I have a natural distaste for high society and I never got fashion (just look at me), but August Getty has me rethinking both things.
The great grandson of late oil magnate J. Paul Getty and the son of famed Italian-born activist, LGBTQ Ally and business excutive/philanthropist Ariadne Getty and her former husband actor Justin Williams, 26-year-old August is far from a spoiled rich kid coasting on his bloodline.
For one thing, he’s an out, proud gay man who’s vocal about rising against oppression and aligning with various groups to build up a rainbow of communities, not just LGBTQ.
He’s also honest about having felt like an outcast and a loner as a child, though elevated by the support of his mom and eventually the community itself.
As for fashion, he doesn’t just throw his work onto a runway and expect it to explode. Having founded his womenswear brand August Getty Atelier at 18, he’s proceeded to show his clothes in highly untraditional ways rather than play by the old guidebooks.
Being confident enough to proceed as a self-taught designer paid off.
At age 18, August became one of the youngest designers to ever debut at Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week.
In 2014, Getty premiered his Spring/Summer ’15 line — inspired by his fantasies of European heiresses — at NYC’s Fashion Week. The next year, he collaborated with photographer David LaChapelle for Thread of Man, an art installation at Universal Studios, which included scenes like an altar, a car accident, and a commentary about Donald Trump. (Yes, he gets political.)
August also presented his couture collections at the last three seasons at Paris Haute Couture Week. These collections include “Confetti” in January 2019, “ΣNIGMA” in July 2019, and most recently his Spring/Summer 2020 collection “The White Hart” in January 2020.
Stars who have worn Getty’s creations range from Lady Gaga and Cher to Jennifer Lopez and Shangela. What’s more, he dressed Bebe Rexha, thereby furthering her conversation about size inclusivity.
And by the way, he’s also done clothes for Gigi Gorgeous, who happens to be his sister-in-law. (Gigi married August’s sister Nats in July 2019). Nats is featured here.
I talked to Getty about his heady achievements and his place in a wildly changed world where both fashion and society have been radically redefined.
MM: Hello, August. You always seem to favor artistic presentations rather than just straightforward shows. Do you like making your fashion into an event?
AG: I want to use every aspect of creativity in my brain when expressing myself and my art, so I like turning everything into an experience. Whether it’s a runway show or an artistic presentation incorporating outside elements like scents or creating visual effects, I always want to immerse the audience into my world—the world of the GettyGirl.
MM: Your inspirations have come from designers like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. What do you appreciate—their boldness and originality?
AG: Their craftsmanship takes no prisoners. They are authentic to who they are. [The late] Gianni and Donatella Versace are also huge inspirations in my life, being raised with Italian culture and working with your family. They’ve taught me to be bold, original, and to never steer away from my artistic vision.
MM: What do you think fashion accomplishes other than making people look good? Can it be life changing—and is it still as relevant in the crises we’re living through?
AG: Fashion is cyclical, but finding your own personal style can be life changing because fashion is a form of self-expression, as well as a reflection of our current times. During hard times, people tend to dress less extravagantly so they wear more basics, a lot of times in darker colors, because they are not as creatively inspired when there are so many other things going on in the world. I use my love for fashion as a vehicle for my imagination. It’s an artistic medium to tell stories, so I guess you could say I’m more of a storyteller than a fashion designer. I like to live my life somewhere between fantasy and reality at all times.
MM: Does a Getty worry about money in a recession?
AG: Un uomo Italian non discute mai dei suoi affair finanziari.
MM: Bene! Your birthday is in Pride month. How does that feel every year?
AG: I’ve been going to Pride since I was 14, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to go at a young age. I look forward to June every year but not just because of my birthday. This month of celebration is a beautiful time, and it unlocks a lot of creativity and positivity in me.
I see all aspects of life together, not just the pride of the LGBTQ+ community—the intersectionality of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, and other social and political identities is important to keep in mind, so we need to have Pride for all communities, including Black Trans Pride, because Black Lives Matter. Instead of the usual Pride Parade in Los Angeles this year, our community marched in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and in support of Black Trans Pride, and it was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.
MM: Is being gay part of your creative DNA?
AG: Being gay my whole life, I’ve felt ostracized and outcasted by society, especially as a young child, so I spent a lot of time on my own. This alone time in my formative years helped my creativity flourish by pushing me to explore and see the world on my own, which helped feed my imagination. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been fortunate to find a community and friends who love and accept me for who I am, so I’m more social now than when I was a kid, but I still cherish my alone time, as it’s special and sacred to me.
MM: When did you first know you were gay?
AG: Inception. [Laughs]
MM: Not in the womb?
AG: Yes, in the womb. I had a notepad in there, and I was sketching away!
MM: How did your family react to a 14-year-old at Pride?
AG: I was a very colorful 14-year-old, and my family was extremely welcoming. My mom is a fierce ally. Our family members are all allies. It was meant to be our path to teach others how to give and receive the same love that my mother showed my sister and I at an early age.
MM: How political are you as a gay man? I know you go to Pride, but are you a protestor in spirit?
AG: I am very political. I believe in using every forum and every platform to stand up for yourself and for others. Use your voice!
MM: What do you think of how we LGBTQs are doing considering the actions of Trump administration?
AG: It’s truly heart wrenching to witness their actions and to see the new policies they are constantly trying to set in place, attacking the rights and safety of our community. It is disheartening, but something positive that has come from this is that we are showing each other how strong we all are together and that our voice matters. We are survivors, and when we support each other and project love, we are unstoppable.
MM: Your family is involved in the L.A. Blade and Washington Blade. Why are they behind these papers?
AG: My family is very active in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and the advancement of our community, so we are proud to support these prominent papers. Los Angeles is one of the most populated cities in our country, yet L.A. Blade is our city’s only LGBT weekly. The Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest LGBT newspaper, is the only LGBT media member of the White House Press Corp. We need more representation like this in the media landscape to actively drive conversations and create positive change.
MM: Your store in Beverly Hills was your first boutique?
AG: Yes, but it wasn’t an opportune time to open it, so we reorganized our process and became in-house and redirected to couture.
MM: And finally: What’s it like to be the brother-in-law of and collaborator with the fab Gigi Gorgeous?
AG: Simply gorgeous. Both Gigi and Nats are great role models for myself and our generation.
I’m very blessed to have such strong women in my life.
And of course, there’s my mom!