We first met a young David Dalrymple in the nightclub scene in the late 80’s, standing taller than the rest of us with his then unfamous sidekick RuPaul, go-go dancing his way around town at all the New York City hotspots. Since then, David has gone on to design for Patricia Field’s collection named House of Field and celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker on Sex and The City, as well as Bette Midler, Britney Spears and Beyonce. Never one to conform, David always seems to have a new trick up his sleeve, what with all his fabulous super sexy creations. Studio photography by Aaron Cobbett. Backstage photography Alexander Thompson. Additonal photos courtesy of David Dalrymple.
PONYBOY: David please tell Ponyboy readers about your background.
DAVID DALRYMPLE: I was born and raised in north western New Jersey, just a one hour drive from New York City. My family’s home is located in a very rural area. It’s a very beautiful place and surprisingly remote for being so close to Manhattan. Now when I visit home, I appreciate it so much. But when I was a kid, it felt like torture. It was the 70’s and everything I would read or hear about that was exciting or interesting to me was happening in New York. So I paved my way out there.
PONYBOY: Did you go to school for fashion design?
DAVID DALRYMPLE: In the 80’s, I studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. But, it was in the glittery nighclubs of New York that I was truly educated. I studied style, expression, originality, and mainly how to stand out in a crowd of people who stand out.
PONYBOY: Were New York City nightclub legends like RuPaul and Larry Tee your partners in crime?
DAVID DALRYMPLE: Yes, I met RuPaul, Lahoma Van Zandt, DJ Larry Tee, The Lady Bunny and Linda Simpson out at night in the clubs. Long story short, I treasure the memories I have from those years of working and going to clubs. These people are family to me, perhaps what a family tries to be but often can’t because of whatever reasons. A safe place for me to be me was provided, with no conditions. I was able to express myself. I had people in my life I could share my feelings with for the very first time. This was a gift and I had support.
So, I continued to make clothes and I go-go danced all over town on stages, bars, the tops of boxes, speakers, and in cages. It was very liberating! And it was a celebration of the body and sex in a club scene that was shaken by AIDS. I didn’t experience the clubs in the 70’s, but nightlife was incredible in the 80’s and 90’s. Sexual energy was channeled in other directions. RuPaul and I would always come home from the clubs in the very wee hours and religiously watch CNN’s “Style with Elsa Klensh” at 6:30am. It was everything to us, as it was a different era. There was no style.com and no streaming fashion shows. Fashion was in no way democratic. Immediately following the intro, she would say “I’m Elsa Klensch reporting from the worlds of fashion, beauty and decorating.” It definitely had a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” air about it. And it was inspiration for a vogueing ball, if there ever was! Well, we could just not get enough!
PONYBOY: So, it’s safe to say that you get inspiration from your early nightclub years?
DAVID DALRYMPLE: Yes, of course! I remember that some time later RuPaul produced my first fashion show at a club called the Red Zone. He came home and told me it was booked for the following Thursday, and that he, Lahoma and I would model the entire “collection.” And, we would also be making a few hundred dollars, which we would split three ways. I, of course, responded that I was not ready, that it was not possible. RuPaul’s response was, “You better get ready!” He called it the “Hot Black Hooker” fashion show. These were my formative years. It’s a part of me that I’ll always tap into during my creative process.
PONYBOY: How did you end up designing for Patricia Field‘s House of Field?
DAVID DALRYMPLE: I became acquainted with Patricia Field through our mutual friend, downtown artist JoJo Americo. I had been working with Paul Alexander, selling my clothes on consignment at the outrageous Patricia Field boutique in Greenwich Village for about a year before I met her. We became friendly out at night. And she also became more familiar with my clothes as she saw them on our mutual friends who were entertaining or attending the clubs. She scheduled a studio visit to see more. Patricia had been recruited to add her image and do the buying for a boutique in Harajuku, Tokyo named “Sexy Pop by Patricia Field.” This was my first official order. It was twenty pieces and I was very excited. I delivered the pieces and continued selling my designs in her New York store.
