Since launching her brand in 2014, Gogo Graham has become well-known for her upcycled, crafty pieces that are designed specifically for people who don’t conform to the average size or standard. The trans designer originally began creating garments for the trans community inspired by her own experiences—which led her to meet Hunter Schafer, the actress who plays Jules on Euphoria. Little did she know, that get-together would mark a turning point for her label.
“She and I had a discussion and she told me she was interested in helping with my brand financially,” Graham told W prior to her fall 2022 show, which was held Tuesday night at the New York City indoor-outdoor bar Nowadays. “She believes in having everyone being paid adequately, which is really awesome. Over the years, I’ve been learning about how a lot of industry models get nothing when they’re in shows, which is really hard to imagine. I came up with a budget and then Hunter was like, ‘Let’s pay all the girls more.’”
That show brought guests far away from the usual scene of New York Fashion Week to in Ridgewood, Queens; before being seated under the glow of twinkling lightbulbs in the outdoor space, attendees gathered inside Nowadays for drinks. Graham designed a diorama-style runway set, complete with upcycled fabrics tied together like flags for her cast of models—and even Schafer herself made her appearance, closing the show by walking the runway with Graham during final looks. Giggling with the designer on her arm, Schafer wore a black-and-white woven dress with a corset and yellow pants while holding a matching teddy bear.
Hunter Schafer backstage at the Gogo Graham runway show.
This season, Graham took inspiration from one of the final scenes of Grave of the Fireflies, the 1988 Studio Ghibli animated war tragedy film. She drew specifically from one shot, in which the movie’s brother-sister duo, Seita and Setsuko, are running around playfully. “It’s that kind of moment of playing dress up with everyday objects,” she says. “With my collections, when I’m coming up with the ideas for them, there tends to be a big fantasy component. The everyday or the ordinary is fantasy to me because everything is not ordinary and not normal right now.” That concept played into the materials for fall 2022, too. “I used lots of sweatshirts, knits, blankets, denim, and stuffed animals,” Graham said. “It’s this chaotic moment where I’m using the everyday, ordinary things to play dress-up.”
As models of all sizes walked down the outdoor runway holding different varities of teddy bears—a motif we’ve seen in Graham’s work before—they were cheered on by the audience. In addition to the stuffed animal accessories, the line consisted of plenty of woven fabrics, as well as corsets and t-shirts that had been patched together to resemble shapes that have become very recognizable within the designer’s own unique aesthetic language. Armor-like shawls with highly-constructed shoulders jutted this way and that, while structured corsets and bustiers were integrated into tops. Knitwear was almost collaged together, and Victorian-looking outerwear melded with sweatpants—a nod to nearly everyone’s most-worn piece of clothing for the past two years, for better or for worse.
“All my pieces are made from materials that are either found or donated,” Graham said. “I recycle stuff to make all the looks. There’s a lot of knitwear. It’s a pretty comfy-cozy kind of collection.” It’s clear comfort was very much on Graham’s mind; she titled her latest collection “Home Sweet Home.”
When Graham first started out as a designer, she only made one-off pieces, since all of her fabrics are upcycled. But as she’s been able to expand the brand, she’s found a way to work around that, too: “Because of the nature of what I do, sometimes it’s hard to recreate the same piece over and over,” she said. “But since I started in 2014, when no one was really doing that, there are now different places where you can buy more yardage of fabric and stuff that’s been donated. As a culture, we’re more interested in recycling things now than we were seven or eight years ago. So I’m inching into more doing things that are multiples.”
For the rising designer, the biggest goal of her work will always go directly back to the community—and giving trans models more opportunities for work is always top of mind. “I would like to have these kinds of shows and opportunities where I can, have gigs for all the people who want to be involved with the production, but also hair and makeup,” she said. “If I can have a budget to pay people well to do those things as often as I can, I will.”