Fashion and music are mutually inspired. Many bands find it not only important, but essential to form their identity by expressing themselves through their apparel. In Portland, there are many bands that stand out for their experimental and unique approach to stage wear, but one band in particular not only coordinates their extravagant costumes, but makes them. Mattachine Social is a darkwave-electrorock-pop band with an iconically styled drag queen vocalist known as Tammy Whynot, who has some of the most beautiful, outrageous stage outfits I have ever seen. Mattachine Social’s other lead vocalist, Justin Warner, is responsible for creating clothing for every member of his five-piece band, and he pays special attention to unifying concepts (such as hot pink wild tinsel or butterflies). With Tammy’s gorgeous face and incredible personality, Warner has the perfect canvas on which to create garments of Hedwigian quality, not only for Tammy, but for the entire band.
As a self-taught apparel designer, Justin Warner’s impressive catalog of garments caught my attention. I asked Justin to talk with me a little about his process, his band, and the upcoming events Mattachine Social has on their calendar.
When did Mattachine Social form?
Mattachine Social formed in 2010 on accident. Andrew Klaus-Vineyard and I were not looking to start a band, we had met online due to the fact we both had submissions in the 2009 HUMP fest, so really, porn brought us together. Haha. One of our early shows was at Portland Pride, and Tammy Whynot joined the band then to add harmonies, tambourine, and glamour.
How does fashion and costuming fit into your music?
I grew up in the 80's and 90's when more avant garde performers and musicians abounded. I have always had an eye for fashion and the extreme, and have always worn my fashion on my sleeve, so to speak. I am really big into baroque and 18th century clothing, so those fetishes make it into almost all of my costuming ideas. in one way or another. As musicians, we perform on stage to make a living, and when on stage, I feel one should want to , as the saying goes, "give em the old raze dazzle" People love a good show, and they love high glamour, and they love to see the extreme. We try to give them all of that, with songs they can dance to, and lyrics that they can relate to. A fun party with a message.
Do you design and make all the costumes for Mattachine Social? Did you go to school for design, or are you self-taught?
I do make most of the costumes for the band. I have been making costumes for many, many years. I started making costumes and clothes when i was in Jr High. I have always loved fabric, and texture, and old style clothing. I was alway enraptured by girls in elementary school when I was a kid, and I would make them spin because I loved the way dresses looked when they belled out. I made costumes for stage wear starting in the late 80's, and have just continued to this day. I have taken a few light classes, but is mainly self taught, by trial and error. I have sewed many a sleeve on inside out.
What is the inspiration for costumes and concepts for Mattachine Social?
Our inspiration, as a band, has been wholly rooted in history and pioneers of gay and human rights. We have songs about many different historic gay and lgbtq leaders and pioneers and artists. Harry Hay (the founder of the original Mattachine Society, from where we take our name), Hoover and Tolson, Alexander the Great, to name a few. But we are also a fun, dancey party band, so it has been an interesting and fun juxtaposition of ideas and feelings. Many of the first American gay rights struggles began in the 1950's and 60's, and fashion wise, that era seems to resonate most strongly with us as a cohesive unit. I am drawn to the styles of those times. Big tall severe 60's hair and psychedelic fabrics, yet classic lines. We can do extraordinary looks with butterflies or tinsel that work well in high end, classy locales and double as beachwear. Haha. I particularly love taking the classic styles of baroque and 18th century fashion and running it through a 1960's episode of Star Trek, to give it that space age faux modern treatment. Tinsel and lace. Metallic and chiffon. Other inspirations come from the fun colorful new wave bands of the 80's and 90's. The B52's we get compared to a lot, but that is mainly just in look I think, because we don't really sound like them. I love making more extreme fashion that still tends to stick to a few of the rules of fashion, although I have ideas of making costumes out of plastic lids and shredded t-shirts still… so we'll see where that ends up.
How often are you designing different collections for the band?
We rarely wear the same look look more than once or twice, so I am designing new looks pretty frequently. I try to branch out whenever possible and incorporate new ideas ( or old ideas!!) and unique and different fabrics and mediums. I have plans for elaborately constructed hoop skirts with lights and plants and flowers and all sorts of things. Haha. We play every month to every month and a half, which generally gives me just enough time to design, find all the fabrics, and materials, sew, do fittings, sew, and finish up for at least a final fitting before the show.
Do different band members request different types of wardrobe? Who is in the band?
I don't get specific design ideas from everyone, I get more vague Ideas that I am happy to run with. Andrew will say, hey let's be classy for this next show, and then I will put us in butterfly covered tuxedos. Tammy had suggested Space Age so I got laser ray guns and tinsel and shiny fabrics for our Blow Pony show, and the last photo shoot we just did.
Mattachine Social is comprised of Andrew Klaus-Vineyard, Tammy Whynot, and Justin Whomever. We have had a rotating guitarist and dancers the past few years, just to shake things up and keep things new on stage. But in the studio it is Andrew, Tammy and I.
What style icons inspire your clothing?
I am inspired by a few designers, I am always amazed at what people can create. Vivienne Westwood of course. The Mother Goddess of all sorts of unique wonderfulness. RuPaul has amazing style. Joanne Worley, haha! From Laugh-In.? I love her. Phyllis Diller was always good for a laugh and an outrageous wig and dress. Leigh Bowery was an incredible Drag Artist and designer that I am very intrigued with. Boy George developed his own look in the 80's and is still developing a fabulous face these days, even more gender bending than ever. I love it.
What is the next design concept you're developing? Well, while we haven't been booked yet for Portland Pride, we are hoping to play again this year, and I have decided to put everyone in primary colors, but outrageous with lots of monochromatic color on color. Everyone in a different color of the rainbow, but together as a band we are the colors of the rainbow. Lots of gorgeous, slutty, 18th century-inspired fabulousness for each member. It's s till a concept in my head, and I am still fabric hunting… so it will be that, or some variation on that theme.
Do you have any shows or events coming up?
We do. Well, Lets see. Andrew and i both have separate works in the VideoFag film festival in Toronto in May, and of course, Andrew has his radio show on wildplanetradio.com, called Light Underground, and He and I have a showing of all of our video and animation work at Club 21 called "21 and Up" and that is on May 7th at 7:30. We will be showing a few of the bands videos as they have animation i have done in them and we made them. Tammy Is filming a music video for someone, but we aren't allowed to talk about who it's for, and Mattachine Social is opening up for EFF Portland, the experimental film festival on May 28th at The Alhambra Theatre on Hawthorne, but I am unsure of the time. We also have Portland Pride Festival at the waterfront coming up, and The Portland Queer Music Festival.
Here's a link to the new music video from Mattachine Social. I love it!!
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