Mike Eckhaus on Creating Clothing That Speaks to the Tension Between Genders


Growing Up, Coming Out is a series of personal reflections from queer American designers, released every day this month.

Queerness really emerged for me around 2004, when I was 15 or 16. My friend Erica and I decided to start creating these fake holidays where we would get dressed up for high school—I took it really far, and would show up on a random Wednesday in the middle of April with a shattered mirror hot-glued to a t-shirt, or wearing everything backwards, or wearing all these button downs layered on top of each other (that look was inspired by a Viktor & Rolf collection that had just come out). That time was kind of my queering into fashion, but it was definitely not a sexual thing at all—more like playing with identity and self.

I didn’t come out until the very beginning of college, when I was 18 or 19. It wasn’t a big surprise to my parents—they were like, “So?”—but I think it was a very different time compared to now. I’ve talked with a lot of gay friends about how much has changed. When I was growing up, being gay meant feeling like a weirdo, but people are feeling so much more comfortable in their sexuality now.

When it comes to Eckhaus Latta, I think our female identity is a bit harder in her femininity. It’s not about girliness. But with the male identity, I think there is something that is more queer without it tilting into a feminine trope. We always ask ourselves: How do we make clothing that does not feel like you’re wearing women’s clothing or men’s clothing necessarily, but gives you the tension and the space between like the two genders. A friend’s boyfriend came up with this funny slogan for us, I think it really sums it up: At Eckhaus Latta, you don’t have to be gay to look gay.

Courtesy of Mike Eckhaus. 



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