!! OMG, a Q&A with Mic. Carter of L’Uomo Strano !!

L'Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022

Left: Mic. Carter wearing L’Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022 | Right: The same look on the runway at Fashion Art Toronto

The name of designer Mic. Carter’s label might be L’Uomo Strano (which translates to ‘the strange man’ in Italian), but the Toronto-based creative’s catalogue of wearable delights is everything but off. In fact, Carter’s assemblage is a perfect synthesis of the times we’re living in, where optimism and angst rub up against one another on the daily. Throughout the pandemic, Carter kept busy crafting red carpet looks for the likes of Bilal Baig and Olunike Adeliyi, and dressing Vivek Shraya and Tynomie Banks, all while also producing seasonal offerings and displaying them with abundant drama during virtual versions of Fashion Art Toronto (“FAT”).

Carter’s current collection “Open Haus” debuted at FAT’s return to the real-life runway this past May; but it wasn’t the only the only recent opportunity for Carter to have pieces meant for public consumption on show. They also created the costuming for dancer Devon Snell as part of the collaborative artistic exploration staged by Toronto Dance Theatre called Performance Clash. And last week, Carter’s designs were worn by legendary choreographer Hollywood Jade on Canada’s Drag Race.

Hollywood Jade wearing L’Uomo Strano on Canada’s Drag Race

Having interviewed Carter during one of the city’s many lockdowns, I was eager to catch up with the fashion designer and educator (for both grade school and university students) and hear more about what influenced “Open Haus,” what it was like going back to the catwalk, and what utopia means to them.

Read the full Q&A after the jump!

I would love to jump off with this conversation by talking about your latest collection “Open Haus,” which I saw at Fashion Art Toronto in the spring. Tell me about this name and inspiration, and what you were thinking about.

I’m going to go back a little bit, to my last presentation that happened at Union Station called “I Hope This Email finds You Well.” It was very optimistic. It was like, listen, COVID is over. The girls are coming out and we’re gonna be disrupting spaces. And then Omicron is like, “Yo, you were too early, too optimistic.”

But I definitely tried to stay excited, particularly surrounding collections. And when Vanja [Vasic, Executive Director of FAT] said, “Listen, we are going back to in-person. It’s real.” I was like okay, now we’re gonna do it.

L'Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022

L’Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022. Photo by Jim Orgill

Something I had noticed so often in design and runway shows in the last few years, even pre-COVID, was that designers were obviously becoming very mindful of the fact that, “Okay, this this piece going to be shot on video, this is going to be a Boomerang or whatever.” So you could tell they were creating these runway moments and garments for audiences both in the room and online. I specifically remember a Molly Goddard show where models walked over these elevated air vents, so the tulle dresses would float up in this magical way. I was transported.

What was it like being back in person doing a runway show? You pulled off some really exquisite moments for virtual audiences, but this was like, boom—spectators are back to spectating, and fashion is a spectacle again. How much did that also factor into your designs?

It was definitely incorporated into my creative process through nerves. [laughs] I think initially when we flipped from in-person to virtual, I was like, “I don’t like this, I don’t know, what is this going to be like?” But after the two shows that we had virtually, I thought, “This is fantastic. You can really curate; there’s post-production, there’s the slow-mo cams—there’s so much that you can do.”

I was trying to create a narrative for the collection, which sort of simulated, or paid homage, to some of the anime that really got me through the pandemic, and got a number of the students that I teach through the pandemic as well. What evolved was a story that follows a ragtag bunch of queer pirates, referencing One Piece, which is an iconic anime. When they combine their throat chakras they can catapult forward or back in time, but only to the twenties decade within each century. What I was hoping was that they would therefore be able to enact change within that decade. One of the iterations was right around the time of the innovation of slavery, so they were like, “We’re gonna go back, we’re gonna shoot down these slave ships, girl. That’s what we’re gonna do.”

L'Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022

L’Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022. Photo by Jim Orgill

I wanted some garments that speak to a sexuality that is optimistic and that points toward Pride season. Those were the mesh pieces in very vibrant colors. That was one subset of garments, which I’ve started wearing already. [laughs] I’m not waiting. Throughout the entire exploration of L’Uomo Strano, it’s been about finding pieces that that I feel comfortable wearing immediately in any space; kind of like a diffusion line of the brand.

