Features

Style File: Seth Loeffler-Kemp’s personas and performances

]1 Seth Loeffler-Kemp ’17 in everyday wear, half drag and full drag (as Luna Fisk). Photos by Ali Mahad ’18.

By Shannon Mahedy

Seth Loeffler-Kemp ’17 is poetic and pragmatic in his creative and intentional approach to style. He appreciates the difference between personal style and fashion, explaining, “Fashion is brands and design. Style is taking fashion and putting a vision to it, to your own individuality. I think I’ve learned to do that in a more focused way, and be able to choose…in a more focused way.”

This focus stems from the vision he ties to his style. For Loeffler-Kemp, personal style is “a way to present feeling or emotion that I don’t think I could portray in other forms.” Intentionality with garment selection and clothing combinations is crucial for his stylistic vision. In his words, “With clothing and different garment combinations, the way you choose to wear certain articles, you can portray certain emotions or moods in the way you wear and present them.” This also means that a cohesive wardrobe is necessary to elicit a certain mood. For, Loeffler-Kemp this sense of cohesion stems from carefully building a wardrobe over time so that “all the articles speak to each other, instead of speaking individually.”

Loeffler-Kemp manipulates his wardrobe to fit his vision, which currently centers around evoking “a quieter nostalgia” He cited specific cultural influences that inform how his current stylistic mood plays out. He waxed poetic when he said, “If you know the films by Brit Marling, that’s an inspiration. Or the book Giovanni’s Room. Or A Single Man. I don’t know how else to describe it. A quietness, a nostalgia. Being able to wear single, neutral colors really well and being able to find beauty in simplicity.” These works are generally complex, melancholic and full of angst. He mused, “Sometimes we try to escape those types of feelings, because they’re heavy, but being able to find the warmth of them, and being to wrap yourself in them very comfortably can also be really comfortable as well.”

Loeffler-Kemp’s Northern Minnesota upbringing critically informed his ability to find beauty in simplicity. He respects “clothing that lasts for a long time and that’s well-made and accessible.” Northern Minnesotans have a tradition of quality design and materials, and they value brands like Carhartt, known for its durable workwear and outdoor apparel. His appreciation for quality means that he invests in simple, well-made pieces. He explained, “I have only a few pairs of pants, but I wear them so much, and I invested in them when I got them, that they wear into my own body really well. So they have a lot more of my sweat on them.”

While Loeffler-Kemp consistently returned to the importance of having a cohesive wardrobe that reflects a core mood throughout the interview, his poetic and boundary-pushing side shone through at other points during the interview. He emphasized the concept of performance with respect to style, and wisely observed, “We’re young enough in college to really play around with our performance.” Performativity is based upon the concept that gender differences are socially constructed, and that manufactured gender roles emphasize appropriate behavior for the established gender binary. Performing gender roles refers to how one conforms to, or subverts, these constructed norms. To Loeffler-Kemp, performance is usually tied to gender identity exploration and subversion, but sometimes it’s solely tied to experimentation, like in the case of his ever-changing hairstyles. He explained, “I go to this awesome woman who I’m able to just say, ‘Do whatever you want to me,’ and it’ll be great. She always does edgier stuff. I’ve had racing stripes, which I liked. The bleaching was popular this summer, and it was fun as a temporary look. Being able to alter your look in a way that still conveys that core throughout, while a single piece is being highlighted. I’d love to do a more dramatic look, so we’ll see what happens while I’m still young.”

Even when he’s exploring and experimenting with performance, it’s important to Loeffler-Kemp to stay true to the core emotion he’s channeling. Drag fashion and performance are no exception. Loeffler-Kemp’s drag persona is named Luna Fisk, and her style is more femme, provocative and glamorous. While his quietly nostalgic style, predicated on the sturdiness and durability of Northern Minnesota style, might seem drastically different from his drag persona, Loeffler-Kemp eloquently articulated how his two personas interact in overlapping and harmonious ways. He explained: “It’s not a simple transformation. Seth to Luna, Luna to Seth. When I transform into Luna, I don’t lose Seth. When I transform back into Seth, I don’t lose Luna. So I think drag is a site of exploration of gender identity. Being comfortable in expressing their masculinities and their femininities. The extreme that drag is, makes you comfortable making smaller subversions everyday,” he clarified.

He added, “I think a lot of building your drag persona is delving into your own past experiences. That’s what drag is. It’s a creation of your own experiences. You can really see their identities because they’re putting everything out there, and you can really see the concepts they’re trying to portray. Doing the hair, the makeup, the less clothing and the heels makes it so that when I’m performing femininities in more subtle ways, it makes me feel a lot more confident and comfortable. I built that core focus in my style that I’m able to subvert it in different ways now that I feel really confident doing.”

After referring to making small subversions in his everyday style, he added a couple of examples to explain the concept. For example, he paints his nails when he’s “Seth.” He explained, “I know the nails will match me the entire week, because I know how my whole wardrobe can fit together in different ways. It’s a small subversion that I know still fits within my core.” Loeffler-Kemp is a member of the all-male Macalester acapella group, the Macalester Traditions, commonly known as the Trads and is recognizable for wearing sport coats reminiscent of male prep school uniforms. As Loeffler-Kemp described, “One of my drag looks is with my Trads sport coat. When I think about it, it’s the subversion of taking something that was very masculine and turning it into something feminine. A subversion of the garment itself, and how it’s worn, is really intentional in performing my style.”

When asked about the future of his personal style, Loeffler-Kemp explained, “What I’m thinking a lot about right now is Luna. I’m thinking about drag fashion in the future. The likes of Naomi Smalls is kind of my inspiration right now, in terms of fashion and her ability to walk a runway and sell the garment in really simple forms.” Smalls, who competed on RuPaul’s drag race, is a seven-foot tall drag performer, inspired by 90s supermodels, pop culture and fashion. Regardless of the specific direction of his future style, Loeffler-Kemp has impressively found an authentic approach that allows him to explore multiple aspects of his identity while keeping a consistent core at the center of his intersecting personas.

April 21, 2017

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