How Dylan Mekhi Gets Dressed
A designer on his love for statement jewelry, oversized silhouettes, and everything coastal grandma.
What Artist's Wear is a monthly column that features artists, designers, and makers and explores how they think about getting dressed.
Dylan Mekhí is an Assistant Designer at Helmut Lang and runs his own eponymous brand. After graduating early from Central Saint Martins, he worked at Telfar and later at The Row. It’s worth mentioning that he is only 24, so make sure to cut him some slack for slagging behind in his career. I don’t have any reservations in saying he is the embodiment of a World Wide Wonder.
His unisex designs incorporate thoughtful elements of his Caribbean heritage and are characterized by draped silhouettes, oversized garments, and a neutral color palette. As an aside, his personal style is fab.
We met up at his apartment on East 64th Street. I gave myself an extra 30 minutes, since they live on the sixth floor of an unduly vigorous walkup. I was late anyway. Here’s how our conversation ensued.
Photo courtesy of Hannah Wikforss-Green.
Hannah: I’m working on enforcing my Jewish ethno-narcissistic agenda, so I brought black and whites.
Dylan: This is my second time trying them, so it’s working.
Hannah: Glad to hear it. So, this column centers on what creatives of different mediums wear. Let’s start there. What are you wearing today?
Dylan: I’m wearing these large, pleated silk blend trousers paired with an oversized white t-shirt dress and jersey scarf. All the pieces are made by me.
Hannah: I adore it. And your jewelry – I admire the fact that you’re not a sheeple like me and have the balls to mix metals.
Dylan: I feel naked if I leave the house without jewelry. In black culture, jewelry is such an intentional and important staple whether it’s chains, grills, or rings, so I always incorporate lots of pieces. Some of the pieces are from friends who design jewelry, and some are from family. The rest I stole from my grandparents.
Hannah: You have a very defined style. In a lineup I’d be able to point out an outfit of yours in a heartbeat. How would you describe it?
Dylan: I would say monochromatic with larger silhouettes. I feel like my goal is to be an amorphic blob of fabric. I love movement, mixing textures, and playing with layering. Although I do like color, more so in my designs, I don’t really wear that much color. If I do it’s a pop of color in an accessory or shoe, more like an exclamation point on the outfit.
Hannah: Do you have a work uniform that’s different from how you dress for play (say, going out for drinks at Pardon My French)?
Dylan: I think it’s the same character, just different sides. Something I’ve done multiple times is wear the exact same thing out as I did for work, just accessorize differently. Say I wear my baggy suit with a tank top, my chains, cowboy boots, and Jill Sanders bag to work. When I go to the club, I’ll wear the exact same thing, but I’ll change the Jill Sanders to my little black purse and I’ll switch my boots for my Tabis. It’s just a matter of changing work cunt to party cunt.
Hannah: If you had to wear one uniform for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Dylan: I kind of love the idea of a uniform, and I’ve thought about it a lot. I feel like when I’m older and enjoying a luxurious life, I could imagine having a uniform. I love the idea of being an old, monk-looking man living by the beach or in the mountains in a uniform. It would probably be lots of linens, light fabrics, and soft tailoring.
Hannah: Like coastal grandma?
Dylan: My style right now at 24-years-old is very coastal grandma. So just elevating that into something chicer.
Hannah: Performance art is also a part of your practice. Tell me about the role of clothing in those pieces.
Dylan: The body has typically been my main focus in my performance work, and clothing has been more of an accessory and a way to further express whatever concept I’m working with. In my recent performance work, clothing has been of bigger importance. In my early pieces, I’m half-naked, or I’m wearing a garment in the beginning that dissolves and falls off or gets ripped up. Clothing is much less precious in my performance work. It’s still very much in the same vein as everything else that I do in terms of aesthetic and ideation, but much less precious.
Hannah: Since we’re good friends and we talk essentially every day –
Hannah: – I’m glad you agree – it never occurred to me to google you until now. There’s this great quote of yours when you were interviewed about your final collection at Central Saint Martins titled An Ode to Memory. You speak about your work not being done until it interacts with the wearer. When dressing yourself, how does this come to fruition?
Dylan: My work is very personal to me, but it’s not about me. When it’s put into the world it’s completely disconnected from me, and that’s what I love about it. Most of my pieces can be worn in several different ways, which is where the interaction with the wearer plays a role. In terms of my own style, I am attracted to similar pieces: baggy silhouettes and drapey clothing. I can wear a giant t-shirt as it was meant to be worn, or I can step into a sleeve and wear it as a skirt. I have some samples from Helmut, and although I’m not a woman and not a size 0 I might find this sexy, detailed leather skirt that doesn’t fit around my body as a skirt, but I can put my arm through it and wear it as a body cross halter top. Giving yourself room to play with garments in a childish way is something people don’t do as much when they get older.
Hannah: Part of the reason why I wanted to write this column was to examine how much the way creatives dress is a genuine creative expression, and how much it is dictated by a sense of fakeness to fit into a certain sphere.
Dylan: It’s corny to quote RuPaul, but there’s something to it when he sang “We’re born naked, and the rest is drag”. You’re born and you’re this brand-new human who knows nothing about the world. Once you start experiencing people and life you start to conform. I think part of the reason people adhere to some sort of creative dress code is because they’re insecure and want to fit in, sort of like dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I also think part of it is a genuine creative expression.
Hannah: Would you say you dress and design in a way that challenges the status quo?
Dylan: I think so. My designs are completely unisex, and I dress the same way. I mean, 90% of the clothes in my closet are “women’s wear.” As a gay black man presenting myself the way I do, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been verbally assaulted in the streets, even though I live in New York. So, I feel that through the way I dress on a daily basis and being unapologetically who I am, I am normalizing something that people are uncomfortable with.