Category Is: Denim Couture

Category Is: Denim Couture

By Ivan GuzmanMay 14, 2024

With Pride and the Fourth of July approaching, what’s more American than some drag artists dripped in head-to-toe denim? G-Star RAW tapped international drag icons Shea Couleé, Envy Peru and Hungry to star in a new campaign, "Denim Drags," which pushes the boundaries of denim by exploring the art of drag.

“For me, the ‘Art of Denim’ exists within,” Couleé tells PAPER. “It’s like endless possibilities.” Created in collaboration with Amsterdam-based costume design studio The Nightmare Disorder (TND), the campaign features one distinct, couture denim look custom made for each queen, combining G-Star’s signature dedication to craftsmanship with the intricacies and innovation of modern day drag artistry.

Couleé’s look in particular, the “Trophy Gown,” is a voluminous dress with sculptural elements inspired by early 2000’s Paris couture. “What I wanted to utilize the denim for was to make nods to certain historical silhouettes that existed pre-denim, and explore how we could fabricate some really great historical silhouettes and techniques using a more modernized fabric,” she says.

Envy Peru collaborated with TND to create her “Disco Dreamer” look, an ode to the '70s and the era of disco when designers like Paco Rabanne and artists like Cher were in their prime. Featuring intricate details and metal embellishments, the look was made throughout several weeks of creative back-and-forth. “Have you ever seen pheasant feathers made of denim on a headpiece? I hadn’t…”

For Hungry, it was all about blending multiple bodies into one. Its "anatomical distortion" was inspired by the city’s movements and the artist’s signature morphed musings, aiming to present an illusion of a body in motion, phasing through another body. “With denim being so omnipresent in our lives and so versatile in use, it was my challenge to see how to make it my own in a way that seemed authentic and fresh.”

With all three looks, the queens and The Nightmare Disorder wanted to examine the limits of textiles and just what’s possible for combining "low end" with more "high end" couture concepts. “It doesn’t have to be the most expensive textile, but it has to look like a million dollars,” Peru says. “Drag is very much about that.” In many ways, G-Star’s spotlighting the three queens signals a much wider mainstream acceptance of drag within more big brand fashion and cultural spaces, not just during Pride month.

“I want to see more drag queens included in these conversations in ways that allow them to truly have an opinion and equity in what it is that they are showcasing,” Couleé says. “So that they’re not being tokenized for the sake of meeting a certain diversity quota.”

Photography: Ari Versluis