Written by Nikole Naloy
Preston Douglas’s collections derive from points of pain. He uses the process of creation to investigate his interior and all of its complexities, raising them to the surface, to be worn as reminders of his past, present, and future.
The physical weight of the garment on the body—its ability to comfort, burden, or shape, is what Preston is interested in. The uniform in which he spent his adolescence, that of St. John’s preparatory school, gave birth to the idea of clothing as “the external representation of the internal,” a symbol worn by the body, day in and day out.
Clothing, when taken as a structural symbol, turns into its own bodily art form. For Preston, it becomes the perfect grounds for investigating emotions that cling and grip to the psyche.
The materialization of emotion via clothing adds an endearing element to Preston’s psychological explorations: it mandates that the emotion be worn and seen—it is made unforgivingly visible. His clothing lays bare his life for us to inspect, wear, and relate to.
Preston grew up in Houston and attended St. John’s School from the age of 5. Though a good student, traditional academia didn’t interest him, and he felt distant from the “cookie cutter types” of prep school. In the eighth grade, he began to suffer from depression and became suicidal. It was then that art showed itself to him. Little notes he’d scribble during class turned into poems. Poems became his relief and made the connection clear between catharsis and art.
Around that time he became interested in sneaker culture and began collecting and making YouTube videos. He was bullied for his sensitive character, his appearance, his interests in fashion, and his videos, but he continued. By tenth grade, he was getting paid for his video reviews and by senior year, he was heavily involved in the Houston rap scene, interviewing and styling celebrities such as Pusha T and Chief Keef. Through his involvement in sneaker culture and music, he was exposed to the world of high fashion, developing both a love and critical view of its practices.
While Preston rose in popularity and finally found a group to fit into, he fell into alcohol and drug abuse, and later, addiction. He realized then that this drug-infused creativity wasn’t genuine nor was it what he wanted to pursue—it wasn’t a “true creativity from the soul”
Preston got sober at 19 and enrolled in the Honors College at the University of Houston. There a professor pushed him to finally launch his own brand: “if you have an idea that keeps coming back to you, over and over again, and you start losing sleep over it, then you have two options: you go for it and risk failing, or you live your life with the regret that you’d never tried.”
Nine months later he released his first collection, CALAMITY | SERENITY. Calamity represented the chaos of his life leading up to rehab, and Serenity represented his life after getting sober. His first collection was received well, but as an upcoming designer in Houston, with a small network and support system, growth proved difficult. So he had to come to terms with the long process and work ahead of him. Such is the life of an artist, masochistic, he jokes.
His personal process in producing his collections require determination and dedication. His collections take about six to nine months to make and allow him the complete exploration of a feeling, mirrored in his other artistic pursuit of painting, in which he takes several months to create a body of work. The conclusion of one collection solves a singular problem or emotion, but in its process uncovers another. Mending one tear illuminates a deeper one, something he describes as a creative game of whack-a-mole. Preston often turns to painting during the production stage of a collection to face some of these other issues that arise during the lengthy collection manufacturing process.
ABUSE came about in this very way. As Preston gained emotional understanding through his prior collections, he came to realize the history of emotional abuse prevalent in his domestic sphere. His dad is a drug addict, and his mom grew up with an alcoholic father. Preston reflects that problems such as these permeate and trickle down from generation to generation—Preston had to come to terms with the way he was raised, something he hadn’t previously tapped into.
His first installment (ABUSE will be a four-part collection), ABUSE ((HIM)), deals with the figure of the father. Through it, he explores a constant cycle of emotions and actions, reflected through his manipulation of “shades, tones, and textures,” of maroon and burgundy. Zippers are scars, silhouettes are ambiguous, burdening, and comforting.
As much as Preston’s pursuit is for his own benefit, his pieces are relentlessly honest and introspective. He isn’t the type to believe in wishful thinking—his collections will not fix the problem of emotional abuse in domestic spheres. Traditional forms of therapy and professional help are the way to go. He urges people to find their own outlets as he did, whatever they may be. Nonetheless, ABUSE exposes emotional abuse to the public’s eye, opening the discussion on mental health which, more often than not, is pushed to the side.
For Preston, “fashion is inherently human.” Designing brings him into direct confrontation with the interior spirit and exterior body. After his pieces are ready, the editorial process brings him into collaborative contact with photographer and model, one that he values deeply for its ability to further and broaden discourses on his work.
Preston is interested in getting his work into galleries and museums, but then again, his work oscillates in a weird space, neither fully recognized as fashion nor art. Preston laments, “In the art world, they say I’m fashion. And in the fashion world, they say I’m art.” He recognizes the importance of sticking in it, continuing to work 110% of the time, and being patient. Eventually, fashion and art will accept one another, and accept his work as well. Preston’s work is, nonetheless picking up attention—perhaps because of its honesty, something the fashion industry needs quite dearly. We’ll be waiting for his next collection, which he tells me will feature lavender.
photographer- Jules Kardish
link to article: https://www.harvardfigmagazine.com/abuse