THE MISSHAPES has evolved from spinning in their weekly gigs to mixing the soundtracks for the coolest runway shows and afterparties all over the world. Leigh Lezark and Geordon Nicol reveal how they transitioned from being New York’s it DJ group with Greg Krelenstein to becoming the world’s most searched fashion trendsetters…without even trying.
If you’ve spent these last 6 to 8 years clicking across the blogosphere, then you’ve probably heard of The Misshapes legend through one site or another. Being called to interview the DJ group—style and music’s pied pipers Leigh Lezark, Geordon Nicol, and Greg Krelenstein—for a cover story meant that, as a fan, I could finally rise from face-to-computer interaction to face-to-face conversation.
Leigh and Geordon are in Manila, the two of them representing the trio as international projects protocol goes, for a show in Philippine Fashion Week that night. It’s a job they’ve already gotten used to doing. “We do all kinds of different designers—from New York, Paris, London, everywhere,” says Geordon.
Naming themselves after the Pulp song “Mis-Shapes,” the group formed in 2003 and attracted a dedicated following through their weekly parties in downtown New York. Closely resembling the city’s Studio 54 days, it attracted a list of who’s who. A few of those spotted in the scene were models Agyness Deyn, Lily Donaldson, and Gemma Ward, designers Alexander Herchcovitch, Hedi Slimane, and Gareth Pugh, bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Gossip, actresses like Sienna Miller and Chloë Sevigny, icons like Yoko Ono and Madonna.
This morning, the duo is getting ready for a hotel suite shoot. As we wait, Geordon gives me a quick Misshapes history recap: “We started off doing our weekly party, then over time, it gradually evolved to DJing in events and different parties for different people, which evolved into doing lots of runway show music.” He runs down a few of their past runway music clients: Viktor & Rolf, Zac Posen, Henry Holland, Jeremy Scott, and Karl Lagerfeld.
Speaking of Lagerfeld and the great fashion figure that he is, it’s quite noteworthy to mention that he also chose Leigh to be Chanel ambassador, a title beyond any clothing-obsessed woman’s wildest dreams. Leigh talks about the Kaiser in a very respectful way: “I do think Karl has the best energy. He’s a huge inspiration… He’s very good at making people feel like they want to be the best of themselves,” she reflects. “So I did a video for the last cruise collection… He was very supportive, and he had me play Coco Chanel, which was an honor.”
Leigh keeps her answers short and direct. She hardly looks up, and she speaks as she files her nails while perched on the bathroom chair. I ask her what she thinks of the word muse, and she replies hastily, “Nothing…I think it’s kind of silly,” she looks up and pauses. “I mean, you can’t really define that,” she explains and focuses back to her task. She seems a bit nonchalant about the whole experience, remaining unfazed by the title. Leigh never seems to take things too seriously.
And her DJ philosophy rides on the same attitude. Leigh goes on, “I mean we just pay attention to the crowd and what they’re responding positively to… [When] DJing at a club, I just try to have fun ‘cause if we’re having fun, everyone else has fun.” The only thing she really requires when she DJs are “CD’s, a really tall heel, and vodka and diet coke.”
When it comes to style, The Misshapes has never been too concerned with what the world might say. Geordon thinks it’s just how organic New York culture is. “I feel like when you live in New York, everyone is always looking in at New York, but New York is never really looking outwards. It’s looking inwards and moving forward.” He adds, “The real people who work in fashion don’t follow trends. I think that, if you really love fashion, it’s not about trends to you… I mean when we go out to something, it’s usually just whatever we like. We aren’t too cerebral about things,” he says.
Leigh does mention that she likes exploring for unknowns. “Whenever we are in a foreign country, we try to go to the local markets for clothing and food and whatever because we can go to Chanel anywhere in the world, but we can’t really get local designers except at the place we are in.” And when it comes to her future fashion bets, Leigh predicts, “I think Haider Ackerman is going to rule the world in terms of fashion.”
Their style, best archived in their Misshapes book, published in 2008 by MTV Press, has opened the doors for a new wave of self- expressionists. They have attracted a creative fan base in places all around the world, but it’s finding their influence in places that aren’t the usual fashion capitals that makes them both surprised and appreciative. Take, for example, this Ukraine experience which Geordon relates: “There’s this 17-year-old who is a fan of ours, and he produces his own fashion magazine… It’s a print magazine… It’s exciting when you see a person really excited about anything—about fashion, or music, or us, or whatever it may be.”
Crediting the web for this, Geordon says, “[Fashion] becomes available to more people. A good example is when we go to countries like Mexico or [Uruguay] or countries that don’t have an industry… Everything becomes really accessible to them… In a way, it’s more exciting because you had to come to the party to get it. [Now], you can get it in so many different ways.”
It’s true, I wouldn’t have known of The Misshapes on this side of the world if it weren’t for Google. Think back a few years, and you’ll recall the rise of blogs, hipsters, streetwear, etc.. “We are children of the Internet generation… Through Facebook, MySpace, Twitter… You see, for instance, people like us or [DJ] Steve Aoki or [party photographer] The Cobrasnake or any of those people are all products of the Internet…and have been able to be exposed to an international audience, which, I think, is great,” says Geordon.
So it’s been a whirlwind of constant traveling. Geordon runs out loud through his schedule, which sounds like a packed series of music gigs ranging from the global fashion weeks and couture shows to events in Cannes and Miami’s Art Basel. On the fashion side, the group was tapped to model for H&M’s Fashion Against AIDS campaign, which aims to raise awareness, a cause they’ve always been supporting. “We’ve always done work with AIDS organizations,” he says.
Meanwhile, Leigh simply shrugs at the thought of the future. “Who knows? I mean I have no idea. Your guess is really as good as mine.” This whole DJ ride, after all, wasn’t what she expected. “I started DJing because I was too young to get into clubs, and now, this is where I’m at…in the Philippines…doing my nails in the bathroom.” Given her reference to her early DJ years, is breaking the rules, then, the way to go? She concludes, “I guess…I don’t follow many rules, but I wouldn’t say I necessarily break them. I just don’t follow them.”
Interview and story by Vicky Herrera
Photographed by Kareem Black
Styling by Karen Schijman for B&A Reps
Hair & Makeup by Sylvester Castellano