Gogo Graham weeded out the Never Been to Brooklyn sector of fashion, when she invited NYFW to Nowadays — a club deep in Queens — for her latest collection. A day prior, her PR also sent out a warning blast: “Please be dressed to the nines,” they emailed, “but also bundled up with proper layers as it will be freezing temperatures tomorrow at the venue.” For a designer like Graham, who’s been building community around her work since 2014, this meant a more devoted crowd — none of those boring fashion week complainers, all fans.
The chilly nighttime show was full of smiles, as everyone cozied up on benches with big tents surrounding us outside. It felt like being at camp as a kid, huddled in the woods and sharing secrets, and this was intentional on Graham’s part. Her Fall 2020 lineup, titled “Home Sweet Home,” was a return to simplicity — which, in a time of constant change and turmoil, is really something of a fantasy. Normal is rare, ease entirely nonexistent — and Graham captured what once was.
Her looks this season were inspired by the 1988 anime film Grave of the Fireflies, when a character happily discovers basic items like blankets amidst war in Japan. Graham created pajama-like silhouettes, made from up-cycled knits, which models wore with matching plushies in-hand. Hoodies and varsity jackets with sports team logos were transformed, playing up the rom-com trope of city girls returning to their small hometowns. Things felt safe, like bringing your bedding to the bodega as a shield of familiarity and protection.
As with all of Graham’s shows, she cast the models herself, and each individual brought their own personalized energy. Some smiled and flirted with the front row, while others twirled their floor-length braid around, all wearing outfits that Graham designed specifically for them (as she always does). Euphoria star Hunter Schafer closed out the show in a basket woven skirt and puffy, marshmallow coat. She also sponsored the entire thing, helping Graham bring her production to life.
We Zoomed with Graham the morning after to talk about dressing sexy at home and Schafer's "affirming" involvement.
How was the rest of your night after the show?
It was good. A couple of my cousins wanted to meet up, so I went to a bar and hung out there for a bit.
I can imagine the days leading up to the show were pretty intense.
Definitely. I just woke up not too long ago and that was the first time I got up later than six in a little while.
Well, it was worth it — the show was amazing.
Thank you, I’m so glad that you liked it.
How do you feel now that it's all done?
I feel relieved, but also after every show I'm like, “Here’s things I could have done better or improved on.”
Of course, but that's always going to be the case with anything you work hard on. For me, it was a very comfortable collection — cozy and pajama-like, which is appropriate for the way the world feels and, at the same time, very different from everything else being shown at NYFW.
I was very much on that energy. There was a lot of knitwear, things made out of blankets and sheets, stuffed animals. I would say that comfy was very much the vibe I was going for with a lot of the looks. Of course, there were some corseted gowns, but for the most part I was like, “I need to make stuff that will be warm too,” because I knew [the show] was going to be outside. I booked the venue [Nowadays] when we had that spike in COVID, so I wasn't sure if people were going to be doing indoor stuff. I wanted it to be comfortable for the girls, too.
I loved that it wasn’t inside. Forcing people to sit outside in the cold and take in your work is such a cool thing to do. It was almost like an endurance test, so I wondered if the venue decision was intentional for this collection, specifically?
It was a COVID thing, but I also liked that space. Every time I go I usually have a good experience and wanted to create this effect of a playhouse outside with how everything looked boxy and had astro turf. It was very diorama-like — the format that old ’80s-’90s video games have where you’re just in a box and it’s green because it’s grass, and so it gave that video game effect. I think it tied into the whole idea of being comfy at home, and playing games and being isolated and depressed. I watch a lot of movies when I’m sewing and that was part of it too — like a lot of shitty rom-coms where there’s always some lady going home from the city, and she’s in her small town and everyone is in these cotton jersey t-shirts, knits and sweatshirts. I was trying to make it all go along with that vibe and the title of the show is, "Home Sweet Home.” Have you seen the movie, Grave of the Fireflies?
I haven't, no.
It’s this ’80s anime about this brother and sister who, well this part definitely isn’t the inspiration for me because it’s not my experience, but they are living on the countryside because they survived the K-bombing because it’s during the Japanese war time. That part wasn’t the thing I was trying to convey, but there’s a scene at the end of the film where the sister is playing around with everyday objects, like sheets and blankets and baskets and pots and pans. For me, because I always like to have fantasy involved in the collections, and for me the fantasies are the ordinary and the everyday because everything is so crazy right now, so during that scene the song, “Home Sweet Home,” is playing and it’s this ’30s opera song. So hopefully it all gave that energy.
That's so interesting, thinking about everyday life as the ultimate fantasy, right now. Where is home for you?
I was born in California, but I grew up in Texas. I'm from the Houston area.
Do you miss home at all? Is this collection a byproduct of being homesick?
I don’t miss home, but I miss my family, I don't really miss Texas that much. There’s good things there, like the food is really amazing and there’s a lot of cool people there, but Texas is just not the place for me.
There was also a nostalgic feeling this season, with the varsity jackets and sports jerseys. What’re you looking for when you go out and find things to up-cycle for your collections?
