How Patrick Church Stitches Sex Into His Clothes
Patrick Church treats his vividly designed clothes as canvases, and also finds ways to incorporate a queer sensibility into his designs.
With his svelte build and towering height, Patrick Church would at first be mistaken for a male model. However, the 26-year-old from Britain, who has recently been featured in Paper magazine and Notion magazine, fancies himself an artist, and he’s well fancied by fashionistas too.
Church was born in Oxford in the United Kingdom, and grew up in England’s countryside. He came from a very creative family, with a mother who would create ceramics and a father who owned his own skateboarding company. He was always encouraged to pursue his creativity and be himself.
When he was just a small boy he began making things with cardboard boxes. Around age 8 or 9, he started becoming very interested in fashion and started doing makeshift fashion shows and invited people to come see them.
The turning point in his life came around age 14 when he began to really discover his passion for painting and art. “It was my art teacher who really inspired me,” Church says. “She was the one who began introducing me to other artists around London who would grow to be my inspirations.”
At 16, he began to develop his signature artistic style based on the human form and sexuality, but despite all his talent, art school was never in the cards for him. “I went to university and dropped out three times,” Church says. “I knew it wasn’t for me, and I knew what I wanted to do.”
He started DJing in London’s club circuit, and for the sake of fun, he painted a few leather jackets that were seen by a boutique owner in London who picked them up for his store. The jackets quickly sold out, and opened Church’s eyes to a new world.
“That was the moment I knew I was onto something with painted clothing, it’s such a universal thing,” Church says.
While Church is making a name for himself in fashion, he doesn’t consider himself a designer at all, but, rather, an artist who happens to use clothes as his canvas. “The clothes thing just happened, and people relate to it,” he says. “It’s art work that’s painted on clothes, and there’s so many more things you can do with art rather than paint on a canvas.”
Ultimately, he says he does clothing because there is a demand for it, and he sees it as the sort of thing a lot of people connect with.
In one of the most interesting and liberated times for feminism and queer culture than ever before, Church makes it a goal to find a narrative that supports his fellow LGBT people. One of his greatest fascinations is with the beauty and liberation of the human body. Recently, he has begun painting female nudes on a lot of his clothes after coming off a period of painting a lot of male nudes.
For him, the idea comes from a place of romance, rather than the sexualizing of the human body.
“I really relate to the naked body,” Church says. “My nude drawings are quite abstract; they are perceived as so many different things. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of female nudes because I love the idea of doing a girl gang.”
In addition to the female form, he’s also inspired by really exaggerated characters and people who are caricatures of themselves. To that end, he’s also begun to find quite the following around New York’s scene of drag queens and new age club kids.
His feature in Paper with Kyle Farmery, one of New York’s most beloved drag queens and a main fixture in New York’s nightlife scene, has earned him the love, adoration, and customer base of New York’s queer kids. Church’s Instagram page is also home to pretty boys in thigh-high boots, assless chaps, and underwear all painted by him for your fashion pleasure.
Despite his popularity among his LGBT fans and the love he has for his community, he doesn’t want to be put in a pigeonhole as a queer artist. “A lot of women relate to my work, because it’s about love as well,” Church says. “My work is romantic, and because I’m gay, it’s sometimes perceived as gay art, but ultimately it’s about love and romance. I like to paint in a juvenile way on purpose, and I love to add vulnerability to my work.”
Still, Church hopes his work will continue help the LGBT community, especially young LGBT people. “Culturally, I love to support my people,” Church says. “My work helps and inspires a lot of people because I’m so honest with my work. I paint confessional writing on my work, and I want that to connect with young gay people and people in love. My work celebrates the LGBT movement, and I hopefully give people a sense of freedom to say ‘Fuck it, I want wear whatever I want.’ I like to think people feel empowered by what I wear.”
Despite his romantic and unapologetic approach to art and fashion, Church doesn’t see himself as the least bit controversial. He’ll put a man in women’s clothing without even thinking about it, despite the various opinions he’ll get about it online and on Instagram. For him though, it’s about doing what he wants.
As for what’s next for the artist, he recently launched an e-commerce website for his work, and he’s also working on a new art show and other collaborations, although mum’s the word on that for now. “I just want to keep doing what I’m doing,” he says. “For me it’s about self growth. I’m so in love and happy at the moment, and I want that to keep showing in my work.”