Fashion Brand Grover Rad Pokes the Patriarchy With Billionaires in Space Collection
In the shadow of increasing political divisiveness, turmoil in the U.S. and Europe and the continuing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the spring 2023 runway collections were surprisingly apolitical, aside from Ye’s controversial White Lives Matter T-shirts, which turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg of his hate speech that continues to reverberate, as brands split with him.
But Los Angeles, California, designer Lizzie Grover Rad is not shying away from difficult subjects; in fact, she’s running toward them, building her brand on sparking conversation about issues like reproductive rights (season one) and the billionaire space race that’s the next frontier for capitalism (season two).
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“You can look at it from a lot of different angles, but it’s interesting that the people with the most amount of money all have the same pursuit,” Rad said during a preview of her second collection. “I wonder if there’s something more to it that we don’t know.…Deep state stuff,” she smiled, adding that she loves to “poke the patriarchy.”
“There’s also an obvious environmental angle, so that’s a portion of the collection,” she said, pointing out a corset and pants set in a print developed from an apocalyptic 16th-century oil painting, depicting ghouls, hounds and beheadings, among other harrowing scenes. “This is from a fragment of a ‘Mars God of War’ tapestry referring to the violence of man, and the lengths we’ll go to in all pursuits throughout history,” she said of another print.
After seeing it online, Rad licensed the artwork, another throughline to her approach. For her first season, in April, she commissioned feminist artists Aline Kominsky-Crumb and her daughter Sophie Crumb to create an original comic strip titled “4 Shades of Abortion” about their own abortions over a 53-year span, showing the difference between Aline’s pre-Roe v. Wade abortion in the U.S. and Sophie’s early 2000s abortion in France, an altogether more pleasant experience.
Rad also drew on references to “The Scarlet Letter” on a beautiful midnight blue silk boxy blazer with the Nathanial Hawthorne quote, “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom,” across the back. Mesh pieces with graphic depictions of an idealized female body also speak to questions of liberation and objectification. Twenty-five percent of proceeds from the first collection have gone to the Yellow Hammer fund — a reproductive justice organization in the deep South.
Her collections, with pieces priced $150 to $10,000, are made in L.A. and sold direct-to-consumer for now. But Rad is hoping to find a retail partner.
“Business is good, abortion is clearly a tough topic to wear and launch with but I felt strongly about that,” said Rad, who got her start in interior design, cofounding the app Hutch, and raising venture capital funding from Tinder cofounder Sean Rad, among others.
The two entrepreneurs ended up marrying, and last year, Architectural Digest called their drop-dead-gorgeous Jane Hallworth-designed Hollywood Hills home “the hottest ticket in town” with its double-height living room and idiosyncratic home offices.
Clearly, if not billionaire, they’ve got millionaire tastes. In Lizzie Grover Rad’s office, there’s a massive disco ball, which she hand-distressed herself, alongside furnishings by Osvaldo Borsani, Gio Ponti, Gabriella Crespi, and an orgiastic George Condo painting.
No doubt, there’s a naughty side to Rad, whose latest collection features a jean jacket with an image of a 1970s male porn star holding a firing rocket like a phallus, and a draped dress with a subtle in flagrante delicto scene. On the activist front, a T-shirt with rallying cry “Make Mars a Matriarchy” can be worn with white jeans printed with Galileo’s drawings of the moon’s surface.
There are more quietly elegant pieces, too, including a stunning bronze “Andromeda” fringe beaded column dress, a black velvet jacket with silver thread embroidery referencing conspiracy theories around crop circles, and an ivory bias cut “stardust” scattered slip looking to the cosmos.
The piece de resistance is a draped brown silk gala gown that can be worn with a 3D-printed chimpanzee on the shoulder, attached via magnet, as a vision of an alternative history, perhaps, for Ham and the other monkeys and apes launched into space against their will during the space race.
“What we will we step on to get to the next chapter is represented by Ham in a few different places in the collection,” she said, adding that she might wear the gown to the LACMA Art+Film gala. She’s already worn what she calls the “cunnilingus” dress to a gallery dinner.
What if she saw Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk while wearing on of her billionaires in space pieces? “They might appreciate it, how can you not laugh. You could make a friend.”
And definitely start a conversation.
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