I Don’t Think There Are Any More Rules. We Make the Rules.

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I Don’t Think There Are Any More Rules. We Make the Rules.

Pride has never looked like this before. Parades are canceled. Gatherings are a public health concern. We’re all at a distance. But that hardly means that Pride is canceled; celebrating Pride in quarantine is a protest itself. This month, Esquire is examining what Pride means now, beyond the parade and for the next 50 years—whether it’s advocating for justice over Zoom, or simply existing as a trans father. The protest continues.

We have asked four figures from popular culture to be Pride guest editors during the month of June. This week, designer Christian Siriano explains how fashion empowers people, whether it’s through the face masks he’s designed for New York state or the ball gown he dressed Billy Porter in for the Oscars.

I was watching [Andrew] Cuomo every day [when I volunteered to make masks]. I thought he was just so inspiring. When he was calling out for help, I was like, “Well, a little message wouldn’t hurt.” I didn’t even expect anybody to respond right away. We just were like, “We can make things. I have a little factory in New York, maybe we can do something.” It was very naive at the time, and then the next day we were making prototypes, and the day after that we were up and running, making masks. It was really wild how fast it happened. When you’re a small business in New York, you feel like you want to do something.

The first few weeks were really intense, everybody was on high alert. It was definitely a challenge that we were not ready for, but we figured out how to do it safely. And also I think what was great is that my office is all really strong, powerful women that were like, “We want to help.” And I think that that was really cool to see.

Recently we put up [began selling] these beaded, embroidered masks, and really that was for people to have a little fashion and expression. I just wanted to see if people would actually want them and be interested, and they are. Maybe fashion masks are your new jewelry. It’s your new way of self expression. And listen, to be honest, I don’t love masks. They drive me crazy. Making them all day, every day is not the most glamorous thing, but it’s something that’s nice that can help people and look good.

Growing up my sister was a ballet dancer. And it’s so interesting to see a ballet dancer perform for months, and they’re in literally warm up clothes, tights and a leotard. And then all of a sudden, the next day, at the performance they’re in these sugarplum fairy’s tulle, fantasy dresses. It’s such a transformation from this warmup to something so beautiful. And I think people do that every day in their life—you transform. You become something when you put on a beautiful dress or you put on a beautiful jacket or whatever it is. We get to be who we want to be, because all of us are very visual creatures. It’s very interesting to watch, and I think that’s actually what gets me going. I love that idea of watching somebody transform into something. I think that’s what happened with Billy [Porter, at the Oscars].

Billy Porter attends the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California.

Frazer Harrison

Billy came into the studio and I was like, “Let’s try this gown on. I think it’s really chic and elegant. Let’s throw a jacket on it, let’s try to make it masculine, feminine and tasteful.” It’s not like you’re wearing a big pink tutu dress. It’s still something that’s elegant and respectful for the Oscars. I didn’t think about the cultural effect that it was going to have, putting a man in a dress on a red carpet at a major event like that. But I’m so glad that we did it.

[Making Julia Butters’ Oscars dress] was so fun. Julia is one of a kind. She sketched a little dress that she loved and we kind of interpreted it. And it was during fashion week and we were so crazy, but it was really fun to do because I love that that night we dressed such a range of women. I mean, I was dressing a 70 year old woman to an eight year old. And I think that that’s what’s so beautiful about what’s happening in fashion because you can be inspired by little Julia Butters, even if you are 50 years old. That doesn’t mean can’t have dreams and get excited about clothes.

I think sometimes that’s why my projects end up being successful because I have no fear. Like, okay. Tweet at the governor, if he doesn’t respond who cares? Okay, put Billy Porter in a dress, if nobody likes it, we move on. The best moments happen when we just do it. When I put curvy girls on the runway, like, who cares? Let’s just try. I don’t overthink anything like that. And I just don’t think people should.

I look to find as many interesting people as we can to love our clothes from all walks of life. You never know who’s going to be your customer, even if maybe that customer right now can only afford a hundred dollar dress. Well, that doesn’t mean forever in her entire life. I hated alienating people. Clothes should be emotional, and they should make you feel good. I’ve always thought that that’s the most important thing. People that are confident—even if it’s the craziest, strangest look—the more confidence, it’s almost like… the more believable it is. And people will follow along. That’s probably why I wear jeans and a T shirt every day, because I feel powerful in that look. My black jeans and my black boots, and that’s what makes me feel kind of like my own little superhero self. I don’t think there are any more rules, especially in a fashion world where we make the rules.

New York city being semi-closed for Pride will be very strange. I think we’re still going to try to celebrate and make beautiful things. In a way I hope that people also feel a need to do more, because we kind of are stuck at home a little bit still. I mean, I don’t know what that will be like, but I hope it makes people go crazy at home and do wild things. I designed the Stonewall day T-shirt which is really cool. And that’s going to come out in a few weeks, and hopefully people are at home and wherever they are, are feeling themselves. I think that’s the biggest thing that I am trying to get through, is for people to feel as themselves, whenever, wherever they are.

I think that’s what celebrating Pride is all about. I think we all have to kind of take a minute and just remember that we’re all interesting creations.

Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.

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