Hunter Schafer played dress-up with designer Gogo Graham at NYFW

Since launching her brand in 2014, Gogo Graham has become known for her intricately upcycled pieces, designed specifically for those who don’t fit the average size or standard. The trans designer originally started out designing garments for the trans community inspired by her own experiences – which led her to meet Hunter Schafer, the actress who plays Jules euphoria. Little did she know that this meeting would mark a turning point for her label.

“She and I had a discussion and she told me she was interested in supporting my brand financially,” Graham said W ahead of their fall 2022 show, which took place Tuesday night at indoor-outdoor bar Today in New York City. “She believes in everyone being paid fairly, which is really great. I’ve learned over the years that a lot of industry models don’t get anything from appearing in shows, which is really hard to imagine. I came up with a budget and then Hunter was like, ‘Let’s pay all the girls more.'”

This show brought guests far from the usual New York Fashion Week scene to Ridgewood, Queens; Before taking their seats outside under the glow of twinkling lightbulbs, attendees gathered inside Today for drinks. Graham designed a diorama-style runway set, complete with upcycled fabrics tied together like flags for her model cast – and even Schafer herself made an appearance, closing the show by walking the runway with Graham during the final looks . Giggling with the designer on her arm, Shepherd wore a black and white woven dress with a corset and yellow trousers while holding a matching teddy bear.

Hunter Schafer backstage at the Gogo Graham fashion show.

This season, Graham was inspired by one of the final scenes of Tomb of the Fireflies, Studio Ghibli’s 1988 animated war tragedy. It specifically drew from a take in which the film’s brother-sister duo, Seita and Setsuko, run around playfully. “It’s that moment where you dress up in everyday objects,” she says. “With my collections, when I come up with ideas for them, there tends to be a big fantasy component. For me, the mundane or the ordinary is fantasy, because at the moment everything is not ordinary and not normal.” This concept also played a role in the materials for autumn 2022. “I’ve used a lot of sweatshirts, knitwear, blankets, jeans and stuffed animals,” Graham said. “It’s that messy moment where I use the everyday, ordinary things to dress up.”

As models of all sizes walked the outdoor runway holding various teddy bears – a motif we’ve already seen in Graham’s work – they were cheered on by the audience. In addition to the stuffed animal accessories, the line featured many woven fabrics, as well as corsets and t-shirts patched together to resemble shapes that have become very recognizable in the designer’s unique aesthetic language. Armor-like cloths with heavily constructed shoulders jutted back and forth, while structured corsets and bustiers were incorporated into bodices. Knitwear was almost collaged, and Victorian-looking outerwear fused with jogging pants – a nod to the most-worn piece of clothing of the last two years, for better or worse.

“All of my pieces are made from materials that have either been found or donated,” Graham said. “I recycle stuff to do all the looks. There are many knitwear. It’s quite a cosy-cozy sort of collection.” It’s clear that Graham was thinking a lot about consolation; She titled her latest collection Home Sweet Home.

When Graham started out as a designer, she only made one-offs as all of her fabrics are upcycled. But once she’s been able to expand the brand, she’s also found a way around that: “Due to the nature of my work, it’s sometimes difficult to recreate the same piece over and over again,” she said. “But since I started in 2014 when nobody was doing that, there are now different places where you can buy more yards of donated fabric and stuff. As a culture, we are more interested in recycling things today than we were seven or eight years ago. So I do more and more things that are multiples.”

For the aspiring designer, the biggest goal of her work will always go straight back to the community – and providing more work opportunities for trans models is always at the forefront. “I’d like to have those kinds of shows and opportunities wherever I can, gigs for all the people who want to be involved in the production, but also hair and makeup,” she said. “If I have a budget to pay people well to do these things as often as possible, I will do that.”

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