Photography: Kohl Murdock
If BCALLA is New York nightlife’s go-to designer, then An Authentic Skid Mark is Chicago’s—of course with overlap, considering BCALLA’s Brad Callahan graduated from SAIC and naturally developed his own community there, as well. But it’s only a matter of time before AASM’s Kaleigh Moynihan—another SAIC alumnus—spreads her roots beyond the Windy City like Callahan, where she’s already built a loyal following, from Bon Bon to Imp Queen.
Recently, the rising designer presented her work through The Late Summer Collection Show Coming in the Late Summer, which unfolded in Chicago’s DIY space, Eco, and featured a lineup of the city’s most dynamic creatives, including Alessa Schmalbach, London Jade and FEE LION. We recently interviewed Moynihan, whose answers are just as abstract and proudly outlandish as the clothing she designs. Navigate her beautiful insanity, below:
You’ve aligned your work with Chicago nightlife. Why?
I like the night—sometimes you just have to jump right into the deep end and learn to swim as you go, but what I think actually happened is that he jumped into the shallow end and almost got a concussion, and it all turned up in dirty club basements.
What are some of the central ideas you’ve explored through this body of work?
All I do is think about Clay Aiken. Possible solutions? Well, challenging the world’s preconceived notions of what a pocket is and how deep inside one can go. Also, it’s only important to those who care about it, otherwise it’s not really anything unless you get paid, right? How many times can you get away with smelling bad before they tell you to switch goddamn tampons and tables—biting my nails to look cute when really I’m super nervous, but I know the boys like it. I feel like I could fall in love with everyone. I feel like I could make everyone fall in love with me.
How do you describe your aesthetic?
The ticket truly and honestly is to be yourself—it’s all you really got. Creativity and self-expression are catalysts of freedom and at this point there is no way it can get better for us, sew we might as well fight the systems we can and fuck with ’em as hard as we possibly can before we get arrested or shot due to government concern about the truth and emails.
Messages appear on clothes throughout the collection. What larger message are you trying to tell?
Sayings that I still wanna put on things:
“What’s she gonna do next?”
“Lightening bolt piercings.”
Your subjects bring the work to life. Tell me about a few of these individuals.
A play is full of sets, lights and sounds, but it never (Bon Bon) fully comes to life until the person steps into their role/costume/other part of themselves, zips and velcros into it and starts breathing their own life (Abhijeet) into it. And nobody gonna be able to play (Lucy Stoole) that role the same way no matter if they (IMP Queen) are repeating the same lines. We live ( THE CHANELS) in a world of never-ending inspirations and nobody is the (Nico) singular best. That’s the hard part, recognizing that we (Ariel Zetina) all got our lights to shine and we have (Glamhag) to shine them all together sew there (Pangaea) is enough (Daniella DeLuna) light for her to find the condoms before the moment is gone (Toyota Corona). The looks are made for the wearer—that’s all, and it’s (Alessa) easy to find (Michael Mancuso and James DiGillio are also An Authentic Skid Mark) greatness, at least with the folks (Jordan Ridner) I know.
Is it important for your fashion to be playful?
I try to never take myself seriously even though I care and try very hard for something I don’t know anything about, but I know how to do it, and if it ain’t fun then you’re doing it wrong. If nico doesn’t make you cry every time she says, ‘Thank you,’ then you are once again doing it wrong. If your clothes don’t come back smelling of the essence of drag energy then you did it wrong. Fashion sucks big hairy… stuff.
How do you describe Chicago’s underground queer fashion scene?
Imagine if you walked into a room, but it was actually a pool of noodles, or maybe baking soda and the door was actually two thick slices of bologna and you had to get all the grease and meat particles on your face—ok that’s the makeup—then you move your way through a long hallway filled with the shit that gets stuck on a lint roller, tiny dust fibers you see in the air when the light hits it just right—fake spider webs, real spiderwebs, cotton candy and phlegm. Your speed through the hallway will determine the size of your look. Fast will give you a barely-there sexy diamond latex number often seen on London Jade, Fee Lion or Bon Bon (when she’s feeling hoe-y). Slow will make you a size queen and size queens come in many forms. There are those that have a 15 minute intro or those that have wigs larger than the Uber, Then there are those that will literally dance till you lose your voice and all your money, but it feels sew good. Underground is just what the industry sends rats into to find the good shit and then take the dirt off it and sell it back to the systematized youth who didn’t even have a chance. And I’ve only ever been jealous of a drag queen when it comes to who’s turning the better look than me.
Your work challenges conventions of ready-to-wear and costume. Where do you see your work lying on the spectrum?
It’s all just a game you don’t have to play. Imp Queen wants to be a beam of light—she wants to shine and I’ll be damned if anybody tries to tell her she can only do that in a certain setting. If you want to feel like your nose is a t-bone steak and your bod is similar to the artistic form of an eggplant, and the only place you have to go is the laundry matt, then why would you ever not? You are a piano today and your songs will be heard tomorrow, and then people will forget, but you just keep on playing your lovely songs and dancing to the beat of your own goddamn drum, bongo or tambourine depending on the kind of pop star you are.