Another set was a sustainability-focused, upcycled salvage fabric set of pieces, which harkened back to a lesson I did with my class where we read a New York Times article about what 2050 would look like. And it’s also connected to Afrofuturism and narratives of possibility. I really wanted to participate in a kind of discourse–that of creating clothing­–which responded to this concept, and sought to create a subset of garments that responded to the shittiness of what design and overconsumption can do. Those were the pieces that I could definitely play with—I didn’t feel constrained by very precise pattern drafting; it was very haptic and sculptural. That’s really where I found a lot of joy within the design process.

L'Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022

L’Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022. Photo by Jim Orgill

The third type of garments were these highly pattern drafted suit jackets with wild shoulders and stuff like that. I wanted to ensure that each of subset of garments would move well down the runway, and have a dynamic impact that synthesized into a body of garments that were harmonious, but also really eclectic.

L'Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022

L’Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022. Photo by Jim Orgill

That leads me to a question I had for you about doing Performance Clash. I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and creative output, and the level of vulnerability that’s, to me, inherent in the creative process. What was it like participating in the show? And then let’s talk a little bit about vulnerability. Do you like feeling vulnerable?

I want to talk to the second part of the question first, because I already know the answer upfront. No vulnerability, absolutely not. You have to be vulnerable while you’re dating, and that’s why I don’t date. [laughs] It’s so hard to be open.

But I’m really challenging myself to be vulnerable, and I think a lot of collaborations I’ve done have forced it as well. Performance Clash was a huge learning experience. Andrew Tay, the artistic director at Toronto Dance Theatre, approached me and said, “You bring the fashion and the person that you’re collaborating with will bring the dance.”  My thought was that it felt very kind of siloed. And then when the process started, I was like, “Oh, this is not what I thought it was.”

For Devon [Snell] and I, it was about dialoguing and being vulnerable about the intersections of our lives and experiences. We’re both queer individuals who are exploring gender, and we had quite an extensive relationship with the church. We wanted to explore the beauty as well as the ugliness of having that experience as Black, queer individuals. That was rigorous, and it was hard to open up to someone new.

This makes me think of—and I don’t know if tension is the right word—but this process and the interplay of ideas between two people. But I’m also curious because we’ve talked about Afrofuturism and how you reflect on it—and then talking about the inspirations for “Open Haus,” it’s telling me a lot about negotiating the concept of time in your work. Tell me about grappling with that, insofar as the inspiration points that you collect and use in your work.

2014. That was when it became something that was fascinating to me. There’s this notion of what I call acrostic circularity; the idea of “What does it look like for Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr. to be catapulted into the year 2300?” Because that moves into spirituality—what does that spirit or that entity look like?

That was definitely where it started, this moving back and forth and connecting Black spiritual archetypes, and finding the links between them. It’s a thought experiment. And more specifically to the current collection: One of my students brought up during a conversation about time travel, this idea that, “So, if [someone] shot slave ships out of the water, don’t you think another social innovation similar to slavery would evolve at another point in time?”

I thought, “I’ve done my job here. [They’re] asking those deep questions.” I think in terms of temporality, and disrupting temporality, in order to approach notions of utopia.

L'Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022

L’Uomo Strano Spring/Summer 2022. Photo by Jim Orgill

This is a very big question, but what does utopia look and feel like to you now?

There was a moment when I hobbled back behind stage wearing very, very high heels and quite voluminous pants. And I’m like, “Bitch, don’t fall.”

[laughs] It was right after the show ended, and I’d walked out to see the audience, and then I came back in and saw all of these models that had different bodies and are of different genders and various sexualities. I felt like that was a gesture towards a utopia that I’ve wanted to witness since the beginning.

—Q&A by Odessa Paloma Parker (@odessapaloma)

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4 Comments on "OMG, a Q&A with Mic. Carter of L’Uomo Strano"

  1. Crap looks like a high school sewing class gone wrong. Even the models look uncomfortable wearing it. And I like avant garde and edgy. This however looks like someone couldn’t follow the Butterick pattern guide correctly. Amateurish garbage.

  2. Sometimes (often), I wonder if OMG is just trolling us?
    It seems that if anything is queer oriented, no matter how incredibly stupid or ugly, it gets on the page, usually with much heralding and support. And I do mean anything. Much of which has nothing to actually do with the actual community. My two cents. But thanks anyway:)!

  3. These are some of the ugliest clothes I have seen.

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