During a recent episode of Adobe’s Create Change—a series that features conversations between notable creators in the fashion, arts, and culture spaces—the fashion designer Gogo Graham and model-turned-Euphoria star Hunter Schafer took turns interviewing one another about their respective art forms. Through their discussion, shared themes emerged: part of the reason Graham said she started her brand was because she saw so little representation of trans people in fashion, especially behind the scenes. And Schafer, in turn, discovered Graham’s work during a time she calls her “first real immersion in some form of trans community.” As she told it during her sit-down with Graham, the actress was excited by what she saw, but left feeling sad that she hadn’t come across the designer’s work before.
During a day off from filming season two of Euphoria, Schafer discussed with W her exchange with Graham—which is now available in a bite-sized, 10-minute video on Adobe’s website—the necessity of building trans community, her Euphoria character Jules’s journey, and the up-and-coming trans creatives that are inspiring her right now.
Your conversation with Gogo was illuminating. For many people, fashion might be the first place where they see a queer aesthetic in a place of prominence, but a lot of that has historically been seen through the eyes of cis gay men. Growing up, did you detect that queerness in fashion or did you feel a lack of really seeing yourself in it?
There are multiple sides to fashion, but as far as the artistic designers I admired and studied when I was younger and in high school—when being a fashion designer was my main life aspiration—I found an aesthetic that I could see myself in through high fashion. It’s all tied into the fantasy fashion sells. While I think this fantasy can be controversial, there is some truth that, as a form of escapism or aspiration, you’re imagining yourself in a context in which you feel like yourself. That made it seem possible at the time.
Do you remember any images you saw early on that stayed with you?
It’s just about everyone’s first fashion love—one of mine was Alexander McQueen. When I discovered his collections and the element of performance and how extraterrestrial everything felt, it extended beyond the boundaries of real life. That, I think, is all I was looking for at the time, and it continues to be something I searched for through fashion and media.
One of the powers of fashion is giving people that sort of escapism.
In some ways, I think it’s escapism. In other ways, I think it’s the absolute truth. While it can feel extra to be putting that much time, energy or thought into your appearance, particularly for trans people, sometimes you’re not really yourself until you feel as though you’re presenting who you actually are to the world.
In your conversation with Gogo, you talked about finding her early on. How important has her work and watching her journey been to you?
It’s been so special. Finding her work was tied into my first real immersion in some form of trans community. I was dating my first girlfriend at the time, a trans girl who taught me how to love being trans and introduced me to many t-girls who I still love and consider family to this day. Part of that was her exposing me to all this amazing work that I wouldn't have found had I not been immersed in some form of community. It was just mind-blowing, and also made me a little sad that she didn't have more exposure. Because the stuff she's making and has been making is astounding and incredible. No one else is doing anything like her.
Right, and she’s been miles ahead on sustainability, too.
A hundred percent.
You’ve expressed interest in being a fashion designer. Is that something you’d still want to pursue one day?
It’s still something I think about a lot. I’m relatively preoccupied at the moment. I got swept up into acting and I’m really enjoying riding that wave. It’s been crazy and so inspiring and, thankfully, still in line with what I want to be producing as an artist. In that way, I feel like it all goes hand in hand. Whatever I’ve been working on now will influence whatever work I’m doing in the future. Returning to honing in on designing or something within fashion, is an activity I would absolutely love to be engaged with at some point. I still want to find time to be a creative director in some form or shape someday. It all feels tied together, so there’s no plan, necessarily, but it’s always on my mind.
For Euphoria, you recently got to collaborate on writing an episode. How important has it been behind the scenes to make sure Jules is representative, but also feels like a full person and not just a stock character?
It’s never been a question, giving her depth and the livelihood that the character deserves. I can’t even say it’s been intentional more than it’s just happened. Thankfully, that’s because I’ve been given the space by a wonderful production team, particularly Sam Levinson, the showrunner and creator. He’s been the most collaborative and open to sharing and having me there with him, really building out the body and the life of this character. It’s like world-building, which was always my artistic goal.
I’m not asking for spoilers, but are there places you’re taking the character next season that you're excited about?
I’m definitely very excited about how the next season is looking and what I’ve been working on for Jules. We’re in production right now, so definitely in the thick of it. I don’t think I can share much more than that without getting in trouble, but I can tell you it is exciting.
Are there other projects you’re working on that you’re excited about?
Once again, nothing I can talk too much about, but I can say once we finished filming season one, I’ve been looking at things, and there a couple of things I’m working on that I hope I can get into soon. Thankfully, I’m in a position to have people coming to me and have somehow found me in their vision. That’s been the wildest thing, to have these amazing artists I’ve never met before come forward with visions of me as an actress filling in a person of their own creation.
One of the other things you did in the past year that so many people were talking about was the Mugler show. Were you surprised by the reaction?
I’m not the best at gauging reactions; I can’t say I pay the most attention to how people react. That’s been part of the learning curve since encountering the fame element of this all: putting the things I do out there and then just letting it be and not being too concerned with how it’s received. But as far as the show goes, that was a dream. I hadn’t done runways since I left modeling for acting, but I’ve been keeping up with fashion and I was really loving Casey Cadwallader's work and the casting and the vision that he'd been infusing into Mugler. He DM’ed me and wanted me to walk. I was like, ‘You know what, I kinda missed runway.’ This show seemed crazy, the way he pitched it to me. There were stunts and the other cast was really exciting to me. It felt like a good moment to return to my modeling roots for a moment.
Who are some other trans creatives coming up right now who are inspiring you?
I love this question. Literally, in every interview, I always say Arca. She's one of my idols.
As far as on the come up, I love this girl who goes by Orb Goddess on the Internet. She’s an incredible painter and I’ve been watching her artistic evolution over Instagram and Twitter for the past couple of years. I want to work with her on something—it’s going to happen. No Sesso, which is an amazing Los Angeles label run by Pierre Davis, who’s making really special work that feels alive. I took over their Instagram stories the other day. Obviously, Gogo Graham—I’m always rooting for her. I’ve also gotten into DJing a little bit, and have been doing that with my friends. There’s Bapari, an incredible Black trans DJ, who is blowing up right now. Silhouette, Tweaks, they’re all killing it. Creighton Baxter is an incredible illustrator I just discovered on Instagram. There are so many more. I really love putting people on.