“Anything I can do to help raise a pedestal that empowers women, I’m there laying bricks.”
LA based artist and costume designer Seth Pratt is all about helping music’s most outspoken artists live their truths, one custom-made outfit at a time.
Over the past decade Pratt has designed garments for the likes of Lady Gaga, Azealia Banks, and Charli XCX, but his ride-or-die muse remains Brooke Candy, the rapper-turned-pop princess who made her name with viral club hits like “Das Me” and “Opulence.”
He’s also recently started dressing rising singer/rapper Lizzo, another artist who, like Candy, has built a fiercely loyal fanbase by embracing herself for exactly who she isnot who the music industry wants her to be.
We caught up with Pratt for a conversation about his religious Arkansas upbringing, the fearless women he designs for, his commitment to dismantling social norms, and more. Check it out below and give him a follow @sethpratt.
Hi Seth, can you tell us a bit more about who you are and where you come from?
I’m a shy southern boy from Arkansas. Or I was. I grew up in a dry town of 22,000 people, mostly Christian. I went to a little private Christian academy, something like 350 kids spread K-12. I was such an introvert that my mother was ordering for me at restaurants till I was 14 because I wouldn’t speak to a stranger. Dad is an Arkansas native, soccer coach/ref, road worker, and WW2 reenactor, and my mother was an RN from San Diego, so I got to spend a lot of time in California with my mother’s side of the family growing up.
According to my mother, I started drawing and painting quite well when I was five and was sewing and making clothes by the time I was eight. I excelled in art, and because my school was so small they catered to what they saw I was good at. I would be sitting drawing in English class while my teacher was giving a lecture and instead of scolding me my teacher would hold up my drawing and show it to everyone. By the time I graduated I think they had created 3 new art classes for me, so I had one every semester.
My senior year we did a production of Into the Woods, which was the first time our school had done a production of that caliber. I played the role of Jack, costumed the entire thing and built all the sets with the help of my art teacher, including two thirty-foot trees that consumed the stage and three giant story books that rolled out and opened up into interior sets for the different characters.
It took me half a year to complete everything working in the auditorium during the day and at night at home. During that time my teachers excused me from my classes, I don’t remember turning in a single assignment but my teachers gave me all A’s and B’s. That’s when I got my first taste of what I would do with the rest of my life.
After curtain call on opening night my mother came to hug me and I broke into tears and collapsed on the stage because the process of creating was over and I had enjoyed it so much more than anything I had ever experienced. For me it’s more about the process than the end result. I love to work. I live to create.
How would you describe what you do and how did you come to do it?
If there is an opportunity to create, I’m on top of it. Especially if it’s a medium I’ve never tried before. I work as a costume designer, tailor, pattern maker, graphic designer, retoucher, photographer, video editor, illustrator, and painter, all self-taught. As an artist and in my personal life I try to push limits and break down social expectations.
I generally live my life by one concept: that society isn’t real and everything that makes us have doubts and basically all of the problems or evils in the world come from social programming or they way we are taught that things should be, how we should act, how we should dress, what is considered beautiful or successful. All of these things keep us from fearlessly living our truth and being individuals, but even worse they divide us as human beings by race, gender, sexual preference and class. I think it’s so important as an artist to keep an eye on the past while pushing forward to the extreme future. If you want to make a difference and open people’s eyes you have to go far over the line in order to push it forward just a little bit.
I won’t go into super detail about how I came to think this way, but I was raised Christian. I did everything I was expected to do, followed all the rules, oppressed my homosexuality, got engaged to a woman at 19, and then one day in my Old Testament class at my Christian University the professor said, “So we know dinosaurs existed but there is no mention of them in the Bible,” and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Nothing I had been led to believe was true.
This, coupled with the fact that the first fashion course I took in university just ended up with the professor sending all my classmates to me with their sewing questions, led me to decide school was not for me–there’s nothing they can teach me that I can’t teach myself. I dropped out, broke off my engagement, and moved to LA for an internship I got on MySpace with a fashion designer, and I’ve been here ever since questioning the rules of society and breaking them whenever I get a chance.
