Adam Frost puts his best-worst foot forward, proving that genius doesn’t need money and failure is bliss.
“What happened then is I ended up losing my job and the same day I lost my job at Dr. Martens, I gave Tayce that jacket for the Drag Race,” Adam Frost shares. A year later, Tayce stormed into RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’s Werkroom in the same, jaw-dropping jacket. We lived for it and now it’s about time to live for Adam Frost. Meet your new favourite artistic powerhouse and a soon-to-be working-class queer hero. Like a true neo-Renaissance man, he does it all and is not afraid to get a bit dirty while digging for ideas. From producing a collection inspired by medicine for shingles to an audio-visual performance christened after an STD, Frost is here to deliver. Be careful, it’s piping hot.
“I started with the concept of shingles which is like from a rash you get on the side of your body from stress. I just hurt my foot and I was like I’m gonna do this conceptual art/fashion collection thing called shingles and then I realized the medication you use for shingles is called ‘Aciclovir’,” the designer says on his SS21 collection.
“I’ve been working with a stylist called Ollie Volquardsen. He’s my mate and my neighbour. He basically styled the show with me but it was a group process. There was around 30 of us all together involved. Everyone that modelled for me were people that I’ve met on the queer drag scene: artists, designers, musicians and their friends. Everyone did me a favour,” the designer says. Frost’s fashion crew is beyond fabulous. From London’s club culture icon Princess Julia sporting his ‘Black Hole Dress’ to DJ/artist Josh Quinton prancing in a 70s-hinted extravagant suit, it’s not your ordinary assemble of models. It’s a community. “No one becomes a thing on their own. It’s all about who you work with. It’s a collaborative thing. No one is successful on their own. You have to work with a lot of people”. Preach, Adam. Preach.
“The fashion someone said was like a cheap Galliano, which to me is quite funny.”
“I’ve just realized that my next collection will actually be really small. It’ll only be five looks that are really conceptual high art because everyone is just mass-producing all the shit and everyone’s got massive egos and I really don’t like the fashion industry. I think that it’s really weird,” he says, denying to comply with the pretence-ridden norms that, for an outsider he is, seem ridiculous.
“Although it’s fashion, I’ve realised I’m not a ready-to-wear designer. The collection for me was quite ready-to-wear although there were perception pieces that you’d look at and be like ‘what is that,” Frost laughs. He slides through the labels, always adjusting the means he uses to meet his vision. That’s his work doesn’t belong on the catwalk but in sacrum spaces of art galleries.
“People would say I’m obsessed with Leigh Bowery but I’m really not but when I think of it, I’d compare it to something like that. What I do is like an installation thing altogether. I can’t do one without the other,” he says. The ‘Aciclovir’ show was no exception to that. Besides the clothes, he cooked up an exhibition experience at Gallery46 with a special soundtrack that he collaborated on with a musician Toby Corton. “There’s a track called ‘Revelation’. I really love Björk so it’s like Björk meets Paloma Faith vibes but the art is kind of Tracey Emin vibes. The fashion someone said was like a cheap Galliano, which to me is quite funny”. No matter how silly it might sound, he doesn’t mind the comparison. “John Galliano is the first designer I related to a lot because he is queer,” Frost says.
Though, unlike Galliano, he doesn’t want the world to know him just as the designer. For Frost, it would be almost an insult, as his process of creating goes well beyond straight-forward clothes-making. “It starts up with a concept. It’s probably like five phases. It’s the concept of me being upset or anxious about life. The new collection is about anxiety. Actually, this collection was just about shingles but I used the term anxiety as a narrative. And then after that, I’d do a painting and after that, it’s like ‘what should I do with the painting?’. I want to put it in a gallery and then I’m like ‘oh I get fashion visions’ and I’d put it on the dress” he explains.
He plays around the shapes with frivolity and flamboyance so as a result, his pieces fall closer to a deconstructed sculpture-forms than simply something to wear. “It’s not intentionally weird. I’m just weird. Even I don’t really get what I’m doing. It’s like a hodgepodge. It looks quite stacked together but then it’ll be a soup. But then, about the concepts, once the fashion and everything are all together, I’m like ‘crap I’ve written this song I want to perform and I want to do performance art and poetry while I’m in all these looks in a gallery,” he says on the process. It is a very out-there approach, some might think requiring a healthy amount of insanity or a desire to shock. According to Adam, it’s quite the opposite.
“It’s all so organic. Stuff happens to me and I talk about it. It sounds like it is attention-seeking but it literally happens to me. I had gonorrhoea so I call it my performance art/collection/mini-capsule thing. I called it ‘Sink Plunger, Gonorrhoea’ because I was literally going to work and there was a plunger and it literally said plunger on it and I just thought that was weird,” he says. “I found that weird but then people call me weird so I don’t know. Basically, whatever happens to me it will relate to the concept. I don’t give it all away but it’s like an illusion of what’s happened to me. I want it to be interesting. I think the word gonorrhoea sounds interesting. It’s quite hilarious when you think about it. ‘Sink Plunger, Gonorrhoea’, what the fuck is that?”. Adam Frost takes the things commonly perceived as appalling and strips them of all the taboo, bringing it back to reality.
