Recently I sat down with student Gordon Holliday to discuss his artistic path as the fashion designer, Roole. I had attended his Re-Birth fashion show last spring on a complete whim, and was impressed at the variety of designs, implementation of film and live music and unique use of space and movement within McIver’s twisted lobby.
Speaking to Holliday felt enlightening, he possesses a degree of passion, wisdom and forethought that I rarely encounter in other college students. He spoke of his love of music and films, but a large theme in our discussion seemed to be time, exploring both lessons from his past and his vision for the future.
After moving from Baltimore to Charlotte as a teenager, Holliday had difficulty adapting to dressing individually, having been forced to wear the same school uniform everyday in middle school. He admitted he got teased quite a bit by his friends for not being “the flyest kid,” but that it inspired him to start saving up for trips to the mall and thrift stores. His style evolved and his closet grew, but he grew increasingly fascinated with making something completely unique to him.
He sold half of his closet, used the money to buy a screen press and a bulk of blank t-shirts, and got to printing his own designs. As he evolved, he asked his grandma, an industrial sewer for NASA, to teach him to sew. He felt her lessons confirmed his “out of this world style,” and allowed him to see a new passionate side to his grandma.
When Holliday graduated high school, he adopted the mantra, “rule over our life everyday,” which he shortened to “R.O.O.L.E.” and began attending UNCG, working towards a degree in photography with a minor in retail. During his time here he feels he has learned “the power in patience and absence” and that he’s been forced to reexamine life, make internal decisions, and release outside distractions to focus on his full potential. All of these lessons were a heavy influence on his Re-Birth show last spring.
Before his Re-Birth show, he participated in a breast cancer awareness event, which helped him to discover the struggle a lot of his family members had endured. He feels that it is “the democratic duty as an artist to give back to the people,” and found himself embracing the color as a staple within the ROOLE line. He explained that he is a culmination of all of his ancestors, and that he must speak for them.
While it appears Holliday’s biggest influence is his family, he feels his art is ultimately a reflection of what he sees on the streets and in galleries. He feels he’s more of a tastemaker than anything, pulling out what he feels is unique and compiling into one wardrobe. He says Pharrell Williams and Virgil Abloh are his main sources of inspiration in fashion, due to their unique takes on the art of dressing. He also finds inspiration from musicians Kanye West, Chance the Rapper and Bon Iver, including as the movie Tron. He admitted that he would one day love to make music that sounded like “James Blake riding a Tron bike.”
None of this is surprising, considering Holliday’s fascination with technology. He sees the fusion of electronics and fashion as the future of clothing. He seeks to explore functionality, sustainability and social awareness further in his upcoming designs. He also says what he really wants to work with is “auto-adjustable clothing that can adapt to environment, temperature and size.”
Holliday’s final show at UNCG is a collaboration with the Black Business Student Association on April twelfth. There he will showcase where his “mind’s been since then,” alongside a more “down to earth narrative.”