Evan Clayton brings me back to my Style by Fire days. Imagine me, a baby Blanche Macdonald fashion grad, attending my first fashion week and seeing highly editorial and well designed fashion pieces on drag queens for the first time. Prior to moving to Vancouver I had never been exposed to drag culture and with the rise of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag has become more wildly accepted as a form of performance art.
I have been a long time fan of Evan Clayton (I still remember seeing his Lillith show years ago) and I have always appreciated the duality of his designs. Long before gender neutrality discussions were brought into the spotlight, Evan Clayton created clothes for all types of folks.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Evan Clayton. I’m a fashion designer from Vancouver, a Taurus, and just happy to be here!
As a fellow Blanche Macdonald grad, what skills did you learn (or fine-tune) in fashion school?
Blanche really honed my skills in time management. It’s such a time intensive program that really drilled discipline into me. Being a student at Blanche prepared me for the fast pace for the fashion industry, along with teaching me the invaluable skills necessary to succeed.
When starting your career, did you always know that you wanted to dress drag queens?
I can clearly remember the first time I ever saw a drag queen that wasn’t the butt-end of a joke on TV. RuPaul’s Drag Race was airing its first season in my final year of high school and while I was channel surfing I came across the show while it was airing its MAC Viva Glam campaign episode where Ongina came out as HIV positive. This was the first time I had ever seen drag as a display of strength and a queer person’s story being told in a beautiful and honest way that ended in applause instead of tragedy. This was where I fell in love with drag as an art form.
Drag wasn’t in the mainstream conscious in the way that it is today when I first started my career. I kept wanting to cast drag models in my shows but didn’t have the courage to do it until two years into my career. It took drag becoming an integral part of my social life for me to pull the trigger on casting Jane Smoker, Valynne Vile, and Thanks Jem in SS2015: DEATHPROOF. I haven’t looked back since, and prominently feature drag and gender non-comfirming artists and models in my shows.
You’ve worked with some of the most well known drag queens, locally and nationally, what unique challenges do you face when designing pieces that are highly photographed that need to be striking yet also easy to perform in?
It’s always a tricky balance of performance and fashion when designing for drag artists! I always have to keep in mind who the individual is and what purpose they’re wearing this garment for. Is it just for photos? Do they need to dance? Are they a buckwild performer? The answers to these questions help dictate my fabric choices and construction methods.
What’s in store for the rest of 2020? (Even if it’s just a hint!)
I’m currently in the process of moving my design studio, so that’s where the majority of my focus is at the moment! I’m booked for custom work for the next little while, so once my studio move is finished that will be where my focus shifts. I had a runway show planned for 2020, however due to COVID-19 those plans are postponed to 2021.
Just for fun: other than your own fashion brand, what is your favourite brand or product or why?