On Point With: Casey Caldwell

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This hot young designer’s colorful, surreal and fabulous looks have been keeping Brooklyn’s nightlife angels and demons fierce for awhile now. And with a Fashion Week afterparty coming up this weekend showcasing his pieces, it’s finally time for you to get on board and get into Casey Caldwell!


Thotyssey: Hi Casey, thanks for talking to us! Fashion Week is nearly upon us, and many people have observed that the shows get bigger and more important every year. What’s your observation regarding that?

Casey Caldwell: Fashion is expanding! I’ve been very satisfied with what I’ve seen so far this season, so my hopes are that the shows continue to inspire on bigger and better platforms. That said, I am debuting a small collection in a bar/gallery space in Brooklyn. But, no matter the platform, I always push myself to make the work and concepts relevant and more major every season.

Is there any particular collection that you’re excited to see?

I am excited to see what Creatures of the Wind, Brandon Maxwell, and Baja East do here in NYC. I am also looking forward to seeing what debuts in London the following week. I am a huge fan of JW Anderson and Mary Katrantzou.

As fun as it is to see major designers put on huge fabulous productions, nothing is quite as inspiring as seeing small independent labels create their own spaces and challenge the fashion week formula. I will always appreciate high art, low budget over an expensive, star studded, moneymaking production.

That brings us to you, one of Brooklyn and beyond’s favorite artists and designers. Where’s your hometown, first of all?

I’m a beach boy at heart. I was born in La Jolla, California. I grew up in St Petersburg, Florida then moved back to California to Santa Cruz to study Film Theory and Costume design. I would travel to NYC during the summers to work and party with my favorite Brooklyn drag queens. I finally made the move out to New York permanently in 2013.

How did you meet or find out about those Brooklyn queens to begin with? And who were they?

I used to sneak into the Ritz when I was 19, and saw Misty Meaner performing a Christina Aguilera number and immediately fell in love. She took me under her wing and introduced me to the progressive drag scene in Brooklyn, where I met queens like Mocha Lite, Thorgy Thor, Krystal Something Something, MaryJo CameltoeLady Simon and so many other incredible performance artists. The drag scene was really just beginning to take off in Brooklyn then, and it was never a problem getting into Sugarland without an ID.

At that point, were you already designing and constructing?

I have been designing since I was very young. I really honed my construction abilities in college when I was working for the UCSC costume department. During those summers in NYC I did a lot of styling, and would do a lot of small hand sewing projects since I didn’t have access to a sewing machine or a studio. I made a lot of amazing connections during those summers, though and would send pieces to people throughout the year when I was back in California.

What sort of influences inspired or informed your designs over the years?

It’s always been my goal to create work that pushes boundaries and blurs the lines between costume and fashion, gender binaries, and reality and fantasy. I am very inspired by the deep sea and outer space. These areas are so vast and mysterious, and unexplored that the potential for inspiration is endless. I also draw a lot of inspiration from the people I encounter, and current political climates. While I enjoy making work that seems out of this world, it is also important to make pieces that are grounded, practical and functional. It’s all about finding a balance between fantasy and practicality for me.

Do primarily create costumes/garments for specific individual people, or do you also have ready-to-wear stuff available for the masses?

I do both. I work with a lot of clients on custom creations, but I also put out small collections that people can purchase on a made-to-order basis.

Is there any single piece that you produced that you are the most proud of?

My final collection in college featured a mermaid tail I weaved out of thousands of zip ties and cording. It since has been featured in storefronts, worn to many events, and was shot by Steven Kevin for Vogue Italia. Never did I imagine that that one piece would go so many places and be featured on the level it has been while I spent hours in the attic of my college house weaving her together.

Oh, that is truly stunning! Are you also editing and producing many of these shoots yourself, or do you have a team?

I love working with new photographers and other artists. Collaboration is one of my favorite aspects of being an artist and a great way to push yourself to learn more and further your artistic process. I design, construct, and run my business myself, but I always reach out to other artists for shows and shoots.

Your pieces were featured and sold in the pop-up boutiques at This-N-That in Brooklyn, with many of your nightlife clients coming through giving shows. I know you’ve done this at Phoenix in the East Village since TnT closed… any plans to do it again in Phoenix or elsewhere?

Yes. I plan to pop up at Phoenix from time to time at Misty Meaner and Mocha Lite’s event Reloaded Saturdays, and would love to find a permanent bar to bring back a monthly pop-up, and with drag and fashion shows, soon. After the craziness of fashion week dies down, I will hopefully be able to secure a location.

Tell us about Cerebro at the Deep End on February 11, featuring your looks and performances by queens like Elizabeth James and Severely Mame! What can we expect from this night?

I am very excited about this show and collection. We’ll have performances throughout the night, while the boys at the Deep End serve drinks and food and spinning beats. We’re opening the gallery space, and will be doing the runway show around 11:30. The collection is unisex ready-to-wear pieces, with some of my signature costume elements. Everything will be available for purchase at the event, so bring your coins people!

Can’t wait for the fierce looks and shows! So in closing, who is one person that you haven’t designed for yet that you’d love to make a piece or two for… and who is someone that you would never dress for any money in the world?

I would love to make a look for Grace Jones. I love her fearlessness, and I look up to what she has achieved as an artist.

I would never turn away a paying customer. Plus, I think Donald Trump would look fierce in a Casey Caldwell exploding business suit.

I would love to see that as well. Thank you, Casey!


Casey Caldwell’s designs will be modeled at the event “Cerebro,” a Fashion Week afterparty, at the Deep End on Saturday, February 11th (10pm). See Casey’s designs on his website, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
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