Poets hate the fact that I have a persona because poets aren’t supposed to have one. You’re supposed to be yourself, authentic, natural in T-shirts and jeans. To me it’s all show business. My whole poetic oeuvre is made up of falseness, inauthenticity, appropriation and plagiarism, so if I was trying to pass that off as an authentic persona, it would be contradictory. So I’m playing my role as a poet as much as they are playing theirs. My role is ‘inauthenticity’ and theirs is ‘authenticity.’ It’s all a construction.
There’s like, a hundred different grades of industrial wipers. The best kind of wipers were made from men’s underwear, called gansies. For jeans, nowadays it’s all about torn this and torn that, but thirty years ago pair of jeans with a hole in the knees used to be cut up and sold to the Navy. You’d clean your machinery with these wipers. Looking for vintage is like looking for a needle in a haystack. One year the Japanese want over-sized printed T-shirts, the next year they want super small ones. The dredge of the industry for one period was men’s polyester pants. Those used to sell for six cents a pound. Ten years later, those same pants were worth $15 a piece.
I felt like an outsider because I wanted to be a part of that group but I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t go to Biarritz, I couldn’t go to Gstaad, I couldn’t go to St. Barts or to the places where rich people go to have fabulous luncheons and dinners, but I could afford to buy some cheap taffeta and make a ball gown and go to the clubs where those people went, and walk into them like I owned them.
Fashion is popular because it’s a mystery. It’s the ebb and flow of the subtle things we propose as designers, and that people respond to like flocks of birds turning all of a sudden in the middle of the sky. That’s what makes it fascinating. It’s all about instincts and subtle references that certain people can grasp in a very vague way. It’s a pattern or code that is understood by a group of people at the same time.
I’ve dressed kings, queens, beggars, prostitutes, lawyers, bankers. I dressed Gram Parsons, Dolly Parton, John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, The Rolling Stones, The Jackson Five and all four Hank Williams. I made Elvis’ gold lamé suit, and people say that I put Johnny Cash in black, but I’ve never in my life felt the need to be important or rich. I hate money, because of what it does to people. When Barbara Walters asked Johnny Cash about the black suits I made him he said, ‘I wore black before, but nobody put me in a better black than Manuel.’
I love fashion generally – I’ve always loved it. On my Sabbath, I read InStyle sometimes. I mean, I read the Bible as well, but I do love a good InStyle. I follow ‘Project Runway’ and I love ‘What Not to Wear’ and all those sorts of things. I already had this teenage interest in fashion. Then I realised I would be given my work uniform, and my work uniform has a lot behind it – it carries a lot of weight when you walk into a room. That can either be a really good thing or it can be a really challenging thing.
Few directors have been as prolific in their lifetime as Kenneth Anger. Blending surrealism and the occult with homoeroticism, psychodrama and unashamed spectacle you could perhaps say that Anger’s whole vocation has been an ode to the art of magic. An early follower of Aleister Crowley’s teachings, Anger at various stages in his life mixed with occult practitioners and artists as diverse as Jean Cocteau, Anaïs Nin, Anton LaVey, Mick Jagger and Jack Parsons, and his life is as shrouded in myth and legend as his work is.
Glenn O’Brien: One of the differences between art and fashion is that, though it has relatively little effect, there still is such a thing as art criticism. Fashion criticism on the other hand is nonexistent because anyone who would dare to write something against a major advertiser would be immediately not just fired but thrown into the East River.
We generally have five appointments a day that happen every ninety minutes. Before each appointment we begin with a brief discussion with the bride: her style, her venue, number of guests at the wedding and her budget. We breeze through this in a few minutes because, most of the time, once the bride comes in everything turns upside down anyway.
It’s an autumnal afternoon in London’s Soho and I’m meeting porn-legend Buck Angel. I must admit, I’m more than a little nervous. Very few contemporary porn stars have inspired as much discussion – both academic and journalistic – as Buck Angel. As someone who was born female, and worked as a professional model, but then changed sex and pursued a career in pornography, Buck challenges many cultural and social expectations. Buck is, arguably, one of the first Female to Male (FtM) transsexual performers in the adult entertainment world and could even be credited with starting a new genre of pornography. Known as ‘the hunk with a pussy,’ he coined the phrase ‘It’s not what’s between your legs that defines you’ and the erotic potential of his films all stress that gender performance exerts as much sexual allure as what is (or is not) between the legs.
My role model when I was six was my aunt Dorothy. She was 5 ft tall with a 1 ft black beehive, red lips, a black skin-tight suit, high heels and a boyfriend who was bald and 6 ft 2. And I still remember when I first saw them – looking at her in awe and looking at him and screaming. This memory is indelible.
‘We’ve had few failures that can compare to John Galliano’s recent one. I guess the best way to describe it is as a private failure committed in public. People hypothesised that LVMH weren’t sorry to get rid of him. His business had been stagnant for a while and at least from an editorial point of view he had peaked a long time ago. And now he has taken on another very visible job at Margiela, and he’s back on the stage. He failed, but he’s managed to come back.’
Nicole Phelps in part three of a narrative interview conducted by Anja Aronowsky Cronberg for Vestoj ‘On Failure.’