“Rick surprised me with wanting to do the show in Larry’s name and pay homage to him,” said Val LeGaspi, “It just blew me away. He’s so deep and so sensitive; he really gets it. I just love this man!”

By Balthazar Malevolent


The past of fashion may be unkind. It is easy to write off designers without major corporate sponsorship or luxury contracts, go unmentioned in footnotes and not rejoice in shows. That's why we're dedicating some ink, or rather some pixels, to celebrating the unsung designer who has changed the landscape of fashion. First, a Rick Owens Suggestion:

Larry LeGaspi, the artist who designed the black Kiss unitards and peaked the collars and shoulders. He dressed LaBelle in transcendent silver leotards and vests (where Patti LaBelle got her start). LeGaspi helped Grace Jones unleash her divine superstardom and he created clothes that matched the rainbow hair and aura of George Clinton. But then, at the age of 50, he passed away from AIDS complications in 2001, leaving behind his wife, Val, and a treasure trove of drawings, samples, press clippings, and photos in his home in Long Island. It was a rare archive that hid in plain sight — and it was then discovered by Rick Owens.

Kiss wear LeGaspi designs in 1975.

Owens gave an interview in 2002 to Plaza magazine in which he talked about his then newish passion: “I just found out that Larry LeGaspi, who did the costumes for Kiss and then Divine’s costumes for the play Pork, and yet there’s hardly any documentation on [him]! I’m gonna talk about him every chance I get.”

Raised in New Jersey in 1950, Larry LeGaspi moved to New York the day after graduating from high school, purchasing his first sewing machine from the Salvation Army and taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology. In 1971, he launched an early line named Mother Superior Clothing, and opened the Moonstone boutique in the West Village hinterlands. He teamed up with Labelle around that time, eventually designing costumes for the trio to wear for their 1974 Metropolitan Opera "Wear Something Silver" production.

Labelle wears LeGaspi designs in 1974.

"Kiss" came to call at the same time, showing off Larry's signature trapunto-stitched leather attributes into the mainstream. However, there is more to add than the Kabuki makeup and pointed shoulders of Paul, Gene, Peter and Ace. Larry opened the first salon on Madison Avenue in 1977.

“He didn’t really look at what was happening in fashion or follow the usual rhythm of the fashion world,” his wife Val LeGaspi explains, “Larry would come out with all this information that was mind-boggling; I don’t even know where he got it from, because it was way ahead of its time.”

Adopting Thinsulate, a man-made fabric produced by 3M in 1979, LeGaspi was among the most immediate in fashion. The New York Times article cites Larry on this subject, but the best proof of his inventions is the Red cocoon dress Val wore to the 1979 Met Gala, which was held in December that year.

Val LeGaspi in a Larry LeGaspi dress and Thinsulate-lined coat with her husband Larry LeGaspi at the 1979 Met Gala.

"That was the first time he and I were out in public together. When I went to the Met in the red dress, that was before Madonna was huge. You had Debbie Harry, who was platinum blonde, but she was more punk rock. I was a full-figured platinum blonde in a fishtail. They went crazy—and I was warm as toast!", remembers Val.

It was around the time Bill Cunningham passed away a few years ago that Owens first reached out via email to Val. Shortly after, Rick and Val started discussing a possible book about the work of Larry. Soon after, the concept of a book became a concept for a new Rick Owens collection.

Rick Owens Fall 2019 menswear oversized red coat.

“Rick surprised me with wanting to do the show in Larry’s name and pay homage to him,” said Val LeGaspi, “It just blew me away. He’s so deep and so sensitive; he really gets it. I just love this man!”

Rick Owens Fall 2019 menswear quilted coat.

Rick Owens has also created the entire line of Larry sneakers dedicated to Maestro Larry LeGaspi.

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