When I first started out, people were not into [up-cycling] at all. So now that people are, I’m trying to find ways to make stuff that’s wearable and also what people want. These knits from sports material, like the sweatshirt knits and jersey knits from t-shirts, all that stuff happens to be abundant because people get rid of it all the time. I got all that stuff from thrift stores, and obviously I washed it and then sewed it together. As I’m trying to expand my brand, that’s an area where I know I can reliably make a lot of stuff because that material is always available in lots of colors. Obviously, it won’t always be the same for each garment, but if it's indistinguishable from samples or something, what difference does it make?
How do you see the growth of Gogo Graham over all these years and where do you want to take things, now having done it for a long time?
I’m trying to get my online store together and I’ve been selling stuff on Depop for a while now. I’m also learning that people are more into online shopping and accessories are the things that people really want from me. Having done stuff slowly and trying to pay attention to what people actually want from me has been the most beneficial for me. I just want to keep expanding my online sales and we’ll see how it goes with other stores. Also, now there are places like Fabscrap. I believe they’re nonprofit, but they accept donated fabrics from anyone getting rid of fabric and sell it by the pound. I’ve found that I can get larger quantities of material that way. In combination with the way I source — older garments to up-ucycle with the new materials I can get from places like Fabscrap — it’s allowing me to have a little more control over whether or not something will be a one-off or something produced in multiples, so that’s good.
I really loved that some of your models were carrying little plushies. You talked about accessories, but Gogo Graham stuffed animals are such a cute idea.
I have been making stuffed animals for friends and family, and they’ve really liked it, so maybe I should be doing this. What makes me different from a brand like Chanel? They have crazy shows, but what do they sell? They sell fragrances, makeup and handbags, so why can’t it be like that for me? Brands have their products that work for them, and I like stuffed animals. I don’t have a ton of room because I'm in New York, but with stuffed animals you don’t have to try it on. Also, if the stuffed animal happens to be a bag, or attached to some gloves, or a hat or scarf, that’s just a fun little accessory to have. All the ones made in the show were mostly blankets, and that stuff is super easy to source. I think I'm probably going to be doing more of that.
Yeah, it makes sense. More people are spending time at home or they’re thinking about their home in a different way than they’re used to, especially in New York. So maybe having a plushie makes you feel like you're making a fashion statement, even if you’re sitting in your bedroom alone.
The soundtrack for your show was perfect, and by the end it got weird and ravey. There was a voice that sounded like this existential monologue. Who worked on that?
Serena Jera made the soundtrack. She’s an amazing artist and DJ, and also in the past couple of years, she’s gotten into making her own music, producing or composing. A lot of [the soundtrack] was her own tracks. She mixed it with others too, but basically I told her in the beginning that, “I trust you and if it goes with the collection, do whatever you want,” and I think she did a great job.
We’ve talked about comfort a lot, but there were sexier elements like the corsets and a bondage piece styled with a trench coat that Dara wore. There were also long braids, which some models swung around like whips.
Sonny Molina did the hair and she’s always really incredible. That was her idea to do these long braids as if she was growing it out for a while, and maybe just got back from a journey, so things weren’t super neat. That’s where that element was coming from. The one look with Dara, maybe it was the pressure I’ve gotten from past collections, but I feel like people are into the tiny, slutty, leather lingerie kind of things that I like to do, but I also wanted to incorporate that with a winter look. So I was just like, “Let me layer it on top of this comfy jumpsuit.”
And the corsets, mostly this time I was trying to keep it so that the corsets were there to be structural and hold the shape of the gown, but I wasn't trying to cinch everyone, it was just support. For the most part, historically, corsets were meant to do that. I feel like the super cinched silhouette is very popular right now and I wasn’t trying to tap into that, but I also love a good evening gown so I was like, “Let me see if I can find a way to throw it in there because it’s something I enjoy the look of.”
I think there’s room to still be sexy even when you're at home, and I sometimes have these samples laying around and I’m like, “Was this good?” I'll try it on and I'm like, “Maybe next time I could do something like this to make it better.” That’s also part of it too, the dress up vibe, and hopefully it was the softer touches that went along with it, the duvets and stuffed animals, that softened those few looks that did have a corset.
Your shows are amazing because there’s always the larger show, and then there’s a separate, smaller show within each model’s runway walk. It’s a testament to your friendships and ability to cultivate community, allowing models to also be personalities. There were familiar faces that you’ve cast in the past and then the really special finale, Hunter Schafer, which everyone was excited to see. How did you approach casting this season?
Every time I cast, I’m trying to cast people I know that are inspiring to me. It kind of is all over the place, as long as I'm into the stuff they’re doing, that’s what gets me to ask them. Hunter sponsored the show also, and this is something we’ve been talking about for a while and I obviously wanted her to be in the show too because she’s very inspiring to me. She and I got to talking about it last year. She was giving really nice affirmations of my work and she was like, “I would love to sponsor what you’d be doing, like a show,” and I thought that would be fabulous. We made it work for this season and I’m super happy with the fact that she wanted to do that because it’s so affirming to know that someone who can do that thinks it’s worth it. Creatively it’s really affirming, but also it was really cool that she wanted to be in it. She’s financially and personally invested in it, so that was really cool to me.
Photography: Hatnim Lee
- Hunter Schafer Fronts Prada's First Galleria Bag Campaign - PAPER ›
- Dominic Fike and Hunter Schafer Are Instagram Official - PAPER ›
- Hunter Schafer on Her Acting Debut in HBO's "Euphoria" - PAPER ›
- Gogo Graham on Her Spring 2023 Collection, "Speedrun" ›