Designer Gogo Graham’s Self-Portrait Series Is Inspired by Video Games

9 months ago 46
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Typically, Gogo Graham’s Instagram features her clothes on other models. During COVID-19, however, Graham has been the focus of her own account and lookbook for her eponymous brand. In a self-portrait series, the 30-year-old designer poses in an array of clothes from her newest collection: bodysuits with cutouts fastened with leather belts, a plaid, off-the-shoulder crop top, and a pleated, mini skirt with a leather covering. “I didn’t really want to bring people inside. That’s not necessarily safe for them,” she says. “I thought it was probably safest for me to do it myself in my apartment.” And so, her self-portrait series was born. 

Photo: Courtesy of Gogo Graham/@gogograham

Graham has been designing since 2014,  jumping off from her own experience getting dressed. “I wanted to start designing and creating my own brand when I saw that there were not any other brands out there run by a trans woman, making clothes for trans women,” she said. “When I started out, all of the brands that were using trans models were primarily created by cis men with surely the best intentions, but who do not necessarily understand trans narratives and who would present them in a way that didn’t feel authentic or relatable to me.” Since the label’s inception, Graham has been focused on using a melange of mostly upcycled materials that range from “vintage, contemporary, high and low-quality fabrics,” which she mixes into a cohesive look. “I try to combine low-quality material with advanced historical and contemporary construction techniques that I’ve learned working in factories and applying conventionally low-quality finishes to high-quality materials,” she says. 

Photo: Courtesy of Gogo Graham/@gogograham

Recently, she bought a leather sewing machine, which has allowed her to create more complex pieces with heavy materials, and, yes, lots of leather. The result are pieces that boast an armor-like, almost fantastical feel. You wouldn’t be hard-pressed to compare the looks, which include French cut underwear bonded together with plastic and leather pieces, or a red bodysuit with a leather sash, to something plucked out of a video game, which was Graham’s intention. (In some photos in the look book, she holds a fabric sword or a  spear.) Graham was after all inspired by her time playing one game in particular called Soulcalibur, a fighting video game with “mythical” swords, that she had played as a child and then revisited. “All the characters have these ridiculous outfits and a lot of accessories and stuff,” she says. The aesthetic has resonated with her followers: One commenter by the name @fruitigekont writes: “You’re so good! FF [Final Fantasy, another video game] armor design team needs to take some notes.” The concept came around the same time as Graham began to do more work on her OnlyFans account. “I was thinking, I need to make content that showcases my work because I think that is what needs to happen,” she says. “It’s very revealing, as I’m sure you can see from the pictures, but hopefully also reminiscent of armor and has battle themes.” 

Photo: Courtesy of Gogo Graham/@gogograham

Even with the protective armor-like clothing, the experience of shooting the lookbook was intensely personal and challenging, as all of the existential thoughts about posting photos of oneself on social media pop up. “Part is always a little bit tough. A woman’s appearance, even if it’s not important to the type of work that she’s doing, it’s important. I’m always kind of thinking about that. How it’s like, ‘Wow, if I look a certain way, then I’m going to be able to be more successful in business.’ I think that’s something that all women in industries have to deal with,” she says. “And that’s changing slowly over time, but it’s definitely something that’s still there.” Ultimately, the time to herself worked proved to be a positive one for herself, and her design process. “It’s weird and vulnerable, but I know how to make clothes for my own body. I’m spending so much time with myself, so I know what fits and what kinds of cuts look good for me,” says Graham. “It was kind of also a nice, vulnerable, intimate, experience.”

Photo: Courtesy of Gogo Graham/@gogograham
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