The Designer Behind Lil Nas X's 'Half-Naked' VMAs Dress

The Designer Behind Lil Nas X's 'Half-Naked' VMAs Dress

by Alexandra Hildreth

Lil Nas X dominated the 2022 Video Music Awards Sunday night.

Not only did he take home an award for Best Collaboration alongside Jack Harlow (and Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects), but he also wore two show-stopping looks on the black carpet. First, he dressed in Harris Reed for arrivals and later showed off his VMA wins in a barely there cutout dress custom made by independent designer and stylist Marko Monroe (known for his work with Drag Racewinner Symone through the House of Avalon).

Nas’ longtime stylist Hodo Musa, has been working with the viral artist since 2019 and is largely responsible for his transition from leather-studded cowboy to experimental fashion icon. When she reached out to Monroe the Monday before the VMAs, he knew he was going to create a revealing and sexy, pop-inspired look for Nas.

Monroe tells PAPER that he “threw some ideas together like Janet Jackson’s ‘Together Again’ music video, the 1994 Jean Paul Gaultier show, Madonna on David Letterman, and Moi Renee ‘Miss Honey,’” before he began sketching the look on his Ipad.

In the early stages of his design, Monroe wanted to push the boundary of how much skin he could reveal. Once Musa and Nas gave the green light for exposure, the rest of the look fell into place. The concept that resulted, assembled by designer Howie B, featured more than 2,000 metal rings sewn around each cutout. (“Wow, I’m up here like half naked,” Nas later joked onstage while accepting one of his awards.)

Monroe’s favorite part about collaborating with Nas is his enthusiasm to tell a story, which is an outlook on fashion that the two share: “a little bit past nostalgia mixed with the future,” Monroe says. Nas’ openness in his identity is also extremely important to Monroe, whose designs so closely and confidently circle LGBTQ culture and ideology. “For those wondering, [Nas] was wearing a jockstrap,” Monroe tweeted after the VMAs.

Before becoming a fixture in the pop culture fashion circuit, Monroe was a young, queer kid growing up in Arkansas. Which is why he believes having such open, honest representation on a mainstream stage is important to help inspire the next generation. “Lil Nas X does this and to have been a small part in that is incredibly moving,” Monroe concludes.

Photo via Getty


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