Dustin Loveland channeled love — and anger — into a debut spring and summer collection that premieres soon at Kansas City Fashion Week 2023.
“I’ve had to deal with a lot of anger from the past couple of years for a variety of reasons,” said Loveland, a non-binary freelance designer and sewer in Kansas City. “Therapy is expensive, so I turned to non-fiction books about managing anger and the concept of anger. People may not immediately understand that this collection is about anger because I wanted there to be this mystical element — but it really is about anger, gratitude and love.”
“Wall Yeller” is an eight-look spring and summer collection set to debut Wednesday, March 8 at Union Station during Kansas City Fashion Week’s evening runway show. The collection is dedicated to those who are surviving in unwelcoming industries and communities, and are contributing to make it better for others like them in the future, Loveland explained.
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The title of the collection “Wall Yeller” comes from the popular reality show “Big Brother” where fans would get close enough to the house where the show is filmed and yell over the outside wall so that contestants could hear them.
“These ‘wall yellers’ do it for two reasons: either they really love and support one of the house guests, so they warn them about another person in the house; or they are mad at someone in the house and are yelling at them,” Loveland said, laughing. “I like to think of this term more symbolically. Either you’re yelling at the wall to get out that anger, or you’re yelling out of love to warn someone in a system. I’m hoping we are all ‘wall yellers’ in a way of trying to circumvent systems.”
“Wall Yeller” is Loveland’s second fashion collection, with their first collection being an all-spandex line in 2019. Loveland was introduced to Kansas City Fashion Week through their mentor, Joshua Christensen — a Kansas City-based fashion designer who competed on season nine of “Project Runway.”
“He’s part of the Kansas City Fashion Week team, and he really encouraged me to get involved with it,” Loveland said. “I’ve had this lingering anxious energy, but I am actually very excited to share this collection.”
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Video games and galaxies
Growing up in Kirksville, Missouri, Loveland enjoyed playing video games with their sister, they recalled, noting that the experience has now inspired their work.
“I was during my thesis for my undergrad, trying to figure out where my general aesthetic comes from,” said Loveland, who graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2014. “I was realizing that it came from video games, and there were a lot of video games involved in my childhood. It’s funny because my sister was doing her thesis at the same time — and we hadn’t discussed our theses together — and she also wrote about video games.”
Throughout Loveland’s career, they have looked inward for inspiration, they said, noting that the designs and symbolism in “Wall Yeller” are pulled from personal interest.
“The motifs throughout the collection are all natural tools that we use to tell time — but through combustion, like stars or the sun or candles or incense,” Loveland said. “I learned how to make incense for meditation and help deal with my anger. There is this history of incense, where you can make it so the first half is a scent like sandalwood and then the second half is lavender. It’s a method of telling time because when you smell the lavender, you know it’s time to cool down from your practice. … I’ve also included a lot of swirly stars, spirals and twin flames. It gives the collection that mystical feel.”
Queer fashion in the Midwest
Loveland’s hope for their premier at Kansas City Fashion Week is that their collection motivates the community to want to see more inclusive and unique ideas when it comes to fashion, Loveland said.
“There’s been this boom of creativity with lingerie, but I haven’t seen it done a lot with men’s or genderless, non-binary underwear,” Loveland noted. “I want to put my foothold into that because I think there can be a lot there.”
“… I’ve never been or participated in KC Fashion Week before, but what I’ve gathered from other designers is that it highlights a lot of bridal, drapery and women’s wear,” they continued. “I love women’s wear. But I’m excited to show my work because it’s all men/non-binary people. It’s sporty and chill. It’s a very different perspective than what’s already been out there, and I think would bring a new audience to this platform who haven’t been there before.”
As someone who has been a part of both Kansas City’s art community and its fashion world, Loveland views access to capital as one of the biggest differences between the two spaces, they said.
“There’s a lot of capital for visual artists here in KC, but there’s not a whole lot of capital — from my perspective — for fashion designers,” Loveland said. “More and more fashion shows and events are happening each year, so there’s definitely a demand for them. But for an emerging fashion designer, doing runway after runway is not a sustainable business practice, because there’s designer fees, fabric costs, hours on top of another job. It’s a lot.”
Queer fashion in the Midwest differs from such fashion on the coasts, Loveland noted, and they are aiming to one day have a studio that highlights and celebrates queer design in the Midwest.
“I don’t have the goal of globalizing a fashion design studio because I don’t want to contribute to more stuff, whether that’s waste or what have you,” Loveland said. “I would love to have a financially sustainable design practice here in Kansas City with some employees. That is what I’m working toward.”