Christian Joy: Music's Fashion Designer
In her debut 2017 tour, Maggie Rogers graces the stage wearing a white denim suit, painted with abstract shapes and glitter. Her live performance is nothing short of phenomenal, and if you're an outfit observer like myself, you'll notice that her Wrangler ensemble mirrors both her music and her character - vibrant, spirited, and authentic. Maggie is rising on the music scene, but her stage costume is the work of a creative legend, designer Christian Joy. Joy has been around the block when it comes to designing for musical muses. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Santigold, Childish Gambino, and Alabama Shakes have all enhanced their stage presences with Christian Joy's designs. Her work is dreamlike and bold, outlandish in the best way. She's had no formal training but created her career from grit and passion. After seeing Maggie live last week, I’m not entirely sure if I was more starstruck by Rogers or the presence Joy’s work. Regardless, I was moved to reach out to Christian. Like all the greats, she jumped right in.
MO: How did you get started in costume design?
CJ: It was really all by accident. I was making one-of-a-kind t-shirts and deconstructed prom dresses. I'd sell them in a store on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side. I still had a day job. I worked for this designer named Daryl K in her boutique on 6th street in the East Village. Karen O and I had met there and became friends. One day she saw some dresses I had made and asked if I would make one for her for their upcoming show at The Cooler. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs started getting a lot of press immediately after that and I became Karen's costume designer pretty much by default.
MO: Wow. So your story has a very haphazard element to it. Was a passion for art or fashion always present?
CJ: Yes, I always loved fashion. I'm from a big family and we didn't have a lot of money growing up so I really learned to use my money wisely and to put looks together on a low budget. This definitely led to needing to be more creative with my clothing options and I think had a huge influence on how I create now.
MO: How do you distinguish fashion vs. art?
CJ: I think it's bizarre that when an artist does a fashion show it's called art, but no one wants to call fashion art. Most of the artist fashion shows I've seen just come out looking like Commes Des Garcon, so I don't know what the distinguishing element really is. It's not any more conceptual than a Commes Des Garcon show.
MO: I agree, I really don't understand the hesitation to call fashion art, when the two are so mutually inspired. Who or what are some of your biggest creative inspirations?
CJ: John Waters, my Mom, Sonia Delaunay, Yoko Ono,
MO: What's been your biggest challenge in leading a creative career? Or in general?
CJ: I don't make a lot of money, which I don't care a lot about in general, but it would be nice to feel comfortable and not worry.
MO: What is your favorite part of what you do? What gets you out of bed every morning?
CJ: I love to do research. I really enjoy history and I love finding out where ideas come from and how something you may think was associated with a certain person or culture actually came from a totally different source. My other favorite part of the process is creating prints. I feel like prints really give a piece a one of a kind feel.
MO: What do you need to feel at home in your creative space?
CJ: My tools. I guess that would be the main thing. Knowing that if I wanted to make something that all of my tools were close by. Right now I'm working on new patterns so my pattern making tools are super important to me. I also like to have extra screen printing inks, my computer, rhinestones, stuff like that.
MO: Lastly, what piece advice would you offer to anyone starting their career, or those navigating how to create a life doing what they love most?
CJ: The advice I would give is to just keep your focus. I feel like people try to tell you how to do things or even not to do things. I think it's good to have a healthy dose of reality, but if you feel like you can do it, if it it's your dream and you want to try, then go for it. Don't allow yourself to be swayed, especially in the beginning when you're trying to figure stuff out. You can deal with the reality of the situation later on, and maybe at that point you'll have a community that can help out with the hard stuff.