Nothing but Divine.
Iconic, that is the word that best describes queer artist Divine. Known as Harris Glenn Milstead in real life, Divine is among the first to bring LGBTQIA+ representation in Hollywood by starring in cult classics such as Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, and Lust in the Dust, and appearing in plays like The Neon Woman. Disney animators also took inspiration in his eccentric looks to build the infamous character Ursula of The Little Mermaid.
Labeled as “the filthiest person alive,” Divine has had a huge impact on popular culture. He forecasted the glorification of trash, the mix of high and low, and the fantastic erasure of gender barriers.
In celebration of Pride month and his legacy, luxury brand Loewe launched a limited-edition collection inspired by his looks and a museum exhibition honoring his artistry.
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus threat all over the world, the brand halted its production to keep its staff safe, which led the collection to be shelved.
The unproduced collection is supposed to feature patent platform pumps, a feather-splashed miniskirt, maxi shirts with edged sleeves and hem. It also has Divine’s provocative face and performance posters printed on tops, dresses, and even on an apron.
“Divine was quite simply larger than life. He was in every sense—as a man, a performer, a personality, and a body. To me, he is the embodiment of self-determination,” says the brand’s creative director JW Anderson. “That’s what we tried to capture in the collection that never was, which is so different from what we usually do—merging our sense of ease and Divine’s proclivity for camp.”
But as Pride goes virtual this year, Loewe is bringing Divine’s fabulous spirit into the digital realm by hosting an online exhibition of his memorabilia and pictures, which was initially planned to be part of Photo España Madrid at Loewe’s Gran Vía store in Madrid.
The virtual exhibition comprises a showcase of Divine mementos shot by the legendary Greg Gorman, portraitist extraordinaire to pop royalty and drag queen himself, and made possible with the gracious help of Noah Brodie from the artist’s estate. These images will be accompanied by the brand’s unproduced Divine collection, shot on mannequins wearing the drag queen’s signature makeup look.
The memorabilia include his infamous white dress, mechanic toolbox-like vanity case, his World Tour jacket, as well as his gold record, posters, and magazine covers. The exhibit gives viewers a chance to look at Divine’s world, which is full of color, trashiness, fantasy, outrage, glamour, and freedom.
“We were so excited to honor Divine in the expansive way that he deserved—and maybe there will be a better time for this in the future,” Anderson says. “In the meantime, we have developed a limited edition collection consisting of three t-shirts and a cushion tote bag, which will be sold online.”
Proceeds will be donated to Visual AIDS, an organization which utilizes art to fight HIV/AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting artists living with HIV, and preserving a legacy.
Additionally, the brand is also donating to Baltimore Pride for two reasons. Firstly, it is the hometown of Divine and the setting for the film Hairspray. More important, Baltimore Pride is a black-led LGBTQ+ organization and celebration.
“This project has been an exciting creative challenge. I think it is a timely initiative, in that it is a celebration of creative freedom and challenging the world order,” Anderson says. “That’s what Divine was all about: creating his own incredible world no matter what. Now more than ever, that’s what we all should do.”
Limited edition collection is available on loewe.com. The online exhibition will run until the end of September at loewe.com. In the Philippines, Loewe is exclusively distributed by Stores Specialists, Inc., and is located at Shangri-La Plaza Mall East Wing. Visit www.ssilife.com.ph or follow @ssilifeph on Instagram for more information.