Talking Nasty Pig's 30th Anniversary With Kevin Aviance

Talking Nasty Pig's 30th Anniversary With Kevin Aviance

BYMickey BoardmanJun 28, 2024

Nasty Pig is not interested in subtlety. From its founding in 1994, owners David Lauterstein and Frederick Kearney have been all about being shame-free in their celebration of gay sex positivity.

They’ve also been all about making great clothes that customers go crazy for — like legendary drag performer Kevin Aviance (who has had a string of chart-topping dance hits, collaborating with the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé and Janet Jackson). Aviance has also been a part of the Nasty Pig family from the beginning.

PAPER caught up with Lauterstein and Aviance to hear about their three-decades-long relationship.

David Lauterstein and Frederick Kearney in 1994

Is this year the 30th anniversary?

David Lauterstein: We were actually officially incorporated on October 31st, so we got stamped by the government on Halloween, 1994.

So that means the brand is a Scorpio, which makes a lot of sense. Tell me how it all came together to launch your brand.

David: 1993 was a time when AIDS was still taking down our queer ancestors. We had adopted a lot of the shame and stigma that was placed upon us. Our leaders were like, "Just blend in. We're not like everybody else."

There was a small group of us, as you know, who were defiant against that. And Nasty Pig really wanted to reclaim that crossroads between queer identity and sexual positivity. We were wildly unpopular for a long time for doing so, but we weren't about blending in.

Kevin Aviance: You have to understand, David is such a visionary. He was always writing, always thinking about the future, what he had to do. We even did music together. So he was thinking about the whole project from the beginning.

And where did the name “Nasty Pig” come from?

David: Nasty Pig is named after me and Fred's [Creative Director Fred Kearney] Jack Russell, Piggy. I didn't know how to start a company, but I wanted to get a lease on this little tiny store. And the landlord was like, "Okay, well, what's the name of your corporation?" Piggy was humping my leg while I was on this call, and Fred was like, "Get off." And I was like, "Get off me, you little nasty pig." And then I was like, "You know what? I'm going to call it Nasty Pig." And Fred was like, "What?" I was like, "Shut up."

But I was also thinking about the idea of masculinity and the idea of chauvinist pigs, and how that was bad and the way that sometimes heterosexual men treated women, and misogyny was so gross. But yeah, it's named after Piggy Puff.

And then how did re:vision come in?

David: The first product we ever made were our re:vision goggles, which you reported on, gave us our first piece of press. I began making these goggles out of prism diffraction paper. We would buy goggles, punch the lenses out and replace the paper with that refraction paper, and I would sell them out of a Hello Kitty knapsack. I needed a title so I just was like, "Oh, re:vision, like let's revise how people see things." But then, Nasty Pig just kind of took over when I found out I couldn't legally own “re:vision” because some gym in Chicago had the trademark. So I had to ditch her and go full-blown Nasty Pig.

Kevin Aviance for Nasty Pig

And it was in 1995 that you did your first shoot with legendary Kevin Aviance?

David: The first time I saw him perform, I was just blown away. And I was fascinated. Both of us were playing with the idea of masculinity, being queens, being men. We were really kind of on different sides of it, but I was just enamored with this person who was redefining what drag could look like and what a performance could be. She was the ringleader of Sound Factory. And then I got up the guts to talk to her and we were queening out from day one, the two of us.

She came by the store one day and she said to me in front, "I want you queens to make me a dress." And we were like, "Oh, definitely." My husband was like, "Thanks for answering. I'll be the one who makes it." And I was like, "Okay, yeah." And so we're like, "What kind of dress do you want, girl?" And she was like, "I don't know, girl. I just want something that when I wear it, girls will be like, 'Oh no, she didn't.'" So we made a dress that we named the Oh No She Didn't dress.

Nasty Pig really wanted to reclaim that crossroads between queer identity and sexual positivity.

Kevin, what attracted you about Nasty Pig when you went by the store and met them? What was your impression?

Kevin: Well, they were hot, first of all. They were both hot. Let's just start there first. And then, they were just so sweet and so nice. It was so refreshing to meet people that were just, say, about the same age and they had vision, and we were just like moths to a flame. I felt very comfortable with them and I felt very much like I was in the right place with them.

I was really drawn to them and it got to the point that I was at that store every day. They lived in Chelsea. I lived in Chelsea, too. So it was just the right place, right time. They're part of my DNA.

David: We would leave Sound Factory and walk to the store and open her on Sunday and just continue to carry.

Kevin: Sound Factory was such a magical place. It's just amazing how much stuff came out of there. And just living for that Saturday night, just waiting for Saturday night to happen basically all week long just so you can just be with all these creative people.

Tell me about this shoot that you've done for the 30th anniversary.

We found this place called Rosewood Theater on 38th Street between 11th and 12th, very burlesque. And we were casting the models and Sam the art director was like, "I really want to use Nasty Pig roots of bringing in different personalities. I'd love to have a queen backstage there, maybe half-dressed." And I was like, "I know the perfect queen and she'll be there."

Kevin Aviance for Nasty Pig

Note she's half-dressed during the interview!

David: When I said half-dressed, meaning that was Kevin. Kevin was full-dressed. Kevin always could give whatever elements of himself and it was always put together. The idea of having a half-made-up drag queen, you don't need no half-made-up drag queen. I could get full Kevin.

I said, "Well, how about Kevin Aviance?" And he was like, "You think you could get Kevin Aviance?" I was like, "Girl, obviously." And we had those images from that Industria shoot. So the idea of bringing him back 30 years later to be in this shoot. Kevin and I have been on this journey together and we're just family.

How has the Nasty Pig customer changed in the last 30 years?

Kevin: The drama and the epicness of their customer is worldwide, darling. They started with a bunch of kids in New York City and then they went on to be worldwide.

David: I feel like we've always been about queer empowerment and sexual positivity, and I think the number of people who are open to that kind of vibe has grown tremendously and we welcome them all in.

We live in such crazy times with conservatives coming out against drag and trans kids. Do you feel that you still have your beacon of light out to the people who get it and sex positivity?

David: Stronger than ever. Stronger than ever. They're battling because they're dying. They're the last gasp because there are so many of us. I wrote a memoir called Sodomy Gods, even that word which I wanted to reclaim, it was used against us. I think the more the pendulum swings one way, those of us who are loud, we just get louder.

We need to get louder, definitely. Do you have any plans for the rest of the year to celebrate?

David: Our Fall 2024 collection will drop in August. We're going to continue to look back and look forward. I've got my book coming out on August 26, which is going to tell a love story. It's the love between me and Frederick, 31 years, the love we have for our community, queens like this girl and our love for fashion. And I think that's going to be a really fun moment to tell the origin story. I've got a book tour coming up and we're going to continue to put out popping photo shoots and sort of a centerfold kind of series of old models. We got some fun ideas.

Kevin Aviance for Nasty Pig

Photos courtesy of Nasty Pig