In a Big Country
By Dustin Lance Black
Photos courtesy of Kim Jones
Well, I’m glad to hear that. I won’t be designing any clothes if you don’t take my writing job! Most of the things I do are based on something that’s going on. With Milk, it happened. I’m doing this ABC miniseries on the gay and lesbian movement from 1971 to July of last year. It means going to towns that feel like San Francisco might have back in the ’70s. I’m just kind of immersing myself in the world.
I taught a lot of students and I taught young designers: Don’t just do everything on the Internet. You have to see things for yourself — like, who is your customer going to be? What store would we like to sell to in the city? I don’t think we could achieve that by looking on the Internet.
If I rely on any [source] — not just the Internet, but any books on a certain subject — the work is derivative. It’s also boring. I mean, that’s the gift we have, right? We have our eyes and our brains and our hearts, and you better be filtering it through that.
No one sees the same thing as you do through your eyes. That’s the thing, isn’t it? Who has inspired you to do what you want to do? I fell into fashion by mistake.
I’ll answer... I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
I was 14 and had just come back from being in Africa, and my sister was older than me and leaving home and she left a stack of magazines by the door. I just picked them up and I was like, Oh my God, what is this lifestyle? I want to be a part of this. It was just an instant change for me. The Face magazine and i-D magazine. Youth culture is something that always inspires me. Austin felt like it had a really exciting and diverse youth scene.
It is one of the best. Thank goodness your sister left those magazines out.
I know. I thought I’d be a zoologist.
For me, it’s a combination of my mom and François Truffaut. My mom is paralyzed from polio. There is so much value in her, and people refuse to see it because she looks different. And one of the first films I ever saw was Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. I went to a video store, saw a cute boy on the cover, and the title was very exciting, so I smuggled it home and waited to be all alone. It was not the movie I thought it was, but it was the first film I ever saw that was about a family that was struggling with things that mine was struggling with. It made me feel less alone in the world for being different.
That’s so funny! When we were in Africa, my exploration was going outdoors, and that’s why I think everything is so visual — because I was always just looking at things and hunting lizards and snakes, because the only thing you could really do is catch as many animals in a day as possible, or keep drawing. I was quite a wild child. My uncle was a photographer who shot for National Geographic, and I always knew that was what I wanted to do — to travel and look around and be inspired.