After becoming known for creating work that captured the spirit of the queer underground rave scene, with cinched waists and G-strings, Luis De Javier is levelling up. With his sights set on the Hollywood Hills and a significant number of celebrity clientele already supporting, De Javier is expanding his practice, reconnecting with his Spanish roots and consistently honouring the queer community that has been his constant source of inspiration. Fashion’s sassy, exuberant, under- ground prodigy is growing up – without losing a hint of his “don’t fuck with me” attitude.
Interview tak­en from METAL Magazine issue 45. Adapted for the online version. Order your copy here.
Luisdejavier Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Creating work at the intersection of queerness, fashion and clubbing, Luis De Javier is building a vision of the future with his point-shoulder, cinched waist, sexily clad creatures which transcend boxes such as gender or sexuality. De Javier’s latest collection simultaneously feels like the highest end of a catwalk presentation and the queue outside a particularly well-dressed warehouse rave. It’s precisely the multipotentiality of his garments what creates such a genuine excitement in all who see them. The fur coats, for example, which curve up at the top into the horns of a bull, truly have the innovation and poignancy of early Alexander McQueen. Yet, somehow, these are pieces that I would, without a doubt, expect to see on some of the most creative dressers in the queer underground clubbing scene here in London. There is something truly special about De Javier’s work, it seems to hint at the dawn of a new era in fashion – and many people have noticed it. Celebrity clientele includes Kim Kardashian, Willow Smith and Rihanna, to name just a few.
You recently released a new body of work for Spring/Summer 2022, The Reclamation. Could you tell us a little bit about this collection?
There were a lot of changes. I had a concept that I wanted to do for a long time, but I really wanted to do a show, show, show for that concept. So that just kept changing and changing because of Covid. So, in the end, I was like, okay, what am I obsessed with? Vampire hookers!
I always want to put out a political message with every body of work and represent myself and my community. I feel like it’s something that is especially important when you’re from the underground scene, as it’s up to you to put your experiences out there and make people actually feel what you feel, as they may not experience it themselves. For example, what my friends and I experienced recently is how unsafe it has become during the night. How something that was so very important, and the part of the day where we felt most empowered, being Creatures of the Night, became the moment where suddenly we were just a target. So, I wanted to reclaim the night and reclaim that space. That was the main starting point, and from that we wanted to be really centering and empowering towards women, transgender people, non-binary people and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. That was essentially the main message that I wanted to portray, and I wanted it to be very sleek and also very rough. And to make sure that it had that “don’t fuck with me” aesthetic, which is something that hopefully will be carried along with the brand DNA.
There are more elements of traditional womenswear in this collection, and despite it being genderless, there is a real sense of female power and liberation. What do women mean to you and your brand? Do you feel that your body of work both celebrates women and the female experience while including and being accessible to non-binary and transgender individuals? 
It was actually the first time doing it properly, because when I did my second collection, it was my first time doing womenswear. Women have always been pivotal in my life and I’ve always wanted to honour them, but when doing the second collection I realised that yes, I was honouring them in my head, but I could not make them feel empowered in a 3D printed corset where they couldn’t move. So, I really wanted to dip into more wearable stuff that would make me proud to see on my girls, and that they’d be able to wear. And they’d be able to feel cunt.
So that was the starting point. What I’ve always been very fearful of in womenswear when I studied fashion – and obviously I believe in no gender, no labels whatsoever – is this dart in the bust that always tells what gender the garment is for. Like, I’d find this fab little dress and it would have this dart in my tits that made me look saggy. I wanted to give everything the female visual starting point, then make sure that it would look good on any type of body - instead of doing darts and such. Instead, we tried making sure that we bent the boning right, finding new techniques so that it would look good both on a flat chest and on someone with double D’s. That was really exciting because I also dipped into stretch fabric and even base layers, which I’d actually never done. And then, when the time to do the casting came, everything looked great on everyone and that’s what I enjoyed the most – just taking the pieces to new places with their own momentum.
It’s obviously amazing when your designs come out how you intended, but then to see your work become something else when worn on different people, the pieces looking different and great on all of them, it must feel incredible.
It’s amazing. I just want everyone to feel comfortable. I’m obsessed with bodies and I want to find other types of cuts that would give the body different shapes so that everyone can wear my work and feel empowered. I want there to be no boundaries in that sense. It took a long time to research everything. Now seeing it, it’s like... Yes!
