Vancouver based fashion designer EVAN CLAYTON is taking the world by storm at only 23. After graduating from Blanche MacDonald’s design program he began creating his first collection in 2013 and went on to show at Vienna Fashion Week and Vancouver Fashion Week only one year later. His pieces have since been featured in Vogue UK, Glamour UK, Indie magazine and more. He is very skilled in tailoring, drapery, and "pushing the boundaries of the silhouette". Evan is inspired by many things from performance art, to psychology, modern pop culture, politics, drag queens, video games, movies, french history, anime, and more.
In addition to being consistently impressed by his work, Evan and I first met and became good friends through going to Lady Gaga concerts together. We’ve been front row at Gaga’s Born This Way Ball and artRave tours, and we just saw her Cheek to Cheek Tour with Tony Bennett in Las Vegas this past April. Evan is one of the funniest and most passionate guys I know, so I had to ask him a few questions about his clothing line in an exclusive Q+A for IshTalk.
Q+A WITH REID HAGGIS + EVAN CLAYTON
REID HAGGIS : So Evan…describe the ideal EVAN CLAYTON woman for us.
EVAN CLAYTON: The EVAN CLAYTON woman is elusive, and I'm in a perpetual chase to find her.
RH: When you first decided to go to design school what were you most interested to learn about? Italian fashion? French fashion? British fashion? American fashion? Everything?
EC: I wanted to learn everything. Up until school, all my research had come from magazines and the internet, so I was used to scrounging for resource material. I like to keep my mind open and learn about a broad range of topics outside of fashion as well.
RH: Who are your Top 3 favourite fashion designers of all time?
EC: Alexander McQueen, Iris van Herpen, Gareth Pugh.
RH: How has living in Vancouver inspired you?
EC: The most inspiring things about Vancouver are its geography and its community. Getting to see the ocean everyday is something I've learned I cannot live without, and the people I've been able to work with here are so talented and inspire me very much.
RH: What are your views on ‘sustainable’ fashion?
EC: I think sustainability is very important, and I try to source locally as often as possible. Every piece is hand made in studio from natural fibres, and any fur and leather comes from accredited sources.
RH: Tell us about your current SS2015 collection DEATHPROOF.
EC: DEATHPROOF is my reaction to a lot of the current state of affairs that the world is in. It's directly inspired by the film work of Quentin Tarantino, who I feel writes some of the most compelling women in cinema. Kill Bill in particular smashes the Bechdel Test into dust. DEATHPROOF is exactly that, making women death proof. DEATHPROOF is adrenaline, it's empowerment, it's ownership. I feel that was conveyed more so through the actual show than anything else, but it all ties together. The clothing itself is sort of a throwback to the minimal styles of the late 90's to early 2000's.
Check out a few key looks from DEATHPROOF
RH: Do you have a favourite fashion moment from a Tarantino movie?
EC: There are so many iconic looks in Tarantino movies that spring to mind...Mia Wallace sporting a bloody nose with a classic white button down, The Bride's yellow jumpsuit, O-Ren's kimono, are all AMAZING. However, I think my all time favourite is the red leather catsuit that O-Ren wears in the animated sequence of her backstory.
RH: What is your most "politically" expressive piece so far?
EC: Definitely my Cetacea corset which comes from my Spring 2014 collection: KIN. The collection itself was an exploration of pod identity, with the migrational patterns of the humpback whale being the key focus. The corset can be worn in any body of water and be used as a self sustaining waterfall. I believe that the ocean and her creatures are highly important to the ecological fabric of our planet. This corset was meant to be seen as the visual manifestation of her beauty, and the importance that must be placed on her well being.
Check out the KIN fashion film featuring the Cetacea corset (WARNING - NSFW contains partial nudity)
RH: Your first collection "The Fall of Joan" was inspired by Joan of Arc and the unreleased Lady Gaga song "Princess Die". Everyone reading this probably knows you and I are both huge Gaga fans/Little Monsters but I've NEVER heard of an UNRELEASED song inspiring a whole collection before! What lyrics in the song moved you most? How did you marry the inspiration of the song with the life of Joan of Arc? Is there a connection you made between the two? Or are they both just equal inspirations?
EC: The first time I heard "Princess Die" visions of blood stained chiffon swam through my head. The song itself serves as a tribute to Princess Diana, whose fame was her ultimate downfall. The same can be said of Joan of Arc, whose martyrdom has made her one of the most historically famous beings.
"I'll be a princess die, and die with you"
Joan died for her people, and in some ways their dreams died with her. I wanted the collection to take you through her psyche in the days leading up to her death, starting with calm acceptance, and ending with intense anger and passion.
RH: Other than "Princess Die" if you could style any Lady Gaga's music videos what song would it be for?
EC: "Marry The Night", "Scheiße", "Venus", or "Swine".
RH: What is your favourite album right now?
EC: "How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful" by Florence and the Machine
RH: Your FW2014 JENOVA collection was your transition into an international audience.
What do you think it was about JENOVA that set you apart from other Canadian designers?
EC: JENOVA was my first collection where I really took the time to do proper RTW (Ready-To-Wear) pieces and show time alongside the 'theatre' pieces I have come to be known for.
The strange thing is that my extravagant pieces are often the ones that sell before my RTW pieces! I wanted to focus on beauty, there was so much harshness in my first two collections so I wanted to do something that veered more towards softness and light.
RH: I've noticed that in the last few years it has become a trend for some designers (including yourself) to use drag queens as models in the runway shows, campaigns, and video content. Are you designing with them in mind? Have you done any custom work for drag queens that you are really proud of?
EC: I love drag! I'm not necessarily designing with them in mind, but they definitely do account for a portion of my business. I recently dressed three queens for The Crowning Of The New Empress: Evita Versace, Valynne Vile, and Jane Smoker. I was really happy with how they looked. I'm working on a couple commissions for queens, they are very fun to dress!
RH: Who is your favourite queen this season on RuPaul's Drag Race?
RH: On your Facebook page is says one of your biggest influences is the performance artist Marina Abramovic. She has definitely inspired many performers over the years (including myself) but I am really curious to hear how she has inspired YOU as a fashion designer? Are there any specific pieces inspired by her?
EC: I love her commitment to ART. If she says she's going to do something, she WILL do it. Placing her trust in the hands of a totally anonymous entity (the public) as she does with most her performance pieces is something I admire.
RH: Do you have a favourite piece from your current uniseason L I L L I T H collection?
EC: My favourite piece from L I L L I T H is hands down the studded eyepatch.
RH: Is your new Fall/Winter collection going to contain some of the same inspirations?
EC: My next season is a move on from L I L L I T H. A lot of the same core pieces will be seen.
RH: Say you could only use ONE type of fabric to design an entire collection, what would it be?
RH: What do you hope will become a fashion trend in 2016?
EC: I hate trends.