Larry Legaspi’s Outlandish Glam Legacy

Though Legaspi stays overdue for a widespread revival, Owens did write a e-book about his underappreciated hero. The attractive, lushly illustrated, coffee-table hardcover, titled Legaspi: Larry Legaspi, the ’70s, and the Way forward for Style, was revealed in 2019, and it’s the closest factor to a biography of the designer that exists. It consists of Legaspi’s personal written account of his formative years. He describes rising up in New Jersey, the place he says his hard-drinking stepfather commonly beat his mom and molested him. After years of abuse and trauma, he left residence for New York, the place he opened a boutique referred to as Moonstone and commenced designing clothes. “I’m self-taught,” he instructed the style journalist André Leon Talley in 1979. “I went to the Style Institute of Expertise for just a few semesters of primary trainings, however what you see is generally my goals.” In his personal phrases, he was a “homosexual hippie” upon arriving in New York, however he quickly gravitated towards the angular, intergalactic sparkle of glam rock. Incorporating components corresponding to arched collars and reflective supplies into his designs, he additionally drew from the previous—particularly from the science fiction he had devoured as a child.

Nona Hendryx from Labelle performs dwell in New York Metropolis circa 1975. (Richard E. Aaron / Redferns)

New York within the early ’70s was hardly what you’ll name restrained. However when Legaspi wore his personal outfits on metropolis sidewalks, his Flash Gordon–on–Hearth Island type drew catcalls of “Moon man!” from passersby. “I by no means may bear to appear to be everybody else,” he instructed Us Journal in 1980. Moonstone struggled to draw clientele at first, however that modified when Legaspi acquired a job on Broadway as a dresser for the unique run of Jesus Christ Famous person. Quickly, he was seen by Labelle. The trio of Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Sprint was transitioning from a candy vocal group—one which Legaspi had beloved as a toddler—to a fierce and forward-thinking funk powerhouse. Legaspi started designing their stage costumes, stitching collectively shimmering metallics, white leather-based capes, and ludicrous plumage straight out of some hallucination of alien ornithology. Hendryx, additionally a lifelong sci-fi fan, had urged Legaspi, “Make me a spacesuit.” Labelle’s hanging new look, the music journal Melody Maker noticed in 1974, was “like a soul model of UFO.”

Legaspi dubbed his new line of costumes “Primal Area,” a time period that performed on each his adoration of sci-fi imagery and his connection to the earthy pulse of funk and rock. His identify started circulating, and as his Labelle creations made waves, different musicians took discover. Earlier than lengthy, the members of an unknown rock group taking part in small golf equipment in New York requested Legaspi to assist them understand their very own weird concepts for stagewear—costumes that had been extravagant, gleaming, superhuman, and just a bit bit scary. Legaspi obliged, unaware that Kiss would develop into one of many largest bands of all time. “Our supervisor Invoice Aucoin launched us to Larry. He had a storefront within the far West Village,” the Kiss guitarist Paul Stanley recollects in Owens’s e-book. “He was doing costumes for Labelle.” In actual fact, Kiss stole Legaspi away from Labelle, whisking him up in an increase to fame that, satirically, did little to assist the designer’s model recognition. He beloved making use of his aesthetic to the world of fashionable music, and the cash didn’t harm. He needed nothing extra, although, than to be seen as a high-fashion creator.

Grace Jones in brown fur and spandex and George Clinton in fringe
Left: Singer and actress Grace Jones. (Robin Platzer / The LIFE Photos Assortment/Getty) Proper: George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic (Echoes / Redferns)

However Legaspi wound up caught in a wierd place: too daring to go mainstream and too bizarre to be embraced by the style business. With seemingly nowhere else to show, Legaspi continued making costumes for his buddies within the New York artwork scene, together with the operatic singer Klaus Nomi, whose retro-futurism meshed with Legaspi’s. And after turning into shut buddies with Divine, he equipped the homosexual icon with designs that accentuated camp, drama, and subversive sexuality. Grace Jones, as she was shifting from modeling to music within the late ’70s, tapped Legaspi as effectively. However of all of the folks he dressed, no pairing was extra good than Legaspi plus P-Funk. “I do know the theater effectively,” Clinton instructed Vogue in 2018. “I watched numerous these performs, and after we first did the Mothership Connection album in 1975, I knew that I needed to get the costuming from Larry Legaspi.”

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