Photography: Christian Ferretti
New York-based designer Brad Callahan knows exactly who he’s targeting with his rising independent brand BCALLA, filling a void in the LGBTQ community as today’s most-wanted designer for creating campy, larger-than-life looks. Never one to flirt with subtlety—not even a wink—he’s naturally become a favorite of drag’s biggest players, including RuPaul’s Drag Race superstars Violet Chachki and Pearl. Still, Callahan’s managed to maintain his inclusive roots, successfully bridging the gap between New York, Chicago and Los Angeles nightlife, and actively looping in all members of the diverse queer spectrum—not just celebrity queens, though costuming Miley Cyrus’ VMAs finale certainly made him notorious for that.
“When I started BCALLA I felt there was so much talent in my community that wasn’t being tapped because it wasn’t deemed commercial or marketable,” Callahan said. “Clothing is just fabric until it’s worn, and it takes a certain type of person to wear my clothes with confidence. The LGBTQ community has allowed me to be as outrageous as I want, and I find that freedom liberating—that energy transfer between my clothes and the wearer is what makes the magic.”
During NYFW, BCALLA’s colorful community attempted to be contained outside his Print All Over Me presentation, where we waited in line for nearly an hour to be allowed inside Manhattan’s Stage 48. Most, if not all, the designer’s VIP guests never wait outside any venue, so the scene fostered an unlikely collision of personalities—Brooklyn girls joking among themselves about whether or not Callahan “remembered them,” while Manhattan girls walked directly to the doorman and let him know they were “on the list.” Unfazed, he directed them to the back of the line, where everyone else was “on the list,” as they one-by-one strut to the tail end with a bruised ego they attempted to tuck away—perhaps the most difficult tuck of their life.
Once inside, Claire Fitzsimmons produced an incredible Lucha Libre-style set-up with a massive blow-up wrestling ring as the centerpiece, foreshadowing Callahan’s narrative of queer superheroes that fight off evil bigots. After such a long wait outside, there was noticeable tension among contoured audience members, because a “line” is nightlife’s worst nightmare. Thankfully, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, Will “G.I.A.N.T.” Sheridan, immediately eased and excited the space with his booming, animated voice and towering stature—one that can never be ignored. “All The Rage” video vixen Violet Chachki also helped, angelically descending from the ceiling on an aerial hoop in a black-and-white sequin number with a train that dramatically fell to the floor.
Screams erupted. The inevitable, “YAS,” was squealed. Our wait was absolutely worth it.
From the stage, Sheridan introduced BCALLA’s stacked lineup of heroines—Love Bailey, Edward Vigiletti, Sussi Suss, Bailey Stiles, Luke Neocamp, Aquaria, Leon Schrager, Sandflower and Maya Monès—who each took turns confidently circling the ring, before fighting a masked villain and, of course, kicking his evil ass. Some wore patterned looks from BCALLA’s PAOM collaboration, styled by Jordan Stawecki, featuring Callahan’s original illustrations, inspired by his brother’s extensive comic book collection. Others wore one-off embellished pieces, most notably Love Bailey’s—a cartoony spiked number that BCALLA made custom for her, complementing the savage LA performer’s blue Smurfs skin.
“Casting this season was simple,” Callahan said. “I went with my community: my friends, my clients, my muses—people I knew would carry my clothing with pride, while adding their own distinct flavor.”
BCALLA’s production climaxed with the sound of Neocamp’s bone-chilling shrill, before breaking into his Celtic Club Cunt single, “Vocalex”—an Irish-imbued dance track he’s been actively touring around NYC’s club circuit like a true underground hustler. Neocamp’s energy vibrated Stage 48—violently jumping in and out of the wrestling ring, as his adrenaline visibly masked sound judgement and the ability to feel physical pain. An artist to watch, Neocamp’s the musical equivalent of BCALLA, always edging closer to outrageous, as if the pull is gravitational.
Closing performer, Sandflower, echoed this attitude, “calling all goddesses” to the stage, and working through her “genre-fluid” music with BCALLA’s full cast bouncing happily behind her. “You know that I got this,” she rapped, with a presence, and hair, as electric as her oversized lighting bolt earrings.
“Nightlife is fashion’s playground,” Callahan said. “It’s where new ideas and trends are born. Nightlife puts fashion into action, making it perform and interact with the culture it inspires [and] is inspired by, but the best part of nightlife is that it’s an egalitarian approach to fashion. The only requirement of looking sickening is being creative.”