MUSE: Designer Christopher Lee Sauve
Our final event for NYFW was the Christopher Lee Sauve "Pop Cult Club" presentation on the roof deck at the infamous Empire Hotel. With host Perez Hilton kicking off the festivities, we were treated to a vibrant collection that was the icing the cake on our inaugural NYFW. The graphic tees had some of our favorite celebrities and phrases - we are still quoting "You Can't Sit With Us" - and a the show featured a special performance of up and coming artist +MGL+. Once we had some time to recover, we set up an interview at Sauve’s studio in Williamsburg.
Labeling Men: First we want to say thank you for having us in your studio!
Christopher Lee Sauve: No problem!
L.M: How did your line originate?
C.L.S: Well basically, I was working at Diane Von Furstenberg as a senior designer for the Andy Warhol collection with her and the recession kind of hit at 2008. So I was living in the West Village and did this whole thing. Well, this was before Anna Wintour or Lagerfeld, before celebrities, before fashion designers were made into icons. People knew who Anna Wintour was if you were in the industry, but she wasn't on t-shirts; Karl Lagerfeld wasn't on t-shirts. So I was buying t-shirts and making my own. I was like, “I want to wear a giant Lagerfeld on my shirt, and a giant Andre Leon Talley!” Nobody was doing that. Then I thought it would be cool to do a "Save Anna" campaign. "Saving Anna Wintour" since we are in the midst of a recession because there was talks of Corrine Wright taking her job. It kind of went just crazy viral and it was all over the place. I made ten t-shirts and I sent them to blogs and people. They ended up being a big hit! After that, I started creating more and had all these ideas like "Fuck The Recession.” I approached Seven New York, which was on Mercer Street. Do you remember them?
C.L.S: You used to go downstairs and it was on Mercer Street and they sold all the top designers. And they put me next to these top designers. Overnight I was a fashion designer selling next to Jeremy Scott and Raf Simons in the door of the best store in New York City for fashion where you can get that type of clothing. So happens, that is where all the stylists went to get their clothing as well, so it turned into a great opportunity that grew from that. I kept designing and then celebrities are just kind of attracted to what I do and people just love the work. It’s gratifying so I just kept on doing it more and it’s just always has momentum from there.
L.M: Very cool! What celebrity have you said, "Holy Shit, they are wearing my designs, this is awesome!”?
C.L.S: That's a hard one! I'll be honest with you, I love Miley Cyrus, I think she is awesome.
L.M: We love Miley!
C.L.S: Miley is fucking awesome. And I have been doing a lot with her lately and I think she is really great. But if I had to choose, it would have to be...she was Karl Lagerfeld's muse, Anna Piaggi. Do you know who she is?
L.M: No, we don't but we want to know more.
C.L.S: She was a writer for Vogue in Italy. She is one of my favorite people because she was Karl Lagerfeld's muse. I’m a huge fan of her and I did a Piaggi shirt because I think she is amazing, and I got an email one morning and it was 2010 and I got an email from her saying that she really loves the shirt and attached to the email was a picture of her wearing it beside the clothing and I almost died! I was like "honestly, this is amazing!" After that, we kind of just emailed back and forth, had an interesting dialogue. She really enjoyed the work that I was doing which was really interesting because she is not one that is easy to please. And she's been around forever so then she asked me to start writing a piece because all of my work kind of...the theme of my work always has a rebellion to it and I love rebellion and I think that is why I choose people like Piaggi, rebels in society are the ones who are next. A t-shirt of Princess Diana with "REBEL" underneath because she was rebellious to the monarchy, she was rebellious to a lot of other things. So we started to co-write this article about "REBEL" and then she passed away in the middle of the article, which was really sad. Out of all the celebs, I think that was really cool! She was a very interesting person. Because she was the self-made but once you see more of her, you'll see she was a very interesting lady.
L.M: That is very inspiring! We noticed at your show that you were wearing a Joan Rivers shirt [NOTE: Joan Rivers passed away one week before the show.] Was that a last minute addition to the show or was that always planned?
C.L.S: Last minute. The shirt of Joan, actually, I did something for her two months ago where she was a saint, like a Joan of Arc and there were some plans for her to be at the show, which obviously didn't happen. I was like last minute, “Fuck this, Joan is going to be at my fucking show!" I looked at all these images and because she really ties everything that I do together. It’s Joan Rivers, she says what she says about fashion, there is nobody that does that anymore. Who is going to be the next Joan Rivers? Nobody. So I found the picture of her with the "Fuck Off" and I was like "She would like this!" Joan Rivers died on the first day of Fashion Week and it’s still Fashion Week and we're across the street from Lincoln Center. So I wore that shirt. I just did one for myself and one for my assistant and we just wore that. It wasn't in the show.
L.M: We just noticed it at the show and it definitely stood out to us.
C.L.S: Yeah, definitely.
L.M: So it’s an exclusive, not for sale?
C.L.S: No, no no. And a lot of people were like, "That was fast!" And I was like, "You know what, she, Joan Rivers, would have wanted that. She would want to be there!" It turned out perfect and it photographed so well. I didn't know her that well but I did get to meet her a couple of times and she was such a fucking awesome lady, you know. And Perez [Hilton] and her were close so yeah, it was fun.
L.M: How did you and Perez's friendship come about? We know he's been around since the beginning…
C.L.S: Perez - Mario, I met him probably in 2006, like a long time ago...
L.M: Before he was huge?
C.L.S: No, I think he was already huge! I think he was maybe even his biggest. And he's always been such a sweetheart and he's always bought my stuff and he's always been super nice. We've had a history. There was that whole thing with the lawsuit with me and Rachel Zoe [Zoe sued him for a shirt that says "I die" with a banana on it]. He was like, "I started the 'Free the Fruit' campaign with him." We did that together and that was really fun. I think he is a neat guy and I like what he reports and he was perfect for this because it is the "Pop Cult Club,” and his readers are like cult followers.
