Growing up in the mountains of New Hampshire, I was begging for culture. At the time, I would run home from school everyday for the Sally Jessy Raphael Show to get my taste of the outside world. One afternoon, at its scheduled time, I was completely entranced. "The club kids" were the subject of the hour. Having no idea what clubs kids were -- I thought they were another group from the gay voguing film PARIS IS BURNING -- I watched with my mouth hanging open. They were pierced, platform-wearing, glittery freaks! At that moment, I knew I had to move to New York City.
The amazing thing about going to college in New York City is that Manhattan is your campus. I went to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), the club kid breeding ground. Within the first three days of moving to New York, I had spent all of my money on new clothes and my first Marabou feather top hat. In those days, the crazier you dressed, the more doors you got into and the free drinks would flow. There was no need for money to go out. Within a week I remember being at the top of the slide at the world famous Club USA where I spotted the ringleader of all club queendom: Richie Rich!
That was many years ago and I have let the feathers go. Today, I am a celebrity stylist and the American Fashion Director of Hong Kong's WestEast Magazine. I have worked with everyone from Beyoncé, Miranda Kerr, Zach Braff and Molly Sims. But I will never forget my wonder years. Nor will I forget New York's glamorous nineties.
The city has changed dramatically since then. Instead of the village coffee shops, we all flock to our local Starbucks. We shop at Zara and fill in with designer. What has happened to the years of the artisan or the independent boutiques with our one-of-a-kind finds? Has the commercialization of our great city destroyed our individualism?
I still see Richie now and then. Today, he is a glamorous vagabond. Grasping at the brink of his past celebrity, he remains a cult phenomenon in the New York underworld. Minutely celebrated, one must wonder if the golden age of glitter has passed? Are his young and beautiful days over? If he were born in the day of Warhol, would things have been different? Or was Warhol's passing his only saving grace for becoming legendary?
These peeks of lexicon beauty are a subject of interest to my best friend (celebrity photographer) Christopher Logan and me. Our most recent work was with NBA star Kris Humphries. That collection revealed a stripped-down Humphries in underwear and a partially bared chest -- capturing a dark raciness rarely seen from American pro athletes today.
Christopher and I were looking for our next subject when I received a call from my friends at the Daily Front Row, the official magazine of Fashion Week. They asked if I would give Richie and his boyfriend Ross a businessmen makeover for a double-page spread during fashion week. Richie and Ross arrived in magic marker makeup, dirty hair and a hodgepodge of looks from their new collection, POP Luxe, that I affectionately called dumpster couture.
It gave me the idea to recreate Richie and his past iconic character for a photo exhibition. I called Christopher who came on board immediately and then approached Richie. He jumped at the chance of rebuilding the glittery glory days.
The title of our exhibition is TRAGIC GLAMOUR, an ode to modern society, examining how America creates celebrities at a McDonald's pace only to throw them away just as quickly. With the onset of reality TV, Starbucks and iPhones, our culture does not seem to appreciate purity in its rarest forms.
Richie is the last of an avant-garde period. He is truly a modern day Peter Pan -- cast off from everyday life. He is not taken seriously for his artist expressions.
There was a day when people themselves were walking art. That day is over. It is a tragedy. But through our work we hope to capture that love of underground glamour.
Tragic Glamour can be viewed at the Pop International Gallery (473 West Broadway, NYC) on Wednesday, July 11. Fifteen percent of any purchase from the show will be donated to NYC's Bailey House, the nations first organization to address homelessness and poverty among people living with HIV/AIDS. To find out more about Bailey House and how you can help go to baileyhouse.org. For additional information on Tragic Glamour, visit www.christopherloganstudios.com.