Clifford Jago Creates Fashion Trends for an Alternate Universe
Give this guy some Tesco bags, aluminium ducting hose and a pair of fluorescent leg warmers, and he'll give you a dreamscape.
All photos provided by Clifford Jago.
Clifford Jago is the kind of stylist who can take some Tesco bags, aluminium ducting hose, a pair of fluorescent leg warmers and a one-man tent and make it look like a high-end fashion shoot from an alternate universe. The London-based stylist – in fact the alter ego of a mysterious fashion duo – released his first fashion book in 2017, Clifford Jago and The Tulip Chewers, and now returns to challenge fashion norms with his second book, Clifford Jago & The Ice Queens.
Taking influence from video games and the Icelandic landscape, Jago's newest book – which you can buy for a fiver here – sees the digital and analogue worlds collide, featuring 3D digital supermodels alongside images shot on 645 film.
To find out more, I spoke to the self-proclaimed "king of the fashion underground" about his recent adventures through Iceland.
VICE: Tell me where the idea for Clifford Jago & The Ice Queens came from.
Clifford Jago: Well, my books are like a gonzo approach to fashion styling. So every book is set in a different location; the first book was Amsterdam. The whole project was based around there and around the culture, and then I styled the models within the landscape and the city.
What is gonzo styling?
Gonzo styling is a phrase I like to joke around with. It takes Hunter S Thompson's gonzo journalism approach and loosely applies it to what I do with fashion. It's all about spontaneously reacting to your environment. He would submerge himself into his environments and become part of the story.
How would you describe Clifford Jago & The Ice Queens to someone who has never seen it before?
Well, it's definitely a step into the unknown, but as you make that step you get handed a marshmallow-topped hot chocolate. It's basically the fashion bible for video game enthusiasts across the world. Imagine styling someone in the middle of a freezing landscape but you have no clothes, just items you gained along the way – that's pretty much the idea. One of the models wears a banana cone that I picked up at Luton Airport on the flight out, which turned out to be a key piece.
How did you come up with the name for the book?
My last book, Clifford Jago and the Tulip Chewers, got its name from a slang term for someone from Holland. For this book, I thought "The Ice Queens" was a good a metaphor for the models we photographed in Iceland. All the models were local Icelandic people, and super nice too.
Great deals on easyjet.com! But the professional side of me would say: stunning natural wonders. I think the backdrop speaks for itself – the appeal of the Northern Lights, Blue Lagoon and vast mysterious landscapes that are almost alien. But the fact that it cost only £30 to get there was the deal sealer.
What do you hope to achieve with your books?
My aim is to build characters and tell stories through my styling and photography. I like to try new ideas and take things to the next level, and hopefully confuse some people along the way. I love to take travel and take my method of working to new places, which is why each book is set in a different country. I would like the Clifford Jago brand to become one of the biggest in the world so I can buy a ticket on Elon Musk's trip to Mars. My dream is to be the first fashion stylist to style in outer space.
So you mix 3D models and actual models. How did that happen?
Using 3D models alongside my film photography was a bit of an experiment. I thought, 'Can what I do in real life translate in 3D?' It's the same process, only I can make characters which are way more surreal, for example Naomi Campbell dancing in a Coca-Cola vending machine.
It’s completely different to mainstream fashion books.
The reason I started doing this is a reaction to that fashion formula. You can shoot a story or an idea in a certain way, but you’re always going to be limited, whether it’s from the stylist or what the magazine needs. This way, you can get away with styling someone in just a bunch of bananas and that’s it, and it’s cool. There’s no one to answer to.
What do you see in the future for you and your books?
I will hopefully collaborate with more brands and have the freedom to put them in my world. I also want more wild adventures – I'd love to make a book on a banana farm in South America and document the journey of the banana back to London. I also think I could do a pretty banging Ferrari campaign.