How does your Spanish upbringing affect and influence your designs? Are there any people, places or traditions that really play a role in your inspirations? And how does this harmonise with your experiences living in London? How do you combine the energies of both your birthplace and current home?
When I left Spain I was young and just hungry for so much more. I dreamt of a bigger city like New York or London and just wanted to leave Spain behind. But as soon as I got here and found my tribe, I started appreciating and connecting to my roots. Then, I was thinking, oh my god, I can’t believe I’ve just left to look for something when I had everything that I’d ever wanted there. Especially, for example, incredible directors like Pedro Almodóvar and the Almodóvar girls in his films and everything they represent – they are very fiery and passionate, whether it’s about love, violence, business, anything. That intensity is implemented in every single part of their life. When I moved to London everyone was so polite, and I became very polite and very British. Then I was like, wait, no, my fiery Spanish ass is telling me to have a healthy balance and find the space in-between those two identities. I feel like I’ve reached that point this year, after so much personal growth during lockdown, really sitting with myself and being, like... Okay, bitch: Who are you, really?
Luisdejavier Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Do you have plans to work or live in Spain again in the future or are you staying in London for now? What do the two places mean for you and your work?
I went back to Spain for two weeks after releasing this collection, I went to my mum’s house and started researching the fall of the Franco dictatorship. How young people and the underground scene rebelled against it. Then all the amazing directors and films that came after that, which I seemed to forget when I first moved to London. I feel like it’s really calling me. I want to support young, emerging Spanish talent. It’s amazing, and it deserves to have a bit more exposure. There are some amazing creative kids that, wow. For the moment, though, I’m definitely going to stay in London. I’m not done with London at all. I’ve only been here for around two years, so I definitely feel like I’ve got a lot of stuff left to do. I want to move to another big city also to see another culture and meet other people because there’s the same kind of tribe in each different country. There’s like a base for that tribe and I want to try every base. Then retire in Spain, grow old and wear a wig every day.
Taking risks has been a part of many iconic designers’ history. Do you think you would be where you are now without having taken risks? Where did you get that courage and drive from?
Not at all. For example, I did my debut in February 2020 in Fashion Week and it was all very quick – I had to do the collection in a month and a half. I was very young and very eager. Obviously, the collection wasn’t smart in terms of me thinking of my career or thinking about my future or buyers. I was just like, look at me, I’m doing a show! But I feel like that’s what brought me here – that way of doing things. I don’t fucking care, I’m literally just doing what I want. At the end of the day, now, with a bit more knowledge, I’m trying to achieve the same kind of body of work but also having in mind everything that comes with it. At the end of the day, a girl has got to eat.
So, yes, I definitely feel like taking risks and just being very true to who you are and what you believe in is essential to being successful, especially when you come from a marginalised community or a part of society that is less understood. You just have to be 10 times louder in order for people to hear you and give you the time of day. You just have to make noise and then that’s when people will start to pay attention, and that’s when they might try to understand. I want to make people feel empowered, but I also want people to see what’s going on in my head or in my community, what’s happening to people I want to represent – not just, “Oh, that’s cute. I’m going to pull it.”
There is so much innovation, bravery and risk- taking that happens within the queer community and queer nightlife, such as underground gigs and illegal raves, or the fact that they continue to exist when oppressed by law or threatened with violence. Queer venues being carved out as safe spaces also shows the resilience of LGBTQ+ people when faced with barriers. Is this something that you relate to, and did this perhaps fuel you or equip you for the way you navigate your way through the fashion industry or through your work?
Definitely. Being queer, I’ve learnt to be aware that there are always going to be so many noes, there are going to be so many eye rolls and there are going to be so many people saying you’re too much. There are going to be so many labels of that’s so unnecessary. I feel that just having the experience of me putting on a miniskirt and going out in heels and encountering people who just weren’t okay with that really prepared me for every single no that I’ve had in the fashion industry. It’s like, okay, that’s fine, I just have to stay true to myself. I don’t want to sell my soul to the devil. Everyone’s going to have an opinion, everyone’s always had an opinion.
