The publicized faces of New York nightlife are very rarely cisgender women, leave legendary party promoters Susanne Bartsch and Ladyfag. When you look more closely at the scene, however, they play a pivotal role in diversifying the party population—some are needed allies, some are self-proclaimed drag queens and others help costume the colorful community. NYC newcomer and Parsons student Hana Holquist is among these criminally unsung femmes, despite being a much-loved regular at Manhattan’s Sunday party Battle Hymn.
Her crocheted work—an usual signature considering the club’s scorching temperatures—has become a coveted look among queer nightlife personas. Everyone from Chicago’s Imp Queen to local fixture Age of Aquaria has donned her oversized, chunky artwear, and it, of course, looks incredible when Holquist wears it herself. We recently caught up with the rising drag queen designer to talk more about her move from Philadelphia, how she became a crochet master and fashion’s intimate relationship with nightlife culture.
What’s your background?
I’m from a suburb outside of Philadelphia, but I moved to New York last September. I’ve wanted to live in New York my whole life. I was obsessed with the whole drag and nightlife scene, so when I got here I was ready to hit the ground running. I started going out in drag my second week after moving. I’m currently in school at Parsons studying Fashion Design.
I got into crochet originally because I used to work at a children’s needle arts program when I was in high school. I was taught to crochet in order to teach it to little kids, so I was only taught the basics. But I instantly loved how free-form it was compared to knitting. I’m kind of self-taught. I learned how to do a lot through YouTube and [by] experimenting. I often don’t have a concrete plan when I start a crochet look. I find a material I like and start seeing how it reacts when I work with it. It takes me a really long time. Large pieces with a lot of detail, [like] the red or cream look, [take] probably 50 hours to make. The Intestine Dress took me about three months, but it’s a labor of love.
What inspires these looks?
Usually my starting point for a look is a material I found and fell in love with, or a technique that I’ve been wanting to try. I create a look around that. The white gown wasn’t even supposed to be a dress when I started making it. I originally wanted to see how large I could make a piece by double crocheting in a circle, but I ended up making these shapes and started playing around with how they looked on the body. Before I knew it, [I had] a gown. If you look at someone like Galliano or Mugler, [their] runways are so inspiring. I originally wanted my drag name to be ‘2004 Christian Dior’ because I was super obsessed with Galliano at Dior, but I decided 2004 was a terrible first name. Once I got to New York, I started to get my inspiration from nightlife: Aquaria, Sussi, Imp Queen, and so many more.
Hana & Sussi
How do you see fashion and nightlife intersecting?
Fashion is all about fantasy and so is drag. You can really become whatever you want. It’s funny to me that people always say how ridiculous and impractical fashion is, especially couture. But if you look at the kids in clubs, they look like they’ve walked off a catwalk. Fashion can sometimes feel very stuffy and corporate, but nightlife is creative and fearless. I feel very lucky to be in the scene right now because although fashion, drag, and nightlife have always been very strongly connected, mainstream fashion really hadn’t accepted it yet. That’s really started to change in the last year. Now drag queens and club kids are in Vogue, on the cover of magazines and in campaigns.
What’s your earliest memory in nightlife?
I feel like I’ve always been a drag queen, [but] I’ve been doing drag for a year. It has changed me so much. Drag has pushed me creatively more than anything I’ve ever done because you have to create so many unique looks each week and keep trying to top yourself. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a super shy person, so drag has also pushed me to come out of my shell and put my work out there. I don’t think I would ever have been able to do [my work] without drag.
How did you meet Sussi?
I met Sussi on my very first night out. I was nervous and knew no one, but they came up to me and we’ve been close ever since. I owe so much to Sussi. They were the first person I made a crochet look for. We are both people who put a lot of work and thought into our looks, so I think that’s why we work together so well. We collaborated on the Intestine Boob look and the Weeping Willow look—they’re two of my favorite things I’ve ever made. Sussi really brings an energy and personality to my work. I’m a very quiet, introverted person, so when I wear a look it’s a very different energy than when Sussi wears a look. You can tell how much Sussi genuinely loves everything about nightlife.