The lead singer of Years and Years, Olly Alexander, has enlisted some fashion students from London-based university Ravensbourne to design his stage costumes. Giving the designers a brief that outfits should be “colourful, bold and with an element of fantasy,” Alexander said he wanted genderless clothing because gender is “so boring.” As he puts it, “I don’t really feel like a gender on stage, I feel more non-binary.”
Taking inspiration from his heroes Björk, David Bowie and “anyone who does a look”, Alexander is set on bringing some theatricality into the art of stage costumery – and he’s doing it with the help of young people. “They’re always at the forefront of ideas, innovation and aesthetics and it seemed like a really cool, collaborative idea to do. I want to drink the blood of all the young talent. Like Madonna,” he adds, jokingly.
Here, alongside photos capturing these costumes (taken by LA-based photographer Maxwell Clements and styled by Years and Years’ stylist Coline Bach), we talk to these students and find out what inspired their designs.
23-year-old Emma Bundy designed an iridescent tank top and a pair of matching trousers for Alexander, along with an oversized spacer t-shirt with holographic rainbow trim and a frosted raglan coat with hand-embellished, hand-dyed sequins. “My designs were heavily inspired by Studio Ghibli’s animation Spirited Away, she explains. “I wanted to enhance Olly’s on-stage character and flamboyancy.”
Aged 19 and 20 respectively, Terry Cartwright-Foster and Gonja Bellikli designed a glittering outfit for the Years and Years singer. Instead of a Japanese animation, they took inspiration from Alexander’s previous stage costumes. “We want everybody to notice him,” says Bellikli, “even from miles away.”
“I know Olly’s not scared to wear something flamboyant,” says Dunne, commenting on Alexander’s previous stage costumes. So what did she design for him? “A loose fit playsuit derived from a workman’s overall.” Made from a brightly-coloured print, this isn’t your average playsuit. “The crazy patchwork print I used reflects Olly’s vibrant character and is striking even from far away.”
Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake played quite a significant role in 22-year-old Thomas Wulburn’s design process. “Their infamous 2001 double denim attire was my main inspiration,” he says, explaining the references for his bleached glittered denim jacket, t-shirt and shorts. “For me, Olly for me is an iconic pop diva, and is inspiring a new generation just like Britney did.”
For Shanghai-born Siyue Xu, it was the orgy scene in Years and Years’ music video “Desire” that inspired her outfit, which comprises of a kimono coat and pair of shorts. In fact, said orgy scene is depicted on the back of this coat – in sequins. A big fan of Alexander, Xu says she admires the singer for opening up about his mental health and body image struggles. “I think that kind of braveness and the spirit of ‘being yourself’ is what I trying to express.”