Q&A: L'Uomo Strano
L'Uomo Strano a.k.a. Mic. Carter will be showing his collection: Stalking her lovers, dressed to kill and not a thot for me, tonight at Fashion Art Toronto, an arts & fashion week that celebrates contemporary art + design through runway shows, live performances, fashion films, and other mediums.
Carter (pictured above), who sculpts and experiments with fabric before finalizing a design is heavily inspired by blackness, gender/queerness, and urban deterioration. His "gendermore" designs are also used to challenge and question traditional beauty and gender roles found in the fashion world (and society in general) and his presentations always further his message in thoughtful and powerful showings. His Instagram is mesmerizing and unforgettable, often posting photos of himself and his muses wearing his designs shot in his own apartment. We had a Q&A with Mic to tell us more about himself, his presentation and his process.
How long have you been designing collections?
I started putting collections together 5 years ago, first as a member of an integrated-arts collective based in Toronto and London which is what led naturally into the creation of L'Uomo Strano. The themes of those initial collections were detritus and the abject — cast off mess, essentially — and to a certain extent, these ideas are still the ones that inspire me. How these concepts engage with gender, blackness and the future continue to draw me back to the drafting table.
How would you describe your style?
I think it’s been slowly transitioning, to be honest. Initially, when I first started creating, I described the brand’s style as “gendermore,” an aesthetic that didn’t seek to just disavow or strip away gender, but instead one that sought to transcend it through gesturing towards the future of blackness. I further explored this identity through monasticism and romance, but as of late, I’ve been ruminating on what these ideas mean for the real "gendermore" male in 2017. For the most part, that embodies femme-menswear, clothing that bolsters the gender non-conforming male’s wardrobe, confidence and sense of identity.
For Fashion Art Toronto, I understand you're doing a retrospective? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Yes, the team at FAT suggested that a retrospective could be an interesting idea to explore after we collaboratively staged a similar performance at their OFFSITE Concept Space. That performance, which was held earlier this year, had three gender non-conforming models dressing and undressing each other with archival L’Uomo Strano pieces, intimately though not sensually. I guess what I found so interesting about their connection was the models' display of community, individuality and confidence, which I’m hoping to extend in more depth and breadth with the FAT retrospective.
Tell us about your relationship with FAT?
Vanja Vasic and Calder Ross at FAT (and now of OFFSITE Concept Space) have been angels. The platform that they’ve invested in and cultivated has always centered alternative narratives within Toronto’s fashion scene, and they’ve done so with a great deal of professionalism, empathy and encouragement. I’m deeply grateful for their work and for the confidence and trust that they place in new designers and their brands.
Where do your ideas come from?
In addition to the abjection of real life, I most regularly feel inspired by post-apocalyptic or mystical story-telling re-contextualized for the present; the act of extrapolating details from these hypothetical plot lines is what most often plants the seed for new collections. For example, this upcoming retrospective was inspired by an imagined conversation between two prominent sex workers from the Bible, Rahab and Gomer, at one of their bachelorette parties. Positing my current fascination with Instagram thot activities into the presentation is further inspiring a trans-temporal vibe.
Tell us a bit about your process? Do you collaborate with anyone?
My process is usually quite messy and it involves a lot of thought-experiments and fabric-sculptures until basically the 11th hour, when the finished garment has to be produced. In the future, I’d like to tighten up this design cycle, as it can be a bit stressful and counter-productive. I do collaborate with a really talented tailor working out of Mississauga for larger, more technical pieces and I am also very grateful to frequently have the chance to work with stylist/musician Andrew La Rose, who is magic with organizing and streamlining our fashion presentations.
Is being a Toronto-based designer Difficult? Easy? Inspiring?
It’s all of those things. From a financial standpoint, building the initial infrastructure to sustain a fashion brand has been challenging; transforming a passion project into a small business, in my experience, requires not just a diverse skill-set, but also a sizeable nest egg, and a whole lot of luck, and juggling these investments has been demanding. Connecting with interesting artistic energies around Toronto has been a bit easier, especially through partying and social media. Many of these connections have led to various opportunities to collaborate, which I continually find inspiring.
You have a full time job as a teacher?
How do you balance your creative side with your full time job.
I’ve taught Grade 5 and 6 at a small Dundas West public school for the past 6 years and have found that though simultaneously designing and teaching is often all-consuming, the two are quite synergetic. While both disciplines require creativity, innovation and flexibility, I appreciate that the extroversion and performance of teaching balances out the introversion and solitude of design. That being said, during school years, downtime is very rare; work days start at 4:30am and usually finish around 10pm which in all honesty, has been an interesting but challenging lifestyle shift.
What's next for you?
I’m hoping to go back to school to complete a joint Law/MBA program; I’d like to learn how to more effectively build opportunistic urban infrastructure for the marginalized, both from a creative and financial standpoint. With respect to L’Uomo Strano, I plan to continue with experimenting with different business models while continuing to invest in the stories of the marginalized and the "gendermore."
All photos taken from the L'Uomo Strano Instagram