Designer Gogo Graham talks to us about her career, community and her approach to make-up
For New York-based designer Gogo Graham, inspiration is far and near. When she isn’t spinning scraps of found fabric into club-ready clothing, you can find her serving up surreal make-up looks on Instagram. “I like looking at the ways looks were put together in the past and then tweaking things for a contemporary context,” she says.
Born in San Jose CA, but grew up in Houston, Texas, Gogo had plans for medical school but with just one credit short from finishing the premed programme she transferred to a degree in textiles and apparel which ignited her career in fashion instead. After moving to the bright lights of New York, Gogo began working with costume designer Zaldy, collaborating on exquisite designs for everyone from J-Pop bands to Ru Paul. Branching out alone, she started to work at a factory where she was able to exercise her creative freedom by constructing one-of-a-kind, avant-garde clothing. When Gogo came out as trans she shifted her focus to creating designs that allowed for different body types and the stylistic needs of a trans woman.
Four years ago she broke ground with her NYFW debut; a disco-infused love letter to her community. Since then she’s collaborated with New-York based label Women’s History Museum, while earlier this year, Gogo showcased her AW19 collection on the upper floor of the New Museum. Featuring an all-trans cast the collection explored the dual themes of marriage and death.
It’s been seven weeks since Gogo’s gender-affirming surgery and while she’s healing, she’s still hustling--creating looks, DJ-ing and selling her garments on her Depop. We caught up with Gogo to talk about her upbringing, inspirations and how she comes up with her effortlessly wild beauty looks.
Tell me a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
I'm a fashion designer and multimedia artist who occasionally practices maquillage on myself and others. I was born in San Jose, CA and moved to Pearland, TX at a young age with my mother, sister and stepfather. I was always someone who was really into being alone but spent many hours a day chatting on AIM with friends and strangers which later evolved into playing a lot of MMORPGs, like World of Warcraft, where I also chatted with friends and strangers, but with a hyper-stylised avatar to represent me.
What is it you do and why do you do it?
I run a clothing brand that caters specifically to people of trans experience with an emphasis on trans women of colour. My goal is to generate capital to be distributed to the trans women of colour in my community. I'm also a sculptor and a painter.
How did you get into it?
I was going to school at the University of Texas at Austin, studying with plans to attend medical school, but met some friends who opened my eyes to visual beatification, moved to NYC and haven't looked back since. I started the brand after noticing the lack of paid work opportunities for other trans women in general but in fashion specifically. I started off working off of the generosity of people who modelled for me, who donated their time to be in my first shows and since I have been working towards increasing what I can give financially as I progress with my work.
What’s your career highlight?
I still haven't hit that mark yet! I will feel I've reached that point if I'm able to generate larger amounts of capital to distribute to TWOC until alternative forms of empowerment become more meaningful within our economic structure.
What are you working on at the moment? Right now I'm trying to put together my next fashion show for September! Hope it works out!
Describe your beauty aesthetic in three words.
Big doll head.
Tell me about the community of people you surround yourself with?
I spend a lot of time alone, I'm pretty introverted and socially awkward so the breadth of my social presence is limited to be generous. When I do get out, I tend to find myself in the company of eccentric femmes.
Your make-up looks are like no other. What's your approach to creating looks? What inspires you?
I'm inspired by different types of content and imagery that I see in people around me physically and digitally. I like looking at the ways looks were put together in the past and then tweaking things for a contemporary context. I also usually shy away from what's currently popular, and since there's a lot that's unpopular, there's always a lot of inspiring content out there to work with. I also get a lot of inspiration from old pics of my mom's make-up and women from other generations in general.
What is the future of beauty?
The future of beauty is a landscape whose appearance I actively try not to predict or see. I'm usually wrong anyway.