L.M: And in the same vain as before, one of the few people who still keeps honest about fashion.
C.L.S: Yes, exactly! I think there is an honesty in reporting. I went through this thing this summer where I was all over the news, in every single newspaper, every single news channel and it was horrible for two month over the skinny t-shirt ["Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels”] and it was amazing for me to see. I've always been in the press since I was 24, but this was the first time this was such a snowball affect. It was funny to see how it went from the truth to like “oh that’s not the truth, that's not the truth, that is even further away from the truth.” And at the end of it, it was this big make-believe story that they were doing on it on ABC News...
L.M: Where they took one thing and made it into something different?
C.L.S: Oh yeah. And then they sell it, so that’s the way it is.
L.M: We noticed in your show that a lot of the male models had heavy eye makeup, as you normally would see in females. Tell us a little more about that, and do you like your male models to be a little androgynous?
C.L.S: The makeup is actually really interesting, I'm glad you brought it up. It is Regan Rabanal for MAC Cosmetics. So we did a test here and before the show and the color palette is yellow and pink which I use a lot; I love yellow and pink. I don't know if you noticed but a lot of them had a silver “X” that I have. I use a lot of "Xs" in my work. It means straight-edge in the punk scene and it comes from that. They had an "X" on their cheek and for the guys we did the purple and the silver. And I would say yeah, it brings out a little androgyny, but it’s more of a nod to...I hate to say David Bowie....
L.M: Because everybody references him!
C.L.S: ::Laughs:: Yeah, it’s like that kind of reference to glam rock. I generally go more punk rock so it was interesting to take it to that. I wanted them to feel like they were part of a cult. I was watching all these movies on cults, and they are part of this "Pop Cult Club" and what is that? I'm picturing this person who wakes up in the morning and taking all of your tabloid magazine and blending them and drinking them as a smoothie. They are just so obsessed! That's why the sunglasses by Bradley McPeek had those giant antennas; they are connected with everything that is going on with media. So the makeup too was a synthetic color and the hair was fried and referencing Nirvana, more of a grungy 90s movement.
L.M: We were looking at the show today and noticed that you paired a lot of the men's shirts with yellow, pink, vibrant color jeans. Do you feel like they can be worn like that on the street or more neutral colored jeans?
C.L.S: I love it when I see people who will Instagram me or who will hashtag it. That's why I love t-shirts. People are always asking, "Are you going to do dresses, are you going to do this or that?” I've done dresses with Patricia Field and a bunch of different things but a t-shirt is kind of this utilitarian thing that you could just give somebody and I encourage people to rip it, take the sleeves off, cut the collar. My mother did a lot of that in the 80s, doing shit with t-shirts and I think that’s what I love about it. I'm a graphic designer so it’s to me a piece of paper that you're printing on a t-shirt and people can do whatever they want with it. To me, I love to see what people do. When Amanda Lepore modeled them in 2009 - I did a whole series with her where we made this crazy dress out of a t-shirt and with her tits and everything - it was crazy! And the story of t-shirts, it started off as a farmer's garment and they cut the sleeves off and then it was James Dean who made them popular.
L.M: We were telling you earlier how much we loved the sneakers at the show. Was that a collaboration with anybody?
C.L.S: All the boots were by Doc Martens. Doc Martens are kind of a huge thing for me because when I was first coming into "being cool" as a kid, I saved up for a pair of Doc Martens. I was in Seattle in the 90s during the Grunge Era, so I called them up and they gave me 30 pairs and they said, "Have a blast, paint them, do what you want." We hand painted every single pair and right now they are going to be auctioned off for "Designers Against AIDS" and all the money will be going to that charity [Click here to view charity website]. They are based in Belgium. I hand-painted a backpack and it’s going to go to “Designers Against AIDS.” What they are doing is they are focusing in on China and other parts of Asia were people can't get tested because it’s a huge stigma. So they are doing this thing where it’s a text message to visit locations where they can do that.
L.M: That's really great! If you have to choose one piece, what is your favorite from the collection?
C.L.S: Oh god, one!?
L.M: Fine, give us two!
C.L.S: I would say "She-Capens" is my favorite. It’s with all the models falling. You have to see it up close, because from far away it looks like a pattern but looking up close, it’s all models falling on the runway.
L.M: That is so funny! So the second one is the "You Can't Sit With Us?” Mean Girls inspiration?
C.L.S: Yes! It is Mean Girls and it’s with Anna Wintour, but that's not my favorite. I would say the second one is "Catwalk".
L.M: Any particular reason why?
C.L.S: Eh, I just like them…
L.M: Fair enough! What is one piece that every guy should own from your collection?
C.L.S: That's hard because I feel like my shirts attract certain personalities. I try to stay away from anything neutral. You know which one, although its kind of loud, it’s "This Image is Not Available in Your Country," which is scrambled porn.[It] is a response to the Middle East. That one I could see all kinds of people wearing it.
L.M: How would you label the guy who is wearing your clothing?
C.L.S: I would say that there is a range. I would like to say most of the people like to go out, they love pop culture, they watch a lot of movies and listen various types of music. I think they are kind of "Pop Cult Kids."
L.M: Which is what your collection is!
C.L.S: Yes! That's why I named it the "Pop Cult Club," because I think this one is for the people that buy my shirts, my customers. I wanted to just do it for them!
Find out more about Christopher Lee Sauve and his collection HERE
Interview by Nisim Frank
All Photos and Illustrations provided by Christopher Lee Sauve