Although the ping of a light bell may have corralled the platform-shod coterie of Marc Jacobs’s darkly romantic Fall 2016 models this past February—signaling fashion’s revitalized passion for the macabre—a very different tune has been summoning members of New York’s gothic underground music scene for years now. Since 2010, DJ GHE20G0TH1K, Venus X—née Jazmin Venus Soto—has steadily mixed an alluring and unexpected sonic experience of Lil’ Kim and juke for a fringe subculture that has slowly moved to the center of the music and fashion scenes in New York City. Spinning alongside Hood By Air’s Shayne Oliver—and often outfitted entirely in Oliver’s nascent designs—Venus has attracted the attention of such fashion world heavyweights like Alexander Wang, ASAP Rocky, and M.I.A.
Reinterpreting the mall goth style tropes of vinyl and lace, she and her wildly appointed crew found themselves looking to the past for references—Galliano and Gaultier are huge influences—and the fabulosity of hip-hop’s swaggiest MCs to cull a look that defied sartorial and racial stereotypes with its attitude and prescience. Venus’s green hair-dye job in 2013 helped set off the craze of Day-Glo-color hair that shows no sign of stopping. And despite shelving the party for a year in 2015, GHE20G0TH1K is back, and its mastermind is now concentrating on diversifying the platform. A full calendar of parties, from the Bronx to the Berlin Biennal, is scheduled, and a GHE20G0TH1K store is set to open its doors in Bushwick, Brooklyn, next month.
We talked with the omnipresent DJ on the future of the gothic scene, and why fashion is drawn to its cool allure.
GHE20G0TH1K’s Fashion Was Meant for a Party
It’s about interpreting things, rather than wearing all leather and lace. I think also it’s important to know GHE20G0TH1K is fashion because we are friends, not because we sought out for it to be fashion. Because Shayne [Oliver’s clothes] existed, I was able to push the party further. I knew that the clothes that he was making were the clothes I wanted to wear, and I would have to throw the event to have a place to wear these things, because no place existed where I could look like that. The same thing with the music: Shayne would make clothes that would go along with the soundtrack, to go along with the ideal young person who shows up to GHE20G0TH1K and wants to have a transformative experience.
The Fashion World Has Always Been Into the Mix
Alexander Wang has been coming to parties since 2010, so we’re talking six years. Before there was even Hood By Air to come and dress in, we barely had samples at that point. We were running around to different tailors begging them to make these crazy creations. But Alex has been to three of our warehouse parties in the last two months. We’ve only had about four—I respect that! The kids get a rise out of that like, “Oh wow! That’s so fab! We’re giving looks and he can see them!”
There Is No Singular GHE20G0TH1K Look
We definitely didn’t have a bona fide aesthetic, but for the time, it was different because we were wearing raver clothes from Cyberdogs that were only sold at Vampire Freaks, which is now closed. Or just wearing hardware: things that were sculptural or moody. We were wearing a lot of black and white. It was just a return to innocence in a way—now it’s changed and it keeps changing all the time with fashion as well, but it still has core parts of the aesthetic.
. . . But Venus X Did Help Bring Back Day-Glo Hair to New York
There was a time when a lot of people didn’t have colored hair and I had green hair. Alex Bronswell brought bleach to America and she really restarted the colored-hair trend. It was moving from London to New York—I was one of the girls that got to be in the lookbook, so I got the green hair. I picked the green hair, because I wanted to be like Hatsune Miku, the hologram vocalist from Japan. So all of a sudden we’re pushing this goth anime thing into the sphere. It was very like, ”Ooh, I want to look like this fantasy creature!” Or Shayne being like dressing like a priest with a whole dominatrix outfit underneath—a lot of sensationalism and emotion.
Lil’ Kim Mixed With Siouxsie Sioux
Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees were really important style figures for me—not in just the way they dressed, but also the aesthetic of their personality and how they delivered on camera. It wasn’t how people are today: trying to be “the prettiest girl” or having really clear answers, kind of being coy and sexy. It’s all about sex again and in reality, there are so many other layers of attraction. You don’t just have to be physically beautiful or a coquette to be attractive. You can be weird or dark, that’s what punk was about. People like that. But Lil’ Kim also had a huge impact. The reason I love Lil’ Kim isn’t because of Tumblr or a mood board, but she put us all on the map. Kim was the bell hooks of rap music.
Mixing High and Low To Create the Look Of Now
I go to Tokyo a lot—that has a huge impact on my style—and I go and I shop high and low there. I’ll go to flea markets in the middle of nowhere, like an hour outside of the city and buy a ton of Comme des Garçons samples and mechanic jumpsuits for really cheap. If I go to Paris and I have the day off, I’ll go to 20 thrift stores and just look and buy and collect. I’m really big on references and I think that the past is the best way to develop my style more. I obviously love some new designers, but it’s a little bit hard, because with newer designers there’s a lot of label whoring. I feel like I can find that ruffle shirt made by Parasuco 15 years ago, or I could just buy some Marc Jacobs version of it. I like to support my friends—I’m not so much into fashion like that, because it’s for a consumer-based population. I feel like collecting vintage stuff is where you get quality and a lot of ideas. So you have to mix high and low.
GHE20G0TH1K Will Always Provide a Space for Goths of Color
I think the same way punk exists, GHE20G0TH1K is going to exist forever. Brown and black kids need their own version of that, where they can live their real lives and they can have a vocabulary for their emotions. It doesn’t really exist in rap music—it’s starting to a little bit—but even so, the instrumental vernacular isn’t there. We don’t have to be existing in a hipster white world and we can be for black people, for brown people, but have sounds that are a little more aggressive or won’t be played in the club.
. . . And Zombie Clowns Are About to Become the Face of GHE20G0TH1K
Everyone will soon be wearing clown makeup every day of their lives—for reference check out Tesa Zombie, a professional zombie clown girl! I have been trying to do my part by performing as a zombie clown whenever possible, but it’s still pretty socially unacceptable.
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