Lady Gaga's Jonas Åkerlund-directed "John Wayne" video, released last week, was the ultimate camp-rock spectacular, with the Joanne singer returning to her roots as a leading pop provocateur. In the neon-lit clip, Gaga wrestles with her man problems, as she drives wildly into "the eye of the storm" and sees herself constantly wrapped in the arms of a "John Wayne." Beyond Åkerlund's perfectly campy fast-paced cuts and Gaga's Thriller-inspired choreo, the video also introduced a noteworthy lineup of rising designers that all created custom cuntry looks specifically for the director's treatment.
Among the range is Taylor Ross, whose independent genderless brand ROMEO has been playing with contemporary western-inspired silhouettes for several seasons—the perfect look for Gaga's Nu-Americana era. His contributions—a leather bustier and lace-up short shorts—appear during the final front lawn dance, after Gaga manically crashed her car into a blazing tree. Ross crafted the top from a pair of recycled cowboy boots and designed complementary lace-up shorts, which have become a staple for the ROMEO brand.
OUT caught up with the on-the-rise talent to learn more about his work and collaborating with Mother Monster's team.
OUT: Bring us through your background—how did you get involved in fashion?
Taylor Ross: I studied painting and sculpture in school, and some years ago I started painting on leather jackets and upcycling vintage garments. Eventually I taught myself to sew and make patterns. Now ROMEO includes all the aforementioned elements.
What's the ROMEO aesthetic?
When designing for ROMEO, I always try to create pieces that are timeless and wearable, with twists that create interest. I like to include elements that skew traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity. There is a consistent romantic tone to everything I design, while remaining classically cool.
How did you get lined up with Lady Gaga's team?
LG's team reached out to me on Instagram, and asked if I would like to design a custom outfit for an upcoming project. Obviously I jumped at the opportunity. When I was informed of the theme and vibe of the video, I knew ROMEO was a perfect fit. They described a fast-paced, in your face treatment with glam-western elements. I sent a sketch of my vision over right away, and started production after receiving the go-ahead.
What was the process for creating this look?
A few months ago, I cut the top off some vintage cowboy boots I had laying around my studio, and transformed them into a lace-up bustier, with hand-painted designs throughout. I knew this was the perfect piece for me to re-create and customize for LG. I also went for a shorter, sexier version of some lace-up shorts that have become one of my signature pieces.
How does this look relate to the ROMEO brand?
This look represents ROMEO and my design aesthetic perfectly. Anytime I can utilize an existing garment (in this case, cowboy boots) and transform it into something else, I am happy. The final product is so polished and unique, most people don't recognize them as cowboy boots.
What was your reaction to the "John Wayne" video?
I have always been a fan of Lady Gaga. She is fearless and one of the reasons I transitioned from fine art to fashion in the first place. The country-rock influences on Joanne spoke to me immediately, and 'John Wayne' happened to be my favorite song on the album. She and her team have always experimented with using pieces from independent designers, and I am honored to have been asked to be a part of this project. The video is a masterpiece, and I am in great company with the other designers featured.
Follow ROMEO on Instagram and check out the brand's official website, with an updated online store coming soon.