Some months later, Patricia approached me to discuss her existing collection. The previous designer had passed away and the company was drifting along without direction. It was in 1994 that I was offered the position of designer for “House of Field.” I accepted the challenge with vigor and by the next season I was planning to show in Bryant Park. The underground brand made it’s way to the surface. The collection became a favorite of many top stylists including, Kurt & Bart and Lysa Cooper. The clothes began to reach highly visible people. This brought opportunities and growth I had never imagined, including the opportunity to design red carpet pieces, build custom stage wear and style music videos.
PONYBOY: Do you still collaborate with Patricia?
DAVID DALRYMPLE: I worked on so many amazing projects with Patricia over the years. We literally traveled around the world numerous times. We have done TV and print advertising for many big brands, as well as custom stage wear and costumes for theater, music and film. At the same time we were also able to design and develop our own clothing brand. It’s been validating, inspiring and rewarding, and occasionally tiring and draining. But, overall it has been an incredible, uplifting experience with no two days ever the same. We’ve slowed down a bit in the last few years. However, in early October, we’ll travel to San Francisco for an event and present a fashion show. I’m very much looking forward to it.
PONYBOY: At some point we remember that you designed costumes for a European opera.
DAVID DALRYMPLE: Yes! In 2004, I was commissioned by the Federal Stages of Vienna to design costumes for the musical version of Barbarella, with original score by Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics. I traveled monthly to Vienna for 8 months designing and collaborating with Vienna’s famous costume workshops on over 450 costumes. Three weeks prior to opening night, I lived in Vienna working through tech and dress rehearsals until we had perfected the show. This entire experience was nothing short of magic. It was thrilling to work alongside an amazing leading team, finding ways to tell the story, and entertain and make something beautiful. I am so grateful to have had the experience to work on a production of this scale.
PONYBOY: That sounds amazing. You’ve designed for so many superstars, including Beyonce, Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears, to name a few. Who has been your favorite celebrity to design for so far?
DAVID DALRYMPLE: A surprisingly rewarding, challenging and prestigious client is not primarily one of my fashion clients, but a sports team. I have been designing the Nets dancers for many years. They have now moved to Brooklyn and become the Brooklynettes. And the bar has been raised! I enjoy working with the dancers very much. These girls are true athletes, so the gear must be built to last, as well as look good. It’s a great challenge every season.
PONYBOY: Of all the celebrities out there, who would you say is your dream client that you have not yet designed for?
DAVID DALRYMPLE: I don’t like to play favorites, but I am enjoying my latest client. In the last year or so, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with Bette Midler on costumes for several events. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and ask if it’s a dream. But beyond wardrobe, I learned that Bette does so much service for New York City arts, environment and the city’s schools and parks. Often I have felt helpless and frustrated to hear that art and music programs are being discontinued or that schools and parks have fallen into disrepair. One might say “But how can I change things?” Meeting Bette has been so inspirational. Taking an interest in the community and it’s condition and keeping that awareness close to you throughout the day is asking “How can I be of service?” There is always a way to contribute. Last October I designed her costume for “Hulaween” which is the annual fund raising Halloween event that she created that benefits the New York Parks Department. It was a New Orleans themed party. Over the past ten years, as a result of her hard work, over 800,000 trees have been planted. That one fact alone is staggering.
Recently, I designed the wardrobe for Bette’s new album and shot the TV commercial for the release. It was a labor of love. She has recorded songs from classic 60’s girl groups like The Ronettes, Exciters, and The Supremes. I love what she brings to a song, such emotion and care. Look for it this fall!
PONYBOY: What will David Dalrymple be remembered for?
DAVID DALRYMPLE: Interesting, I have never thought of what I’ll be remembered for. I’ll just keep it simple. He made people feel SEXY!