I was recently trying to organize my closet -- again. After living in my tiny Tenderloin apartment for 20 years, I long ago ran out of closet space. As a result, between my storage unit (which is packed from floor to ceiling with clear plastic bins highlighted by dress color) and my decent sized walk-in, I am housing major amounts of couture. Some pieces sit in garbage bags while others still have a place hanging on my rack -- and honestly, I can't tell you how many nights that one perfect dress that I was looking for was to be found at the bottom of a garbage bag while a bursting rack of dresses was hanging front of me -- go figure! But, no matter where the clothes end up, they all have the same origins. For the past 20 years I've exclusively worn clothes made by designer Mr. David -- the indefatigable New York-born transplant that has helped influence and create the look and style that has come to define Juanita today.
Last year, I curated an exhibition of works by artists whom I had collaborated with over the last two decades. In an essay included in a book accompanying the exhibition last year Mr. David wrote this about our friendship:
As my muse in the worlds of style and fashion, Juanita has proven more daring, ravenous, exciting and inspiring than I hoped. Whether throwing 1 1/4 yards of fabric at me and asking for a full-length ball gown or demanding a micro-mini dress out of 25 yards of fabric, she has continually challenged me. And just when I thought I'd done "it all," she literally drags me back in at full steam, rekindling my joy and desire to keep creating. This is a gift worth more than can be imagined. And in those darker days of my own career, Juanita has inspired, pushed, pulled, pleaded, cajoled -- many times coerced with the best food I've ever eaten - all in the effort to keep me going. It is because of the person behind the padding and in front of all that is fantastic, that artists from every walk of life, myself included, continue to be enthralled and impassioned by the one, the wonderful; my daughter, friend and muse -- Juanita MORE!
In that same book, my dear friend, writer Joseph Akel wrote:
Important, too, the role of muse -- a creative conspirator -- is equal parts provocation and ephemeral instigation. And, it is somewhere within the spectrum between the two that Juanita's relationships with the each of the artists included [in the show] is manifested. One moment a pulp-noir femme fatale, the next a heathered conjuration of love, every incarnation of MORE! is simultaneously an extension of herself and the artists' vision joined together in a realization that is at once synchronous and independent. And perhaps it is Mr. David, MORE!'s longtime creative companion, who best understands this dynamic give-and-take. An artistic innovator whose name resonates equally in the halls of fashion as it does on the walls of museums, Mr. David has been couturier to Juanita for over 20 years, helping to realize the vision of performance and style that each passionately holds for the other.
I was thinking about the two quotes above today when I came across a garment that was folded into a small square and pressed into a zip-lock bag. The piece was one Mr. David had created for me as part of the exhibition at The Catharine Clark Gallery titled: Out of the Closet, a retrospective of the couture of Mr. David created inspired by, and made exclusively for, me. Accompanying the exhibition were portraits taken by various photographer in which I was wearing the pieces present at the exhibition. Now, the piece inside the plastic bag was this gorgeous pink silk chiffon robe. Mr. David had constructed the robe by taking two floor length panels of fabric and then pleating them together to fit the curves of my body. And yet, as simple as a robe may seem, one look at the inside of this particular garment and the intricate, almost obsessive, details of Mr. David's genius began to appear. You first see row after row of tiny perfect stitches -- 500 in all -- running the length of my torso, contouring to my bodacious size. On the outside of the robe, there is the most magical dusting of 500 hand-encrusted Swarovski crystals. It's a breathtaking piece and one that I hope someday ends up in a museum along with the many label-less pieces that have passed through both his hands and sewing machine.
I'll admit it, I am a whore for new clothes and have cornered myself into suggesting to my public that I only wear a garment once. But, truth in the end, can be relative. Recently, I asked a gathering of friends to tell me which of my former ensembles ranked among their favorites. It sounded like a fun topic of conversation until the group of die hard fashion queens started dissecting my wardrobe. When pressed, no one had a solid answer. Instead, there were plenty of "top 10's"! I think this has more to do with how consistently fabulous Mr. David's creations are more than anything else. You start thinking of one look and then, before you know it, I'm saying to myself, "Wait, what about the to die for gown you wore that night you ended up eating burgers at 4 a.m. with those cute boys from Europe!" Right now, I am most excited about the two dress Mr. David and I are working on for my annual Pride Party and event. Over the years my Pride dresses has become the highlight of my collaboration with him. If you haven't seen a Mr. David creation, I might just suggest you stop by my Pride party -- you'll be sure to see the bountiful fruits of his collection!