14 apr 2020

FaceTime with… fashion designer August Getty

During lockdown, Numéro continues to engage with artists and creative minds who guide us through our days with their work. Today, American designer August Getty, founder and artistic director of the fashion house August Getty Atelier since 2012, talks about his upcoming collections, his ideas to keep oneself busy at home and his advice to stay glamour at all times.

Interview by Matthieu Jacquet.

Powder pink hair flawlessly plated with gel, a friendly smile on his lips and a coffee mug in his hand – which, he will confess later, might contain some RedBull –, August Getty is sitting down before of his black and perfectly tidied shelf to answer our questions via FaceTime. It is 9 am in Los Angeles, the young man just got up and is now preparing for a new day spent at his house, where he has been stuck for weeks. Only two months after unveiling his August Getty Atelier’s spring-summer 2020 haute couture collection, the American designer was compelled – like every citizen of the United States – to stay at home to minimize as much as possible the spread of Covid-19. A difficult situation he decided to take advantage of, diving into his imaginary and filling out his sketch book with his next collections. Between coloring books, Instagram live fashion shows and pieces of advice to stay glamour at home, the young designer shares with us his latest projects. 


Numéro : First of all, how are you handling the current situation?
August Getty : It’s a difficult time for everybody right now. I am so thankful to have access to food and safe water here in Los Angeles, when there has been such a sudden realization of injustice and inequality in America. I’m also close to my family here, which is amazing.


The weather seems very sunny in LA, it must be quite frustrating to not be able to enjoy it…

We had a rainy day yesterday, and it reminded me that life does happen, that the Earth is still happening around us. It does not make me sad to look outside the window but it makes me very happy to see that Mother Nature is still going on, and even happier to see no cars on the road because it means that people are staying home !



“I always say that my life is a balance between fantasy and reality, and I try to walk that line.”



What were you doing the day before being shut away? 

I was spending some time in Miami when the pandemic happened and I didn’t know what to do, so I flew back here. So the day before we were on lockdown, I was on the flight. It was my friend’s birthday, and everybody was not taking it so seriously and I was like : “Guys, I don’t think you understand what’s going on : we need to stay home.” Now it has become or moral imperative to stay home. We have to protect each other and our loved ones, if we ever want to see each other again. The park is still going to look like the park, and the beach is not going to change in two months, so we have to wait !


I saw on Instagram that you were angry at people going to the beach. Are there still people doing that in Los Angeles?
There are, and I called them out. Like my friends, I told them : “I know you want to go to the beach, but I want to see my mother again”. We don’t know enough about this virus to be sure that 6 ft away of separation can solve everything, because we learn something everyday ! Unless you know everything about it, I don’t want to see you on the beach.


And I also saw that Spring Breakers were still going to Miami…
Oh my gosh ! That’s the reason why I was so thankful to be back home, and not be stuck with the Spring Breakers that say : “If I have it, I have it, if I don’t, I don’t!”. They are so wrong ! I left one week before Spring Break, I never want to be in Miami during this moment.

On your Instagram, you ironically posted “Today is the day…to do the exact same thing as yesterday”. What is your daily routine at the moment?

I wake up, I have my coffee… there might be Redbull in my coffee cup, I’m not gonna lie [Laughs]. Each morning it’s been a little bit different : for the first couple of weeks I started staying up very late, calling my friends. Now I have found my system, I get up early, I have my coffee, sit on my couch, I sketch for a little bit… It really gave me time to embrace my creativity from when I was a child I didn’t know how to do anything but sketch. So I have two new collections that I’m very excited about. I don’t know when they are gonna come out but I have them in my head. I get on the phone with my atelier team, and we talk about new creative ways to help you at home, to keep the creative conscious flowing and to keep portals open. 


I’ve seen that you wanted to create a coloring book…

Yes, for ages ! [He screams, very enthusiastically] Those are coming soon, in the next weeks, I promise. I uploaded the video without realizing how much work I had to do. This is how I drive my team crazy, coming up with ideas and telling everyone about it because I am so excited. They are like : “August, you don’t know how much work that needs to do!”, and I’m like : “But it’s for the world!” [Laughs] Coloring books is what I love to do since I was child. It’s just something so simple that I hope it can help people to go back to a quieter and simpler time. We are gonna incorporate a philanthropic aspect to the project. I can’t say too much about it now, but we’ll bring things to help fight Covid-19.



