If you have a taste for innovative, underground couture, the sensual, smutty and somewhat eerie apparel of fashion designer Rhiannon Daly has likely crept its way onto your Instagram Explore page.
Daly’s label, PIGSUIT, creates ready-to-wear designs, all filled with sex, filth, humour and grandeur.
With its roots firmly planted in fetishwear, theatrics and empowering its wearer’s gender expression, the label has been worn by taste-shakers like trash-punk icon, Peaches, and RuPaul’s Drag Race alumn Gottmik.
VICE spoke with Daly about the label's earnest genesis and what continues to inspire her work today.
VICE: To start, tell us who you are.
Rhiannon: My name is Rhiannon. I am born in on the east coast of Aotearoa, Tūranganui-a-Kiwa. I am Ngāti Kurī, Ngāti Porou.
Firstly, would you mind talking through what you're wearing now? I'm loving it.
Yeah, I just received my samples back literally, 10 minutes ago, which are from my new collection.
I like to explore selected topics or eras in time and see where they go together, kind of weaving through a connection that is something of my own. And for some strange reason, I got onto the idea of vikings and warriors, but in my mind, they're like sexy, hunky gay men. That's one of my new collections that will be coming through, I think, within the next few months.
And I came up with these brooch nipples, which are completely crystal filled and pink. Kind of like having these swollen juicy nipples when you're about to go into battle, and it being overtly sexual and exciting. I'm so excited, so I put them on.
And then, y’know, a lot of my jewellery comes from friends who are incredible designers.
I’ve got my own wares that I make. My taniwha. I think I always have to be adorned in something.
So how did you come to fashion?
I was trying to find the first instance of when I was into fashion growing up, but it's just something that's always kind of been a part of me, in more ways than just being against the grain or the status quo. It was always a form of protest through clothing and wanting to wear something that no one else is.
What is PIGSUIT to you?
PIGSUIT is my baby.
For me, in my mind, it's like my waka. It's a vehicle, and I'm seeing where it'll take me and how to navigate and how to communicate things through the fashion industry, or through the community and culture, really.
PIGSUIT is something that I've come back to that I’ve left for a little bit. It's always kind of been there for me and now I'm like, Alright, it's time to really see this through and pick up momentum and continue with that.
When did you start the label?
I think I started Pigsuit in 2014 or 2015.
It started off with just a pair of snakeskin boots and it was just through, like, wanting to see more of what I wanted to wear out and about. At the time I didn't see enough of a crazy design, pattern or colourway.
A friend in Melbourne stocked my shoes, and it just started rolling from there as more people wanted them.
I know that you’ve been involved with drag and dressing queens, how has that influenced you?
We moved to the Gold Coast, which had hardly any queer scene… hardly any space for gay people and femme-identifying people to present themselves.
And there was just one little club I’d frequent and I'd get to meet the most incredible, crazy performers. One thing would usually lead to another, I'd let them know that I'm a designer or they'd be able to tell, and it was just like magnets, I guess.
The next week, you'd be designing big, fuck-off leather or fur, crazy things for the person you met, like a huge fur dress or something insane, a three-metre-long Cruella de Vil fur scarf… It was always just so over the top and so fun and kind of came from a performing point of view, which was cool.
You mentioned Cruella de Vil, are there other specific movies or characters that inspire your aesthetic?
Oh my God, for sure. My favourite movie, something that I could always go back to for camp inspiration, is actually Bram Stoker's Dracula.
It's so camp. It's so incredible. And the costume designer, Eiko Ishioka, plays on surreal sexuality, those over-the-top feminine silhouettes and just big, strong shapes. It was always something that I was completely drawn to and fell in love with and was so excited that something like that exists.
In an interview, she says the costumes and the outfits are like the entire scene. It's just that standpoint, that it's all about this pretty little “dying girl” in these stunning draped fabrics, and is more of a rebirth than anything else. And that's what's fun.
What's your own creative environment like?
I'm really lucky at the moment, I have my own little studio which is full of crazy iconography that I can come back to. When trying to find a concept or something to research or explore, I always get really excited about moments in time or different eras.
So once I had this big red disco ball that I thought was just so 70s but also really gothic at the same time. So it was really fun bringing that element to this ‘70s disco ball era that I had throughout my little studio. It was ridiculous.
That's really important, visually, for me – to be able to see something, get excited and have it propel me.
And what’s your process when designing?
It's definitely a visual practice that I like to start from. I like to sketch and draw and play with shapes and silhouettes just on paper.
So I'll always be drawing, whether it be an outfit or whether it be something that's outside the realm of a collection I'm going through. I get really excited and I want to sketch and I want to create, but then I have to bring myself back to the plan, the research and the concepts that I’m going down.
Having been in Australia a little while, do you see a difference between fashion here (Aotearoa) and in Australia?
I see a lot of really intrinsic storytelling in Aotearoa that comes from an embrace of culture and an understanding of whenua. You see these incredible things that they're creating, but you go into it a little bit deeper, and it runs through this beautiful story or this beautiful place for them that they're communicating from.
I think that that's really exciting and I would love to see more of that in Australia.
And what’s something you wish you saw more in fashion?
It's so funny because nowadays we live in this Instagram bubble where everyone's kind of buying or being told to consume things that are trending. Like, trend-driven behaviour.
And I would love to see more thoughtful pieces come through the mainstream. In the sense of people choosing and selecting designers that mean something to them. Championing First Nations designers, women, and really being more thoughtful about what they're choosing to express, visually, when they wear something.
Rachel Barker is a writer / producer at VICE NZ in Aotearoa.