Gogo Graham is fascinated by speed — the rapid-fire way in which we, as a society, consume content every minute of every day, addicted to stimulation. The topic is apt to broach during a time like Fashion Month, when imagery and ideas and people all enter the tornado that eventually becomes what we lovingly call “content,” flattened across millions of screens.
During NYFW, the designer considered this nonstop visual stimulation for her Spring 2023 collection, titled “Speedrun,” in reference to clips of gamers who complete video game challenges in record times. Viewers, like Graham, love watching the seemingly impossible become possible, and these YouTube videos have often gone viral.
“In this cycle, I become numb, distracted, easily entertained, easily convinced,” Graham wrote in her show notes, comparing the exhausting experience like “a moth to a flame.” She concludes, “Swallowed whole, I wander across the abyss as someone yells, ‘Content content content,’ and the algorithm says, ‘Open wide!’”
Timed at the very end of New York’s fashion calendar, Graham’s Brooklyn presentation didn’t feel rushed or easily overlooked, despite her inspiration source. Her upcycled, demi-couture designs grounded the lineup, with models — like Macy Rodman, Club Eat’s Ren G and Fashion — all walking much slower than TikTok’s depiction of runways in a post-Demna world.
Graham says she looked to legends of yore, instead of building off trends we’re force fed online. To that end, there was a purity to this collection, with primarily white and cream looks in lace or romantic sheer fabrics. Headpieces shielded models’ faces, adding some disconnect in an age of endless connection. The soundtrack paid homage to Millennium Actress, a Satoshi Kon film about an actress looking back on her life — reflective, rather than chasing the next high.
Below, Graham talks with PAPER about the importance of community, the impossible pace of fashion cycles and being an escape for "weary viewers" twice a year.
A Thursday night show in Brooklyn is not for the mainstream, corporate Fashion Week set. How does it feel to have such an amazing community around you and your designs?
It's really nice to have the support I have for the brand and my work. I think the people that connect most with the work are the ones that can see what I'm trying to achieve in the space, which is to create an immersive and emotionally vulnerable environment where I try to effectively tell a story that's familiar to both the audience and [myself] that I'm unable to convey with my own words.
What was your inspiration for this collection and what was it like bringing the vision together?
The collection was inspired by a few things. The show is called "Speedrun." It was meant to be a story of an aging starlet living in the city, still trying to keep up in the high speed, youth-obsessed industry that brought her success in life. There are a sea of brands, and an overwhelming impulse to consume and scroll, while also producing the best work with precision and at break-neck speed.
A Speedrun is also a video game term that describes someone attempting to complete a game in the shortest time possible, and doing so without making any mistakes that cause them to slow down and therefore fail the entire challenge.
Bringing the show together usually takes place at the end when I'm working on the soundtrack. This time, I wanted to utilize jerking transitions with the sound and silhouettes that caused the viewer's attention to be redirected constantly in the same way I feel when trying to manufacture products for sale, while also trying to maintain momentum with seasonal shows and collections.
"It was meant to be a story of an aging starlet living in the city, still trying to keep up in the high speed, youth-obsessed industry that brought her success in life."
If you can pick one, what was your favorite piece from the show?
The finale piece that my friend Fashion wore was probably my favorite. It was a conglomeration of leather scraps laser engraved with an edited version of my paternal grandmother's family crest, streaming muslin bias strips, poured silicone faux brand labels all mounted on a repurposed 1950's mesh girdle. It was meant to look like a heavy pile of aged material that connected to the other materials used to make the other garments of the collection.
As you continue to grow both your community and designs, where do you see yourself and you brand's identity going from here?
As long as I can continue to support the work, I see the brand continuing to be an outlet of creative expression and hopefully an escape for weary viewers if only for 15 minutes or so twice a year.
Listen to Gogo Graham's Spring 2023 "Speedrun" soundtrack, below.
Photography: Travis Bass