“I’ve always said that coffee tasted better when you have lipstick on first, but if you wanna wear a sweatpants right now, wear them!”



I read that you started fashion design at 3 by making mini-dresses out of paper napkins. Are you currently repurposing everyday items that you find in your home?

I am staying within my sketch books, but I’m creating ideas of how to work within fashion. I have an incredible idea for a musical, so I’ve started to design around that, write a bit of music but all stays in my sketch book. My sketchbook is home. [He pauses] Sorry I talk with my hands a lot, I’m Italian. 


How does one stay inspired when limited to your home and things that you know?
I have always looked beyond things in my life to inspire me, it’s always been an escapism for me. So I’ve been designing things that aren’t within my usual environment : I am imagining a new life, a new fantasy. If I designed for the world we live in today, I think I’d go a little bit crazy because I’m living it everyday, so I try to put a separation between the two. I always say that my life is a balance between fantasy and reality, and I try to walk that line.

These confined days have often led us to revisit things we had previously given up, or to dive into silly and unexpected things. What are your current guilty pleasures?
I have so many guilty pleasures… It seems like the entire world is going on Instagram live now. My friend the drag queen Rhea Litré, she has an Instagram drag show called “Quarantine queens” and I go live with her sometimes. My other friend Mark Kanemura who is a dancer, does a “Dance with me” party. I go on live all the time with them ! This is my community, the LGBTQ community, we have to support them. I’m not so good at going on live myself as I don’t know what to do, but I will do a live series soon including other artists and creators, which will be super exciting. 


What do you do with them? Do you lip-sync?
Do I lip-sync? I sing along ! I might throw in a wig or two.


You said that you wanted to prove that glamour was still alive. What is your advice to remain “glamour” day after day, while staying home?

The couture world is gonna look down on me for saying this but…whatever takes it for you to feel good during this time, do it. I’ve always said that coffee tasted better when you have lipstick on first, but if you wanna wear a sweatpants right now, wear them, if you wanna do your hair, do it, if you wanna have a nice bath at nighttime with a glass of wine in your hands because you feel like it, then have it. All rules go out the window right now, and it is so important to make you feel good about yourself. Even if you want to put on a little highlighter or a dress and then FaceTime with your mother, go for it.



“I feel like there’s a Getty girl in all of us.”



What about the “Getty girl”? What is she doing at the moment?

I feel like there’s a Getty girl in all of us. She is somebody who, above all, has compassion and empathy, she will be doing anything to help anyone. I always say that she has the heart of Princess Diana : she’s the people’s princessè Right now, the Getty girl is in my sketchbook, she’s becoming born, she’s in labour. She’s essentially an egg and she’s taking her time to reinvent.


Can you tell us about the collections you are sketching at the moment?
You’re so nosy ! It’s okay, it’s your job. One collection will be very colorful and musically loud. The other is the antithesis of it, it’s quite and “gentil” [in French]. They are from two completely separate worlds.


Eveningwear without any evenings happening can seem quite unnecessary at the moment, but it can also bring the opportunity to rediscover your wardrobe and find new purposes for your outfits. While wearing your clothes, what could a woman do in her home without the possibility of going out?

Be as creative as you can be. Me and my friend were joking the other day about having an Instagram live fashion show will all of your favorite pieces. And then we looked back on it, and were like : “Wait, it’s an amazing idea !”. It is repurposed fashion, it is good for the environment, and it’s being creative and having fun, taking an hour out of your day to reconnect with your friends. One of our biggest moves in our couture house is that we wanna make it accessible to as many people as we can. It is not as elite as it once was, we realized that art is for everybody. That’s why I think it is incredible that the entire fashion industry reaches out online. Everybody is online today, but not everybody can fly to Paris.


Do you think we need fashion as much as we need art in these particular times?
Listen, Andy Warhol once said “art is something that nobody needs”. But I think that everybody needs to create. I feel like it’s such an expression of whoever we are, and everyone needs a little dose of art, even if it comes in… I was about to say a flat shoe, but then I changed my mind. [Laughs] But everything else than a flat shoe !