Pin It
hana quist new york aquaria rupauls drag race queer scene
Photography Mateus Porto

Meet the designer (and drag queen) behind some of your fave Drag Race looks

As an integral part of New York’s queer nightlife scene, Hana Quist has created gag-worthy fantasies for the likes of Aquaria, Milk, and Sasha Velour

Following a lacklustre All Stars 3 and its disappointing finale – yes, Shangela should have won – RuPaul’s Drag Race recently returned for its tenth season. After just four episodes, there is one queen already snatching our attention (and our wigs) with her looks alone.

As one of five contestants hailing from New York City it’s Aquaria – the eagerly-anticipated queen who's made it to the big leagues (after just one attempt, no less). Having stolen the first show with a punky, 80s-inspired look, in episode two for her ‘best drag’, she slinked down the runway in a low-cut, bejewelled cocktail dress accessorised with a fluffy green stole and rings in her nose. Last week’s feathers theme saw her slay (or should that be slain?) in a plume-covered tulle creation, complete with bloody wounds caused by two arrows lodged in her waist. It was, as she described it, “a cross between Saint Sebastian and a wounded bird.”

The person behind those looks, and a handful of others that have been on the show, is New York-based designer and drag queen Hana Quist. A mainstay on the New York queer nightlife scene, Quist is currently studying at Parsons, interning, working at the clubs, and designing looks for herself and friends – juggling all of them, like a true New Yorker. 

“I feel like New York’s nightlife is such a family and a community. Everyone is actually more accepting than I thought they would be of me as a woman doing drag” – Hana Quist

As a close friend of Aquaria’s – the pair have worked together for three years – she is over-the-moon at her friend being cast as part of what is often dubbed ‘the Olympics of drag’. “I’ve worked with Aquaria for three years, we were literally seeing each other in drag every single week since we met,” Quist tells us. “I feel like New York’s nightlife is such a family and a community and it has produced this incredible queen.”

Incredible too, are Quist’s designs, which are as varied as they are captivating. Originally starting out with crochet – though not in the way you’d imagine: one look mimicking a naked body, complete with boobs and its guts spilling out – over the years her looks have evolved. “I think it’s a little all over the place because it’s me growing up,” she explains. Now, it can be anything from Chanel-esque jackets made out of trash bags, and sexy bunny headpieces, to feather fantasies, and Vivienne Westwood-inspired corsets.

With Quist now spending some time in London, we caught up with her to talk about her drag, her design inspirations, and seeing her looks on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

You’re currently studying at Parsons, was that always your goal?

Hana Quist: I’ve always wanted to go to New York, it was always such a dream for me. New York is such a great place and I think the education I have got from being in the city is incredible. The opportunities you get from being there – it really is the most amazing place. I’ve always had an eye on London which explains why I’m here now – I’ve come across to do a bit of school and to see how London works out for me.

Do you feel like the city inspired your approach to design and your creativity? 

Hana Quist: Yes! Everything is there at any time you want it: you can walk to the Garment District and what you see there can be really inspiring, or you can go down to the subway and find something insane and be like: ‘I can’t believe people are wearing that!’ and that’s inspiring, too. It’s just a cool city with a cool attitude and I love that I can leave my place at 4am and find something to do. Stuff is happening all the time and that’s why I really like it.

How did you first get into drag? 

Hana Quist: I started doing drag because I wanted a fantasy that I felt like I wasn’t getting by just being a girl. Drag let me dress up differently every single week, and I want my clothing to have that fantasy too. I think that drag, and me doing it, is just all about fantasy and being over the top and the glamour that you don’t always see during the daytime or in 'normal' clothes. I literally have the word ‘full fantasy’ tattooed on my wrist. 

“Drag let me dress up differently every single week, and I want my clothing to have that fantasy too” – Hana Quist 

What are you inspired by in fashion?

Hana Quist: I’m a huge 90s couture girl – Galliano at Dior and all those over-the-top full-fantasy 90s shows. I love a good Christian Lacroix giant puffy piece of insanity. I’m clearly a huge Westwood fan – I love the Westwood corsets, they’re just so gorgeous. And I also think it’s interesting to see what contemporary designers do with nightlife and its history. You have people like Charles Jeffrey who is from nightlife, and Nicola Formichetti who is from nightlife. I really love that scene and the new generation of these designers who come from nightlife and from queer places that are living out their full fantasy.

Do you think queerness is something missing in fashion right now? 

Hana Quist: Fashion and nightlife and queerness have always been together but I think there’s a huge lack of visibly queer women in fashion. Most people probably can’t name a major, queer female designer. Even if you think of the queer imagery in fashion, it tends to be all about the men and not about the women. I think that fashion is one of the best areas for supporting and giving a voice to queer people, but I think we’re still really behind when it comes to women and queer women, and what it looks like to be a queer woman in fashion. I'm hoping that's something we'll see change in the coming years. 

Have you had difficulties being a queer woman doing drag?

Hana Quist: I always feel like the issues that I do run into in nightlife are not because I’m a female drag queen: I would be having the same issues if I was a woman during the day. As a woman, I’m going to run into misogyny and literally anything I do in nightlife is no different, and being a drag queen doesn’t make it better or worse. I don’t think anyone has purposely gone out of the way to be mean or rude because I’m a drag queen, and no one has said I can't do drag because I'm a woman. 

I feel like a lot of the negativity and discussions surrounding that happen on the internet, and that's something you have to remove yourself from. If I don’t want to read some random person’s opinions about me, I don’t have to do that. It’s the same with the stuff that RuPaul has said, I just don’t have to read it and engage with it. My drag sisters love me and respect me, so no one’s opinion of me matters at the end of the day. 

You create looks for some of the queens on the New York scene. How did you get into that? 

Hana Quist: I wanted to make stuff for other people but then one friend asked to make something for them, and then another friend did, and so on. I’ve been trying this past year not to make as many commissioned pieces for people, but obviously if a friend asks me, I have to.

They’ll come to me with a loose concept or feeling they want. Then I’ll go and do some sketches of what I think would be something they would wear, and we talk about the sketches and colours, and then I’d make it. 

Aquaria has worn two of your designs on the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. How do you collaborate on the pieces?

Hana Quist: Seeing Aquaria on Drag Race was on a whole other level because I have so much love and respect for her. The whole process of designing her stuff was so crazy and fast and stressful, but seeing someone that you love and who you’ve seen work so hard in something you’ve created is so amazing. 

Working with her was incredible because she really knows who she is and what she wants. I think we’re very similar in a lot of ways. So it was literally just us bouncing ideas off each other and then picking something and saying: ‘okay we’re going to make it!’ It’s been so amazing to see her on the show and it’s been even more amazing to see her wearing my stuff. 

Are there more looks coming?

Hana Quist: Maybe… I’ve already had other pieces on the show too. I had one piece on season nine and I had two pieces on All Stars, so I’ve seen my stuff on Drag Race before.

What are your plans while you’re in London?

Hana Quist: I sort of wanted to take a break and have some time. I’m not doing any commissions in London. I only do nightlife for fun, it’s not my job here.

I’m going back to New York in a year and then it’ll be time to do my thesis. I feel like my nightlife family doesn’t see my fashion work, and the people at school maybe don’t see my nightlife work, so I’m excited to show everyone a more true version of what I want to be doing.