Björk’s Bachelorette is booming so loudly from the speakers of the auditorium that my heart beats to the tempo.
The pulse of the Icelander’s heartfelt hit thrills the audience as the lights go down and the runway is covered in a haze, backlit by brilliant stage lights.
If, like me, you’re desperate to see Björk perform in Vancouver this May, then you may have misgivings about her music being used as soundtrack to a fashion show featuring the designs of a hopeful bunch of fashion school grads. Then again, even if the show turns out to be a disaster at least the audio is fucking spot-on.
Thus consoled, I sink into my chair and wait for the designs of Adam Blair Dickson to strut across the stage.
Dickson who, seated across from me just a few days earlier at Starbucks, is soft-spoken, funny, articulate, intent and gay. Unlike most male designers, however, Dickson’s sexuality is not a byproduct of his art; it is instead its vehicle.
“Clothing is my tool,” says the BC native. “I strive to change the perceptions of people by using flamboyant clothing as a sign of gay identity.”
Identity is the backbone of his Pansy Conspiracy collection; Dickson is concerned that homosexuals are losing theirs.
“The gay community lacks nothing in personality,” he explains. “We will always have elements of the unmistaken gay accent and that overly opinionated persona. But one thing that the gay community has never been concerned about before is that we look the same as everyone else. All men, gay or straight, have the same jeans, the same hoodie, and follow the same mass-market clothing trends,” he worries. “Must the gay male culture mainstream ourselves into oblivion?”
To counter this trend, Dickson has designed a series of men’s silk blouses in a bright colour palette, all with hand-printed floral patterns. The cut is unmistakably feminine.
“Women have notoriously had so much more luxury close to their skin,” he says. “While every gay flamer has tried on his mother’s silk slips or her fitted garments as a boy, the intrigue into silks and satins drove a large part of the look and construction of my blouses.”
Aside from Mom’s lingerie, Dickson’s pansified practice also draws from an unexpectedly masculine source: Tom of Finland. “[Tom’s] images display rugged gay men whose clothing’s fit and style play a large role in illustrating the power of gay sexuality,” he explains.
“I find so much personal satisfaction in Pansy Conspiracy because I have been able to meld my two favourite things in life: the comfort and pride that I find in the gay community, and the extreme attraction and lust that I have for the gay male form,” he continues.
I ask if erotica plays a role in his creative process.
“Of course. I have a keen interest in the male nude, gay sexual power and gay erotica of all forms,” he replies. “I think that my own struggles and experiences as a gay man have brought my concept for Pansy Conspiracy full circle.”
Though Dickson’s ambition is admirable, finding a market for his merchandise could be a challenge. But his designs are original and unique, so he is unphased.
“I want to open my market’s eyes to what fashion can be: luxurious in feel, forward in silhouette, and unmistakably different in social message,” he says.
“I am not saying that I want the entire West End to dress in my blouses, because then we would not stand out at all,” he hastens to add. “Rather, I want you to take a look at how you can best represent yourself as a gay man, and stand up for the liberties that have been fought for.”
Dickson is endearingly passionate, but his words are not accusatory. Rather, his sincere desire to celebrate gay culture and identity is inspiring.
“Our culture directly links clothing to identity,” he theorizes. “But wouldn’t it be nice to start to change people’s perception? It is not easy to convince an entire generation, an entire population or culture, but we can use the tools that we have in front of us to make the biggest change or impact that we can.”
I point out that, 10 years from now, Pansy Conspiracy may be the new metrosexuality, embraced and homogenized by a new generation of hipsters in the mainstream. His solution: to continue to change.
“Having to reinvent ourselves is something that has always set the homosexual community apart from mainstream culture,” he says. “Every step of the way, both commercialism and other cultures have taken cues from gay cultural movements and lifestyles. From the punk movement, which adapted ideals from the gay leather community, to urban yuppies who invaded traditional gay communities, to the modern-day male metrosexual who has taken our stylish and cultured approach to everything fashion-and fabulous-related.”
Theory is all well and good and for awhile Dickson has me intrigued with his politics and philosophies, but enough talk. It’s time to see his drawings. He flips open the cover of his enormous portfolio.
I don’t know how Björk would feel about the use of her song, but the Mar 28 show staged by Kwantlen University College’s fashion graduates, of which Pansy Conspiracy was a part, was truly inspiring.
From the baggy, sporty ’90s chic of Skadi, to si hay olitas’ brilliant Latin American/First Nations-influenced designs, it was an eye-bleedingly colourful show. Even the bassist and guitarist from Vancouver’s own The Sessions offered severe but entertaining stabs at modelling. Could they walk? Not really. But those boys are obscenely pretty.
Then there was the Reverie collection, redolent of California hippie-chic with a modern twist, as its designer, Julia Petley-Jones, took Redondo Beach cool to Beverly Hills sophistication. And the House of Luv, whose mirror ball dappled light across the audience as gorgeous ’70s-cum-sexbomb dresses graced the catwalk.
Then the music made a sudden switch. Dance music pumped and the black silhouettes of three boys holding hands moved across the colourful backdrop.
Dickson’s Pansy Conspiracy now took to the stage. Boisterous, bright and unselfconscious, the blouses and trousers in the collection are a firm reflection of the manner of the models. Thankfully, and certainly surprisingly, it wasn’t the other way around.
In fact it was astonishing to see the clothes, which seemed so loud and confrontational, not take the focus away from their wearers. The models were graceful on the runway. They flirted with one another and, by god, they were hung. The blouses were certainly feminine, but on the shoulders of these built, sculpted models, the attire was simply gay; unquestionably, unabashedly queer.
Projected on the backdrop, the immense image of the faces of two beautiful men about to lock lips framed the scene perfectly.
Then one of Dickson’s models pecked the other’s cheek. He is bashful. They leave the stage. The audience roars.