A Conversation with: Mic. Carter
For over a decade, Mic. Carter and their brand L’Uomo Strano have built an incredible community and creative space for gender non-conformists and expressive fashion enthusiasts. By blending messages of social justice into multiple storytelling collections and collaborations, Mic. is carving a one-of-a-kind space in the Toronto fashion sphere. Following the outstanding debut of SS23 collection ‘All My Life’ at Fashion Art Toronto (FAT), we sat down with Mic.to discuss all things L’Uomo Strano and the recent collection.
Your collections are based on original narratives that take us to new worlds. Shout out a previous collection that touched you the most when making.
There’s so many that I love for very specific reasons. I think the first one that comes to mind is Strange Fruit because it was my first virtual show. It was right at the beginning of COVID and it really aligned with, not just the Black renaissance that was happening within North America, but Black resistance. Particularly in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, I think that was such a special moment, such a special collection. I loved the coloured smoke [used in the campaign shoot] which was a last minute addition that me and my best friend came up with the morning of. It felt very riot-y, which was exactly what we were trying to communicate, especially as it was filtered through IG Live.
I would say that was definitely one of my favorite collections. A lot less colorful than my collections are now, but looking back I loved that experiment in restraint and deep psychoanalytic inspirations behind that collection.
Your S/S’23 collection ‘All My Life’ debuted at Fashion Art Toronto (FAT) last month. Tell us about the story behind this collection.
So there’s two narratives that [have] informed All My Life. My day job [with] students, grade sixes, we were talking about brainstorming, and it was right at the beginning of me thinking through my collection. I was trying to model brainstorming for them and there was this heart magnet on the board. We brainstormed very abstract ideas that were connected to the heart and, more specifically, intersected with ‘strano’, which means ‘strange’ in Italian. As I was exploring what ‘strano’ really meant, I wanted to abstractify that. I love a political moment with respect to the ideation stage, so one of [the ideations] was taking a look at how microaggressions and racism can impact the birthing experience of black birthing people and how that can lead to increased mortality.
Then, we took a look at how female students who were studying in the Middle East were being exposed to chemicals because people didn’t want them [to] attend school and how that would affect their hearts. So it was really this independent study project that we did collectively within my class [that inspired the collection]. I really wanted to transfer that energy into All My Life.
The other side of the inspiration was thinking about what my design experience has been and really understanding Strano over the last 10 years. Building Strano over the last 10 years and building myself as a designer have really taken all of my life; all of my time, all of my money, all of my resources, all of my creativity.
On the one hand, I [could have moved] into a space of resentment, but as we were celebrating on the runway, I was just like “this is so so worth it.” These clothes interact with so many different bodies, some on bodies of the Strano Squad, people I’ve worked with for years and years and years, and some on new bodies. Seeing how it allowed people to interpret their own understanding of beauty in their bodies, I was like, “this is what Strano is about. This is why we do it.”
This collection included collaborations with Imago Millinery by Sebastian Blagdon and Grey Heaven Grey Earth by Patrick Mathers. How did these collabs come about?
Imago is run by this incredible human being that has been part of the Strano Squad since 2014, Sebastian Blagdon. The first time I saw Sebastian, they were working at Winners [and] they were slaying the cash register. I was like, “Who are you?” We were just chopping it up one day and they had been posting some of the hats they were making. And I was like, “It would be wild if you made a couple of pieces for the Strano show.” And they were like “Absolutely.”
They made between 10 and 13 – I don’t even want to call them hats because I feel that cheapens them a little bit. [They’re] like head art pieces, haute couture headpieces. They were just really, really stunning. They (Sebastian) are very much invested in sustainability as well. So a lot of [the head art pieces] were upcycled. It wasn’t just “I’m slapping something on a hat.” They were reshaping it, changing the texture completely. It was just so incredible to witness and so incredible to have them place their art pieces in conversation with the art pieces that were the clothing.
In terms of Grey Heaven Grey Earth, [the brand] is made by this incredible human being named Pat who is part of my brother’s band.I had been seeing their nose pieces around and I was like, “You know what? It would be wild if…” and they were like, “Absolutely.” I had seen a couple of [the septum jewelry pieces] and I’m like, “You know, Strano is deeply abstract [and] these nosepieces are deeply abstract, but also very punk in a really interesting way. And I thought that would really intersect quite well with the Black Creek Assembly space and I couldn’t be more excited with how it turned out.
