The legendary Davey Mitchell in many ways needs no introduction. This jack of all trades—artist, designer, photographer, nightclub denizen—graced us with his presence and answered a few questions about what he has been up to, the good ol’ days, and about whom he most admirers today. Word around town has it that Davey is considering reviving his art wear line “ART by DAVEY”!
Who is Davey Mitchell?
That’s a great question. Sometimes I don’t even know. I guess the only answer I can give to that is that I am a reflection of my life journey. I am a combination of all the experiences and relationships, which have created the foundation for what I do and create. In summary, I am an “expressionist”.
Tell me about your career as an artist?
My life as an artist. I can’t really say “career” because the art or what I produced rarely generated a profit or return of investment; and if it did it was quite minimal. It was more of a way life for me, to express who I am.
Tell me about your art line and what it was called?
My art wear line “ART BY DAVEY” was formed in 1984 after being approached by Patricia Field at the
Paradise Garage to hand-paint her an outfit. Her store on 8th street became my first client. The line consisted of silk-screened hieroglyphic patterns on sweat suits and t-shirts. I was also hand painting the same symbols on trench coats, jeans, top hats, and bras… really anything which
I felt the artwork would look great on. It took me a while to figure out my own style because initially it looked a lot like Keith Haring’s work. He was already established in New York, and
I was so young and had no clue about the art world at the time. But with Pat’s guidance and working on my craft I finally came up with something that I could call my own. Highlights included my portrait in People Magazine by Martha Cooper in 1984, and having clients like Sinead O’Connor, Heavy-D, Ten City, Billie, and Harper’s Bazaar Magazine to name a few.
Believe it or not, some former clients have asked me to re-launch the line; some of them still wear my pieces generations later. I still have the original patterns, so maybe one day.
Tell me about your involvement in costume design, photography, and film?
I began to experiment with costume design during my
Nightclub Theatrical Go-Go days, and also being in different dance companies as a lot of the events and dance pieces were themed. Photography and later film were off shoots from those times. In addition, my costume design had a tendency to cross over to my street style. Michael Blase, Maripol, and Dietmar Busse did some of my favorite street style portraits.
Being involved in the nightclub scene back then inspired me to begin documenting those experiences. Then later my photography expanded into different community events as well. It was so much fun and expensive I might add, as I was using film and not digital. I hope to publish a book one day of my work.
More recently I began experimenting with the concept of “recycle”. In fashion, I’ve been recycling vintage clothing and re-structuring them to give them new life. In costume design, I created the iBunny character using a vintage iMac as the headpiece. A photo of which has been featured on over 25 media outlets and filmed for “New York Lives” by Jeremy Rocklin. Lastly in photography, using iMac’s software Photo Booth, creating self portraits in mirror reflection inspired from different parts of the world called “Photo Booth
Me” – an ebook will be published next year. The project has also been filmed for “New York Lives” and featured in the Huffington Post.
Davey Mitchell is wearing Top: Madame-T, Issey Miyake / Pleats Please
Bottom: Pant with Adjustable Legging, Issey Miyake / Pleats Please
Hat: Foam Core with Pleated Organza, Art by Davey
Shoes: Japanese Getas Colored Black, Art by Davey
inspired by Irving Penn’s imagery for Issey Miyake .
Location: Manhattan Bridge, New York City
What’s fashion for you and who do you admire in the business?
Fashion has always played a very large part in me expressing myself about my life and experiences. It was really a family thing, my parents both had amazing style, and so it’s been part of me since childhood. Ebony, Jet, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and GQ Magazines were all over the house as early as I can remember.
Then my style later blossomed in New York while working for Patricia Field and being in the House of FIELD. Those were some amazing and colorful times!
I love the structural visuals from: Rei Kawakubo,
Who do you admire in the club scene?
Definitely the Jackie Factory (the Empress Chi-Chi Valenti and DJ Johnny Dynell) for their longevity and the legacy of fun they have created and produced, which really showcases what New York is and was.
Wolfgang Busch, Kevin Omni, and Gerard Gaskin for their continuing preservation of the Harlem Ballroom.
Steve Lewis for his writing of nightclub history. DJs. David DePino and Joey Llanos for their continuing preservation of the Paradise Garage Legacy.
DJ Joe Claussell who is one of the few who can take me to Nirvana on any dance floor!
What makes you happy?
Being “FREE” makes me happy. Everything else just falls into place.