On the way to fulfil his artistic fantasies, it makes sense that when stumbling across works of 90s YBAs like Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, he stopped to admire. Especially the latter. “I think she’s a Tory though which I’m a bit not okay about but apart from that, she has literally come from Margate. Came from nothing. I’m from South East London but I also come from Hastings. I was raised there from 11. […] I’ve been in a small seaside town with no money. She went to Margate College of Art and I went to Hastings College. She went to Royal College of Art and then I did my BA and now I’m in Royal College of Art. The way she structured her career and is like I’ve structured mine and aspire to be,” he confesses.
Despite wanting to walk among the art world’s greatest, it’s not the glitter and gold that Adam chases. “The fame bullshit is all bullshit. That makes stuff me really insecure and weird. I’m on about wanting to go to galleries around the world and exhibit my art in like White Cube, MoMA or in Seoul in Korea, really serious places where people are really serious about art. I want to do stuff like that because it makes me feel really good,” he says.
“It’s not intentionally weird. I’m just weird. Even I don’t really get what I’m doing. It’s like a hodgepodge."
Dreaming about far way places in hometown Hasting, he knew he belongs somewhere else. “I was stuck there, like ‘what the fuck am I gonna do?’ I knew I have all these visions in my head and I’m just stuck here.” After making a name for himself there, getting these pennies in and a sweet spot at MA course in London, he left.
“Long story short, I went to Royal College of Art, working, having gigs, I’ve been dating, went to raves. I was getting completely wankered. Then lockdown happened and everything stopped. The week before the lockdown, I got fired from Dr. Martens for being late like 10 times. Basically, that’s been supporting me while I was at Royal College because I didn’t get a scholarship,” he goes back in time.
As the pandemic, and isolation, went on, everyone had to readjust their habits to the changed reality. Now, as the state of social things seems to come back to the so-called normal, it’s impossible to require from us just to pick up where we left off. “I don’t party how I used to party, that’s what I’m saying. It’s just too much. I’ve been quite anxious to go to the club. I have to be pretty shitfaced to go out,” Adam says. “I feel like I’ve matured. I’m a bit like an old lady now. I’m hungover now but I’ve got a cup of tea. It would be nice to go to one really nice electronic rave though. Just like one because I do miss live music.” When in the next couple of months some parts of the world will stage a roaring twenties revival, it’s important to first consider the safety and state of your mental health, as Adam points out.
“I would say it’s a daily struggle. I’m not gonna sit here and lie to you because I would say I’m 50/50. I’ve been in therapy. I really don’t care to say it. I think you need to be honest about that stuff. I’m very up and down. I find it hard to adjust to going out and hanging out with people. Also, I think that queer people really need to be careful. I was attacked a few weeks ago. My friend got punched in the face in front of me and since then I’ve shaved my hair off because it was pink. I just felt like everyone was staring at me. I find it a really weird time and I’m really scared about where the government is going and all these countries, especially like Hungary,” he says. “Everyone has been saying that London is such a safe place. I never really thought that London is actually a safe place. I’m a Londoner and I don’t feel safe in London but maybe it’s because I’m working class and I come from a really rough working class estate in South East London which I don’t think is as rough nowadays as it used to be”.
In spite of all the past and future turmoil and the violence that should have never taken roots on London’s supposedly inclusive soil, Adam will stick around and stay active. He’s already planning on creating his own conceptual queer night, Fröst, in a Warholian fashion, with performance artists, polaroids and audience participation. For now, he keeps himself occupied: getting ready to release a new single ‘Alone in Isolation’ in two weeks and another range of t-shirts for the Hit and Run initiative set up by his RCA lecturer to help students pay their tuition fees. “She set up the t-shirt fund because she realized how skinned I was. I think she just noticed how I’m struggling. I might be wrong but from my perspective, I feel like she’s kind of seen me and was like ‘oh shit, we need some funding for students’ and then she got a lot of selected people to design t-shirts. All the funds from the t-shirts will go towards a scholarship for someone to come back,” he comments. “I’m supposed to be back next April but I’m probably not gonna go back if I don’t get funding because that really put me out of pocket, made me exhausted and really depressed.” If you want to help out, go buy Frost’s previous pieces designed for the project. “Mine says ‘You’re not a freak. You’re an artist’ and then it has my single visual and then back says ‘Bröke Artist Du Vísuáls’ which makes no sense but I like just making up these words,” he adds.
Adam Frost is a devoted member of the creativity church and eagerly spreads the gospel, inviting everyone to join in. For those who lost their ways, he came up with a one-of-a-kind manifesto. “Art is a guarantee of sanity. Paint daily. Go for a walk, come home and do a painting. If you don’t have a microphone, sing at your laptop. I used to literally sing at my laptop since I never used to have a microphone for it because I’m working class. I would also say, money does not stop you. I’ve got no money. I’m on universal credit. I’m doing all the stuff. I’m doing fine but I’m on universal credit,” he reveals.
“I think if you want to be something in life, doesn’t matter how skint you are. You can do it”. All you need is a bold vision and faith in yourself. Even a little. Adam Frost might be halfway through the tunnel now but at the end of it, there’s a bright light and the future behind it. It’s covered in sequins, neon paint and something totally weird.