PRINT March 2019


Gabriel Held

Gabriel Held is a New York–based stylist, vintage dealer, and fashion historian with an expertise spanning Hollywood, art, hip-hop, and the more obscure corners of popular culture. His clients include model Bella Hadid, rap artist Lil’ Kim, and media personality Paris Hilton. Since 2013, he has served on the board of the foundation preserving the legacy of his grandfather Al Held.


    I bought a lime-green, western-style shirt by Todd Oldham at Canal Jeans in New York for the first day of sixth grade—since then, he has been an obsession. In 2017, my childhood friend Lena Dunham asked me to source some of the designer’s vintage garments—I did, but the market was scarce. So Lena contacted Todd, who very generously gave us access to his archive. It changed my life. The samples from his 1990s runway shows are prized possessions in my collection. I see him as a Renaissance man and a multimedia artist—his clothing is his art. 

    *Look from Todd Oldham Spring 1994 collection.* Look from Todd Oldham Spring 1994 collection.
  2. WIGS

    When I was a teenager, the B61 bus would drop me off at Brooklyn’s Fulton Mall. I was never able to resist the call of its numerous wig shops. Wigs are at once a security blanket and a mode of transformation; wearing one even changes my body language. I’ve accumulated quite a few over the years. At any gathering at my home or studio (or even when I take up the mantle of solo-karaoke performance artist in the bathroom), the wigs inevitably come out. And with our chic new coifs, we all engage in little character studies. No matter how much one loves oneself, trying on a new persona is always exhilarating! 


    Since I saw Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount sing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” in the 1993 movie Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, gospel music has been a constant in my life. I am ethnically Jewish but completely unreligious, so gospel is the closest thing I have to being in touch with some sort of “God.” There are cultures around gospel music that make me, as a queer person, uneasy. But I only take in this sweet music’s joyousness, its heartfelt sentiment, its love—i.e., its most valuable qualities.

    *Outtake from cover shoot for Aretha Franklin’s gospel album _One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism_, 1987.* Photo: Norman Parkinson/Iconic Images/Getty Images. Outtake from cover shoot for Aretha Franklin’s gospel album One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, 1987. Photo: Norman Parkinson/Iconic Images/Getty Images.

    Even in my youth, I was drawn to everything vintage and would often visit secondhand record shops and bookstores. There was one place on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn where a dollar would get you the world—an issue of Vibe from December 1993 with Rosie Perez on the cover, for instance, or Erykah Badu’s 2000 CD single “Bag Lady,” which was shaped like a purse. When I peruse my trove now, I really get caught up in the old ads and news, as they seem to offer a more straightforward view into the zeitgeist.

    *Cover of _Details_, July 1992.* Anthony Kiedis and Lady Miss Kier. Cover of Details, July 1992. Anthony Kiedis and Lady Miss Kier.

    Camp is that wonderful frisson between the manufactured quality of a celebrity’s primped and camera-ready ego and their private, schlubbier self. I sometimes refer to myself as the Hollywood bone collector, squirreling away sordid nuggets of information from behind the scenes. Suffice to say, I have dedicated plenty of time trying to get to the bottom of the feud between Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma—especially since they’re both my clients!


    I have not yet graduated to the full-length Korean skin-care routine, but I am working on it! Products that feature ingredients such as snail secretions, bee venom, and gold make me feel like a beauty witch, applying magical oils and unguents to my face to look and feel dewier, lighter, brilliant. But I don’t get carried away, as extreme vanity is not a particularly seductive quality.

    *Advertisement for Rorec’s Nursing Snail Mticulos skin product.* Advertisement for Rorec’s Nursing Snail Mticulos skin product.
  7. AL HELD’S WORK FROM 1967 TO 1984

    I am blessed to come from a long line of artists that includes my mother, Mara Held, and grandmother Giselle Held. I find my maternal grandfather’s work during this period of time astounding, but through him I also learned that it was necessary to have conviction in your art no matter how it’s received, and that one’s definition of success should never be static. He gave me the confidence to follow my instincts and create as I wish, boldly.

    *Al Held, _B-G-2_, 1978,* acrylic on canvas, 36 × 48". Al Held, B-G-2, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 36 × 48".

    I first started experimenting with photography at age eleven. A couple years later, the legendary photographer Mary Ellen Mark took me under her wing. She felt that as a tween snapping pictures of other tweens, I was able to access something unique. Now that I produce and direct photo shoots, I’ve begun taking Polaroids surreptitiously in an attempt to capture the more offbeat and unpolished moments that occur as “a look” is created.

    *Behind the scenes of a photo shoot for _Galore_, New York, 2018.* Leyna Bloom. Photo: Gabriel Held. Behind the scenes of a photo shoot for Galore, New York, 2018. Leyna Bloom. Photo: Gabriel Held.
  9. STYLE

    Recently, I have been returning to books on subcultural aesthetics, like Ted Polhemus’s Gen X–era tome Style Surfing: What to Wear in the 3rd Millennium (1996). The blurbs on its back cover articulate my collagist approach to style rather nicely: “Anything goes in a postmodern world. What to wear in the third millennium? . . . a billowing caftan over tight rubber leggings . . . Doc Marten boots with a quilted Chanel bag. . . . Style Surfing for Fashion Victims and Style Strategists.”

    *The Batcave nightclub, Soho, London, 1982.* Photo: Ted Polhemus. The Batcave nightclub, Soho, London, 1982. Photo: Ted Polhemus.

    Now that I’m a little over thirty, I’m devoting more time to styling my home. I had the privilege of growing up in the art world, so I’ve been to many artists’ households. These spaces are great examples of resourcefulness in decorating. My family had to be careful and deliberate with money, and our furnishings reflected our frugality. To this day my abode is still decorated with pieces I found in the garbage, before New York City’s hideous bedbug epidemic.

    *Susanne Bartsch at her home in New York, 2015.* Photo: Mark C. O’Flaherty. Susanne Bartsch at her home in New York, 2015. Photo: Mark C. O’Flaherty.