It’s similar to the queer experience of not fitting in and then finding where you belong – if you push past those initial noes, or initial situations that didn’t work out, it might lead to exactly the place you’re supposed to be in.
Yeah, exactly. When you encounter those noes, it’s easier to push past them as you’ve been hearing them for a while. First of all, they don’t hurt as much. Then, at the end of the day, they don’t affect your work because, you know, it’s just a no like every single other no you’ve had before, and those didn’t stop you either.
I’ve heard you are really inspired by the history of LGBTQ+ nightlife and clubbing. I wonder if there were any specific people or nights that particularly inf luence you or give you the drive to create? For me, I love the imagery of Leigh Bowery’s night Taboo, which began in 1985. Allegedly, he would create an entirely new and never-before-seen outfit for every event there! That sort of passion and innovation thrills me.
I remember when I was 16 I started getting into Michael Alig and Limelight, the party in New York. I was just obsessed with the whole dark story of him eventually killing his friend. It was just so real. When you’re so young, you just see the party, but obviously you don’t really know about how dark and serious that lifestyle and scene can be. I was drawn to how human it was and how life really was for queer club kids. Yes, you’re dressing up, but you’re living a very intense lifestyle filled with substances and it can take a dark path. That’s something that particularly inspired me, the darkness beneath the aesthetic and the story of how things can go wrong. The film was one of the first club kid things I saw when I was growing up, it’s very dark.
Luisdejavier Metalmagazine 5.jpg
It’s like something you mentioned earlier – that you want your clothes to tell a story and say more than just being a cute look. Being so inspired by humanity, sometimes that story is a dark one, it’s not always happy and positive – sometimes the most beautiful creations carry a lot of weight or darkness with them.
Yeah, exactly.
How important is community to you and your work? So much of your work is inspired by your community of friends, the raves and club nights you attend together. What is it about your friends or a rave that you wish to capture in your clothes – is it the passion put into everyone’s outfits, is it the sensation you feel dancing with your peers? What is the feeling or sentiment you want to convey?
It’s the whole story – you start heading to the club and you feel like you’re this sex symbol. Then you’re on the dance floor and you feel like you’re seeing God and about to die. The next thing you know, all your demons come to you and you’re realising all these dark things about yourself and your subconscious. Then it’s Monday and you have to go to work! I want to capture the whole journey of someone’s life, playing dress up and being surrounded by people that are just living, having fun. I want to support every single thing they do and be there even when they’re seeing God on the dance floor and also when they’re about to go to work on Monday. The rise of the Phoenix.
It’s the beauty of the community – I’ve never felt so free until I moved to London and met my friends. Everyone is just like a little kid at the end of the day. Dressing up, having fun, having dreams and also hustling on the side, and it’s just so beautiful. The sense of community is so prominent and it’s actually something that inspired me ever since I began studying fashion.
How has collaborating with other people shaped your label and helped you realise your visions?
I love collaborating. I was on the shoot yesterday and I thought, this is my vision. But it’s time to make yours. I’m not really a lone wolf – I appreciate other people’s artistry. I don’t think I’m the best, I don’t think I’m the master of fashion. I don’t think I invented shoulder pads, you know? So, there’s always so much to learn from everyone. I don’t think that my way is the only way. Any way that takes you to something great, together, is the way.
As well as collaborating with people, I wonder how much you find yourself collaborating with technology to influence, inspire or produce your designs?
The thing is, there’s only so much you can do in terms of shape when it comes to pattern cutting and draping. So, when my best friend met his boyfriend at the time and he was a 3D renderer and 3D modeller, I was like, oh my god, look at all these crazy shapes that I can’t do with pattern cutting! Like fucking horns coming out of tits, but actually looking like horns, not like (Luis mimics two floppy horns with his arms). So, I definitely feel like it does push you towards other ways of creating, because things come into our heads but then we have to actually make it real.
Does the encroaching presence of technology as a part of both design and production excite you?
I love it. Our relationship with technology is an ongoing process and development, I think it should never stop. When I was studying – and, because of the lack of creative influence I had I was studying marketing – there was this whole case study about how, because 3D printers were now a thing, fashion was going go to hell – you would see a jacket or some shoes in a window display, take a picture then print them in your house. There was a lot of fear – but that wouldn’t even have been possible!
