A Head of the Fashion Game: The headpieces of Dexter Simmons
Dexter Simmons is a designer who disarms the chic witch trend by recasting nature worship through glamorous lenses. From the depths of a forest to the vastness of space, the chic witch is present on land, sea, cement, and titanium. Dexter renders these worlds carefully, sometimes being involved in every aspect of the creative process. We sought out this LA Fashion Week and Styled to Rock sensation in order to get a closer look at his innovative repatriation of alternative history that is told beautifully through his fashion direction. Taking special interest in his elaborate headpieces, we embark on an exploration of naturalistic mutations in the human animal. How do his animated animal skins differ from ancient tribal dress? In Native American culture the feathered headdress was only worn by the most powerful member of a tribe. In ancient Africa many leaders such as chiefs, healers, and nobleman wore headdresses and reserved crowns for ceremonial events. Aztec warriors would wear an actual jaguar skin with a slit where a persons' face could fit snugly just beneath the jaguars intact cranial fur. Like you have guessed, the head gear of the past distinguished the wearer as someone of high ranking who, in most cases, earned the skins or feathers they wore through, fasting, bravery, and good conduct. We asked Dexter himself what stories lay behind the revival of animal skin headwear for his runway art.
1. What inspired you to use real animal skin and feathers in a relatively unaltered and natural way?
I love the ceremonial aspects of native world culture. My mother is part Native American from Louisiana. The stories of French alchemy and Native American rituals have always been inspiring to me. The idea of using every part of the animal and paying tribute to what gave you life is a concept that I find interesting. I really wanted these women to become birds of prey.
2. What was the first headpieces you designed?
I used to do a collection called Flawk with my best friend and we used to make headpieces out of everything. From , cassettes , computer parts, bark, moss...You name it, we made it. I really got into them when I made giant mouse shaped head pieces out of human hair for my "Death to Paulina" collection.
3. What goes into making a headpiece like the ones your models sport today?
I have a very unique process with creating headpieces. It's extremely organic and It takes a lot of patience to accomplish the blending of taxidermy and millinery. I love what I do so I just let my mind run wild.
4. What feelings or philosophy inspires them?
I am inspired by so many things, Jim Henson, 60s sci fi, horror films, Oakland, Voodoo, Detroit, alchemy, Victor and Rolf...I have a tribe mentality to my design aesthetic and I love Mayan culture.
5. Are they a part of a collection?
All my headpieces were a part of my last collection Dextrose Necromancer.
6. What feeling do you wish to create for the wearer and the viewer?
Honestly when people wear my garments I want them to leave reality and enter fantasy. My fantasy. Fashion is way too serious and ready to wear, and that is what I'm protesting. As a designer and artist I want to evoke the same feelings I have when I watch Viktor and Rolf and Alexander McQueen. In a way, it's the only way I know how to give consumers a front-row seat to a very over-active imagination.