalment of the show – the category was “MUSE”, and highlighted dapperQ’s anti-binary model of fashion by turning eight transgressive, on-the-rise designers (Hesta, Transguy Supply, Sun Sun, Danithreads, Llessur NYC, Freemen, Kirrin Finch, Buckethead Productions, Soid Studios New York) into the show’s titular muse(s). dapperQ’s mission is one made all the more urgent by the current homophobic and transphobic malaise permeating American political discourse, where drag performances – the prime example of fashion’s post-gender potential – have been banned in some states and new laws restricting bodily agency for minoritised people are regularly being passed. America is a nation at a tipping point, and dapperQ hopes to turn the odds back in our favour through the power of style. 

 

Photo by Grace Chu. Look by SOID Studios.

 

Through its recognition of camp, of queer self-expression, as inherently political, dapperQ’s show opened Fashion Week with a deafening bang where the Met Gala only made an embarrassing thud. Guvanch gave us genderless, fantasy-world bridal wear; Soid Studio combined cowboy, punk, sci-fi, and fetish to produce something Mapplethorpe-meets-Jamiroquai; and Buckethead presented its knitwear gimp, which looks as if Westwood’s fixation had been with crochet instead of plaid. The result was a show that blurred boundaries, gloriously eccentric and disparate without ever feeling aimless. It was loud, excessive, and over-the-top in a way that queer needs to be, in the way that camp is supposed to be. In a way that the Met Gala failed to be. 

Photo by Grace Chu. Look by HESTA.

 

dapperQ’s NYFW show “MUSE” was held at the Brooklyn Museum on September 9th 2023, with help from the event’s official sponsors Meow Wolf.  

 

Article by Jude Jones

 

Jude Jones is a staff writer at GAY45. He is also an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge primarily researching the literary, visual, and academic cultures of HIV/AIDS in Britain, France, and the USA. 

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