Your recent FAT show marked a decade since your debut collection with FAT. Tell us about some of your major moments from this ten year journey.
I would say that one of the highlights has been working with Vanja, to be quite honest. She’s really supported Strano from day one and really believed in the vision. FAT has moved around to a number of different spaces, particularly throughout the pandemic, and to be able to collaborate with Vanja and reinterpreting what Strano means in the context of each of those spaces was fascinating.
So for instance, with ‘I hope this email finds you well’, the collection that was presented at Union Station. When I realized where it was going to be, I was like, “Oh, these silhouettes have to be huge, right?” Because the hall is huge and if the looks are tiny, girl it’s not going to work. It was such a fascinating experience building these large garments. Finding out that it was going to be in this grungy space, I was like, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to do a collection like this.” It’s really been quite site specific and I’ve loved that aspect of collaborating with Fashion Art Toronto.
I would say another highlight would definitely be seeing the pieces be reinterpreted by so many different people, [by] so many different stylists on so many different bodies. And just hearing the feedback of people being like “I’ve never felt as empowered. I’ve never felt as seen.” My partner when they wear Strano, they’re like, “I love Versace, but this makes me feel more special than a Versace look.” And I’m like, “I know that you have to say that but also at the same time, that means the world.” Because I’ve heard very similar things from other models or celebrities that have worn my clothing. It feels very warm.
Lastly, I’ve really been able to take Strano into the institution. A couple of years ago, I started teaching at TMU, and really taking the expertise and experience I’ve gained through design and the conversations that I’ve had as a designer into classes, and really getting to see and foster and mentor this next generation of fashion thinkers. It’s been incredible.
Your designs are made for femme-identified, gender non-conformists. Who would be your dream L’Uomo Strano wearer?
I would say top of my mind right now, Saucy Santana. They’re coming for Pride and I would love to dress them. I think they’re so authentically themselves. I think they are really fantastic. I think they just exist in a space of being non-binary and gender nonconforming in a way that people are like, “Yeah!” I love them, and would love to dress them.
I’d love to dress Lil Nas X. I think they’re so creative with their looks and also no holds barred, they’re ready to be avant garde whenever. In that respect, also Doja [Cat] because of the Schiaparelli Show. Yo, that red sequin look? GAGGED.
As a Bajan, my parents are from Barbados, I would obviously love to dress the queen of Barbados, Rihanna. She has always been someone on my vision board to dress. I just love the way that she interprets anything in her own way.
You recently were chosen as one of six designers to receive a donatable grant from Amazon from its “Canada’s Designer Spotlight” series. You chose to donate yours to TMU’s School of Fashion. Why was this cause important to you?
I’m deeply inspired by the designers and thinkers that are coming out of that institution. I would also say the cost to really bring a brand or an idea to fruition, particularly as someone in your early 20s, [is] a lot. Part of me wishes that there was someone when I was in my early 20s being like, “Well, do you want that fabric? I got you. Go and do your best and I know it will be wonderful.” Being able to be in a position or have the opportunity to be able to gift that forward to the next generation of queer and trans people of color designers is just incredible. I am really grateful and I can’t wait to see what TMU does with the money.
What’s next for L’Uomo Strano?
I’m releasing the second version of the VERS shirt, which was a collaboration that I did with Vivek Shraya earlier this year, and it was such a positive learning experience, and I’m so excited that we get to do it again. This version is giving 1980s. We’re releasing it for Pride, so I cannot wait to wear it over and over again.
I might have a show at the end of the summer. I’m really down for a cruise or resort collection. We’ll see what that looks like. I’ve never really done that before, but I’ve also never really done bridal. There were a couple of bridal looks in this last collection that I was like, “This is wild.” Nonbinary people need to have stuff to wear to weddings. It was definitely such a huge learning experience, so moving that into a resort moment could be very fun.
Loved this interview? Check out our conversation with Charmaine Gooden.