As an artist who works in several different mediums, talk me through your creative process?
I like to draw from the past and push towards the future. Visually I look to the past for inspiration and then put my future spin on it to make it unique but always with a bit of humor. Then I use techniques I have had success with in the past but try to take them to the next level so that I’m always growing. I find that the shorter the deadline the better. When you have to make decisions based off your gut instincts you produce better art. It’s sort of flows out of you organically rather than being too affected by doubt or overly curated. The more skills you build the more well rounded you are, and this gives you the ability to see things from many different angles. Which comes in very handy when collaborating with other artists in being able to communicate techniques and aesthetics and work better as a team.
How do you manage your time between the different formats–are there periods where you are more into creating garments, and other times when you want to draw more?
Yes it absolutely comes in waves, but I try to stay on top of it and keep switching it up so that I stay inspired. Most of the time, though, I am drawing on more than one format for any given project. Each skill is a different tool but they are all part of the same tool set, they all come into play at some point or another, if not simultaneously.
What would you describe as your signature style or your aesthetic?
Rainbow retro future
Who were your influences as you were developing your style?
As far as fashion designers, I have to say Vivienne Westwood has been a big influence, along with Nicolas Ghesquiere and Raf Simons. I also very much admire Bob Mackie’s career and his ability to collaborate with and empower confident talented women. Hajime Sorayama’s illustration work has been a huge inspiration as well. But like any artist I draw from the popular culture of my childhood that shaped my eye for aesthetics in the first place.
You work a lot with Brooke Candy, tell us about that relationship. Would you describe her as a muse?
Brooke is an artist’s artist. She has a way of bringing out the best creatively in everyone she works with. In a way you could describe her as a muse but I think that would be an injustice to her as an artist. When I met Brooke eight years ago she no joke had a golden aura. I could see it plain as day and I just felt connected to her. I’ve been with her since the beginning of her career, and the work I’ve done with her I’m most proud of. She has been my biggest champion and supporter and a huge influence on my style and aesthetic. Because we developed as artists together, she understands me and my process on such a deep level. She has become an invaluable resource for me, it’s like having two brains. She is my twin flame, and I will always love her with all of my heart. Fucking ride or die.
What have been some highlights of things you have worked on so far?
Well I guess the most notable thing I’ve done is the robo exoskeleton I made for Brooke that she wore in the Grimes “Genesis” video.
One of the first jobs I did as a freelance costumer, and still one of my favorites, was with Geneva Jacuzzi for a 9-page spread in Vice. I made nine looks in four Days based off of these nine characters she had created, and it was all mostly out of paper because there was no budget. I managed to pull off a massive amount of pieces in an incredibly short amount of time. That’s the type of shit I live for.
My favorite thing to date is the last video I did with Brooke for “Volcano” because I got to play a much larger role and develop new skills. I costumed as usual, but also art directed, scouted locations, and edited it alongside Brooke, which I had never done before. I taught myself how to use Adobe Premiere and After Effects. And I think it turned out beautiful.
How has Instagram impacted or influenced your work?
I think it’s a great platform for displaying and organizing work, finding inspiration, supporting others’ work and sharing love. But most importantly connecting with similar minds and finding collaborators. It helps me create deadlines for content to post and therefore create more work. For me it’s not about the amount of likes I get, but if a few artists I respect like it that gives me life and the confidence to move forward.
What are you working on now?
I have a couple upcoming projects with Brooke but what I’m most excited about currently is that Brooke has started styling for other artists, which brought Lizzo into my life. Lizzo is unique because she defies the current standards of beauty by exuding sex and confidence as a plus-sized woman in a society that would have her believe she is anything but those things. Her message is one that I think is exactly what women need right now, and I am very proud to be a part of her journey. Anything I can do to help raise a pedestal that empowers women, I’m there laying bricks.
Where can people see more of your work?
Obviously my instagram @sethpratt. While I am working on pieces I chronicle the process in my stories, so look out for that too.