Never Give a Sword to a Man Who Can’t Dance

by Decoŕte Snipes

Daniel Lismore's Be Yourself; Everyone Else Is Already Taken at SCAD FASH

“O.P.U.L.E.N.C.E.—Opulence! You own everything, everything is yours.”

That line is from the 90s documentary Paris Is Burning, when one of the drag ball curators announces the category of opulence, when I think of that scene, I imagine Daniel Lismore majestically emerging from a haute couture fog. Lismore’s undoubtedly striking appearance and stylish collection of sumptuous pieces exudes a royalty concept topped with an unconventional twist, his androgynous style has been exhibited at renowned art galleries in London including the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, and is on view right now at SCAD FASH, the museum of fashion at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta.

Be Yourself; Everyone Else Is Already Taken features 32 exclusive ensembles styled by Lismore which will include hundreds of items loaned from his personal collection. It’s no surprise that he has reigned over the fashion industry, and according to Vogue was deemed "London's Most Outrageous Dresser." Lismore transcended from modeling for such names as Mario Testino, Mert Alas, and Marcus Piggott, and Ellen von Unwerth, continuing to build his iconic legacy through art, style, and design.

In 2012 Lismore became the Creative Director of fashion brand Sorapol working alongside founder Sorapol Chawaphatnakul, dressing stars like Naomi Campbell, Kylie Minogue, Nicki Minaj, Paloma Faith, and Debbie Harry. The designer has been featured in music videos for Boy George and George Michael, appeared on Danmarks Næste Topmodel, and has a future role in the upcoming film Absolutely Fabulous.

Excuse me while I continue to religiously stalk his Instagram.

Your SCAD FASH exhibition, Be Yourself; Everyone Else Is Already Taken features 32 looks, how did you narrow down the list of outfits you wanted to display?

The curator of the exhibition, Rafael Gomes, and I went through my storage unit and the Sorapol archives to find and ship as many rich ingredients as we could find for the sculptures. On the other side of the Atlantic at SCAD FASH, we opened everything up and grouped by colours and textures. I essentially use my body as the blank canvas and fabrics as my paint when it comes to creating my art. I paint in colours, textures and by shape. That's it. I do not think about labels or if something is old or new.

After sorting everything out we had 32 looks to make, so we got 32 boxes—using colours, texture, and shape I placed similar things in a box—much like I would when choosing an outfit. As I wanted the exhibition’s layout to be evocative of the life size Terracotta Warriors that were buried with the historic Chinese emperor; Rafael helped me using the characters of the army as reference.

When it came to dressing the mannequins, I went through look by look with him and tried to make it authentically reflect how I would get dressed myself. Every step of the way Rafael was with me building the characters of the creations. Most pieces had layers of jewelry, because I wanted to reference the details of the Terra­cotta Warriors. A lot of the jewelry was specifically made for the exhibition in London from broken and recycled pieces.

The term “Sustainable Fashion" has been used to describe your work. What does that mean to you?

A lot of the things I wear are just pieces of fabric, I often think of safety pins and kilt pins as my brushes. I never wear a piece of fabric the same way twice and I never throw it away. It’s always reusable. For the exhibition I thought it was important to keep it as real as possible, so there are about 3,000 safety pins holding the sculptures together.

How do you know when one of your pieces is complete, where nothing else needs to be added?

None of my outfits are ever complete, the outfits could always be worked on. More is less for me, but I’m not always sure what it is to stop; I guess like everyone else, when they get that feeling of certainty before leaving the house for the evening. The only difference is that I have to make sure everything is fastened, so pieces don’t fall off of my head and hurt people—which actually has happened more than a few times.

Be Yourself; Everyone Else Is Already Taken is on view at SCAD FASH through April 1, 2016.