Especially during this year of lockdowns, everyone just dove into technology like VR headsets, rendering and 3D-printed pieces. It was exciting to see everyone’s different approaches. I find technology amazing as there are no boundaries in terms of what is in your head compared to the final product at the end. I think it’s just going to develop even more, and we will develop in the ways we use it, until it’s utilised by everyone.
Luisdejavier Metalmagazine 2.jpg
If your work is giving us a glimpse into the world of the club kids of the future, what can we expect from you going forward?
I love that, but I also want to branch out in a way. I feel like I was a club kid. I’m ready for the 2.0 version, the Berghain-meets-Hollywood Hills. I’m very excited about ready-to-wear now. Before I just went va-va-voom with everything, the bigger the better, but this collection made me realise how seeing a garment that’s impossible to make and impossible to put on and visually insane didn’t bring me as much joy as when my girls were coming to the casting for this season and they could just put on this stuff and be like, oh, yes. I was like, okay, I’ve found my new love for fashion in ready-to-wear. So now I’m trying to find the meeting point between technology and that, because everything that I did with 3D rendering before was very visually appealing but impossible to wear. I’m excited to try out new materials. For example, I’ve started 3D printing with silicone and rubber instead of hard resin. So, I’m very excited to play around with that and keep the momentum of Luis, the club kid, two years ago wanting to bring the va-va-voom, but also, we’re going to the Hills.
I love the challenge. And I feel like it’s another challenge to create ready-to-wear whilst keeping the brand DNA and the message and delivering a product. Because I also want the people that inspired me to make these clothes to be able to buy them and wear them – that’s what brings me joy at the end of the day, actually dressing these people. So now it’s about making sure that you can see the brand DNA in something that’s very easy and very wearable.
There is definitely a shift in a lot of people’s minds – you can keep your aesthetic and be part of a subculture while at the same time being comfortable and able to move. Maybe it’s getting older, or maybe it’s all the time we spent in loungewear during lockdown, but it can be incredibly innovative seeing people finding ways to create looks that are still visually incredible whilst being more comfortable and practical.
Yeah, that’s how I want to see it because, when I started this whole journey, I was adamant I was never fucking going to do ready-to-wear. But it is a challenge, and much harder than it looks. It is amazing when you actually accomplish it. I remember I used to wear fruit packaging as looks – try to get some of that reliably to create stock with. It’s not happening. I think I’m maturing and also seeing the brand grow. Also, I’m realising that there’s a bigger market than just the one that I thought was mine. I thought it would only be for queer kids, I never thought a celebrity in LA would wear something of mine. So, I’m just broadening and broadening my work and making sure I can deliver something that everyone can feel comfortable in regardless of their background.
It’s good timing – it seems like the market is really into supporting up-and-coming designers nowadays and recognising the work that goes into their garments. They’re willing to pay a fair price for them. Lots of concept stores or online marketplaces selling designer goods are flourishing lately too. People seem to be enjoying the ride – supporting through sales helps them feel like they have, in some way, been a part of that journey.
Exactly. I didn’t want to do ready-to-wear at first as it seemed easy or, at least, the obvious way to go. But when you think of it, making a one-off va- va-voom piece is a one-off thing you do by yourself, but ready-to-wear has so much preparation before the final piece, everything is so technical. As an independent designer, to sell in these concept stores, for example, you have to put so much work to make sure you have the stock for just that one store. It’s amazing, it prepares you for everything. It also gives people the opportunity to see how much work goes into working with buyers, sorting out stock and production. It’s like a little jump before the big jump. I think, as well, before COVID, designers had more chance of getting a huge deal or getting funding, whereas now you do have to make it on your own.
You don’t need a giant sponsorship, funding or a little fairy Godmother that shows up out of nowhere saying, take my money! I mean, if there is one, hello! It’s good to see a much more realistic and human approach now, that you can make it entirely off your own back.
Nothing exists in a vacuum, and I wonder how much recent events in the world have affected you and your practice. What is it like trying to be creative with so much environmental, political and social upheaval taking place?
In the beginning, before the first show, it was very, very intense because I was doing a lot of media streaming with no money. The two months leading up to the show were crazy, and then afterwards I went to Paris and as soon as I got back, they locked everything down.
