August Getty and David LaChapelle Collaborate on a Cinematic LA Dreamscape
The designer’s spring/summer collection was shown in a Fellini-inflected set created by the pop art master.
Tucked inside a Universal Studios backlot in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, past the tiny plates of lamb tartare and lobster ravioli and the waiters proffering endless champagne, models with matching bobs and mannequin-like expressions haunted fake western saloon sets. August Getty, the grandson of oil baron J. Paul Getty, was showing his spring/summer 16 collection, titled "Thread of Man," and had enlisted the legendary fashion photographer and artist David LaChapelle to create a set within a set--a crazy, theatrical pop-tastic dreamscape.
The wildly cinematic art installations included the scene of a truck accident, and a topless woman waiting at a bus stop. A gospel choir sang "Oh Happy Day" under an illuminated sign reading "Heaven" and another neon sign reading "Hell" crowned an installation that featured TV screens blasting Donald Trump's latest presidential escapades. "He's hell," said LaChapelle. "He's greed and meanness and unkindness and all things wrong with the world in one person." Different, he noted than the Gettys. "The Gettys are the opposite. They're philanthropists. They're kind, they treat everyone nice. We're all human."
The personality nuances of the one percent are LaChapelle's area of expertise--he's photographed celebrities from Courtney Love to Angelina Jolie to Britney Spears. Although he's best known for these pop portraits, La Chapelle's art has been featured in museums around the world, and he directed the award-winning documentaries Krumped and RIZE. His work is glamorous, but it's also dark and grotesque. On one wall of last night's space, LaChapelle had created a giant mural of Lady of Guadalupe illuminated with Christmas lights next to an old gas station sign that read "Getty." August appeared to be both an artistic collaborator as well as part of the art.
"I'm an LA kid," said Getty. " It means a lot to me. My grandfather and great-grandfather made a mark here. I need to acknowledge and represent that and I need to make them proud. It's a beautiful thing they created and this is of that same thread. People need to know that."
He was wearing a studded leather and denim jacket, accompanied by the tall, blonde Gigi Gorgeous, Canadian transgender actress and Internet personality. "What really means a lot is when I see your face when you put on something I made, because that's how I know I changed you today. You can give someone a hug, you can make someone laugh, but if you can intrinsically change the way somebody feels, that means the world."
Does Getty see an affinity between his work and the work of David LaChapelle? "I feel like there's such a difference but such a similarity," he said. "It clicks. It's cogs in a clock, two pieces to a puzzle, two sides to one coin, sun and a moon. It just works."
It did work. Models stood languidly in a room with white cakes covered in clear construction plastic. A neon sign overhead said "Fluff." Lauren Wasser, a model who lost her leg from toxic shock syndrome, stood inside a phone booth with a worried expression on her face. "I shot her mom in the 90s. It's crazy. I feel like Ansel Adams. I'm so old." LaChapelle said. A darkness permeated the show. "Can someone get a lighter?" both LaChapelle and Getty said at various points in the night, pointing to an unlit candle on a table.
As for the collection, it featured various tight-fitting nude fabrics, reminiscent of recent pieces by Kanye West for adidas. "We used five different skin tones of women that inspired me and we matched them and dyed fabrics," said Getty. "I usually design away from the body and this time I drew a dress on the body and I erased lines. I brought it inside the body.
The body-con clothes were made from leather, gold lace, and silk, often with revealing cut-outs and drapery that lended a sci-fi, Mad Max look to the collection. The models' faces were washed out with heavy foundation, like how you'd imagine Marilyn Monroe before putting on makeup.
As for Getty's own personal style "I feel like my style has changed but it hasn't changed too. Because I live in that world of make believe."
It was a night of magical make-believe in the make-believe capital of the world. LaChapelle, who now splits his time between Hawaii and Los Angeles, concurred. When asked about the inspiration behind the show, he replied, "The Gettys just let you do whatever you want."