I was just in this mindset of, oh my god, I just literally put my health and my whole entire everything to shit, put all this money and time into this collection just for the virus to come. Everything was getting so heavy, but it actually pushed me to keep going because despite everything, I did manage to reach people with that collection, and that inspired me to continue working and putting out messages through my work. I gained a lot of awareness and I wanted to make sure every work had a lot of meaning and research behind it. I completely see also that some people might have not been able to create anything in a year or two, and that’s completely understandable. I’m guessing it just kind of pushed me, in a way, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement and all of the transgender deaths. Then, all of the women’s movements in Poland and Argentina. Those were the things I became more aware of that really pushed me to keep creating and trying to reach people.
In Spain, these issues weren’t really showcased to me so, being in London and seeing all of this first- hand and how my community is affected, just made me think about what could I do to take this situation and do something. But no one should ever feel bad because they haven’t been able to create anything that they’re proud of during these two years because if you’re still here, congrats. It’s been a wild ride.
You mentioned being very supportive of the trans community, and given the rise in transphobia in the UK recently, what inspires you to speak out on this issue?
I just have such respect for the transgender community. Don’t fuck with them. I get so worked up, it’s something that needs to be highlighted because shit just keeps happening and it shouldn’t. There are transgender people dying every day just because they’re trying to live their truth without hurting or damaging anyone. So, I feel like transphobia is one of the purest forms of how evil humans can be. I just want to give a voice to that community, make them feel comfortable, first of all, make them feel empowered and not make them feel uncomfortable at all at any single moment. Whether it’s through bust darts or a different way of creating a bodysuit, it’s just something that I always have in mind. I would love to have the funding to take it to the next level in that area, but at the minute I just try to do these little things, which hopefully, in the future, will bring much greater things with a much greater impact.
Luisdejavier Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Do you feel fashion plays a role in the potential to rebuild our world? What sort of role do you think that could be?
When fashion is not run by straight white men, that’s when the change will start. It all depends on where it’s coming from. Slowly, more independent designers and people that don’t have such an influence from the patriarchy will have a bigger voice and a bigger platform. Slowly it’s just going to get progressively better and that is going to have a positive influence on society. Then, as soon as people realise clothes are just clothes, and bodies are just bodies, that’s hopefully when it’s going to start getting a bit better.
If you could change or improve one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be and why?
I think, seriously, fashion should not be so elitist, especially for studying and for marginalised communities. I’ve always tried to prioritise POC and LGBTQ+ people that apply to roles within my brand but I see the ratio in other brands or businesses and it’s just insane. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same opportunities, and in the fashion industry that is very prominent. As soon as people from marginalised communities or underrepresented backgrounds can access fashion courses or jobs, that’s when the change will start – because right now we have an influx of people who can afford an elitist lifestyle. The minute that changes it will kickstart everything else.
We see, annually, a lot of rainbow capitalism around pride month and performative activism from big corporations, brands and even the government, often just ticking boxes on their diversity quota or trying to seem like they’re supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community. What do you think could be done better by these people to actually support queer designers and creatives, for example?
People just need funding to be able to create, to be able to bring to life what they want to bring to life. So instead of putting that fucking Britney, gay-as- fuck playlist on (which I do live for), splash the cash. With the aesthetic queer people have, sometimes the easiest job they can get is in nightlife, but it puts you in this box, tired during the day, and it’s easy to get sucked into that lifestyle. Fund some amazing queer organisations or creatives directly and so much could change.
The power presented in The Reclamation collection really portrayed the strength of the LGBTQ+ community when faced with opposition or oppression. What would you like to say to younger people who are maybe feeling scared in these times? How would you encourage them to reclaim the night?
Oh my god, to be just completely honest, lead with love and surround yourself with love. Shit is going to happen, but just keep on going. Do what makes you feel good, take no shit from anyone but don’t fight back with that anger that you might get bitten by sometimes. The aftermath of fighting back can be really ugly and you don’t deserve that – you didn’t start it, just stay safe. It’s something that my boyfriend taught me that I’m really grateful for. With my fiery Spanish ass, whenever I saw something that was unfair, I would get really worked up. Now I have a completely changed mindset. Just wear that feather corset gracefully.
Luisdejavier Metalmagazine 1.jpg
Luisdejavier Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Luisdejavier Metalmagazine 7.jpg