Gabriel Held Serves Up a Spicy Cheetos Collab
In a post-Moschino x McDonalds era of fashion collaborations, off-kilter is the name of the game. The latest unlikely pairing finds Cheetos tapping NYC vintage dealer and stylist Gabriel Held for an exclusive vintage-inspired collection in celebration of 75 years of America’s most orange snack. After the NYFW Cheetos bash, Held joined us to talk about the references behind the Cheetle-covered pieces.
TAYLORE SCARABELLI: Congrats on the Cheetos collab.
GABRIEL HELD: Thank you.
SCARABELLI: I don’t know who’s doing the creative there, but they have a Cheetos yacht party during Art Basel. They really get it at Cheetos, but I don’t want to gas them up too much. How long did you have to put together this collection?
HELD: I had a great amount of time, and I think part of the reason why it felt so natural was because I’m accustomed to being given five business days for a project.
SCARABELLI: So there’s been Cheetos for 75 years?
HELD: Yes. Cheetos is older than most of our parents.
SCARABELLI: Have you designed anything before?
HELD: I’ve designed a couple of capsule collections with other brands, but nothing from scratch.
SCARABELLI: Did they give you any parameters?
HELD: Definitely. Certainly to stay true to the branding in terms of the color palette and the specific cheetah print that Chester himself dons. There were very specific guidelines about how to create “Cheetle fingers,” which is trademarked. It’s the orange fingertips you get when eating Cheetos, and corporate has a very specific way that makeup should apply them.
SCARABELLI: Wait, are there some Cheetle fingers in the show?
SCARABELLI: When you were putting this together, what was the moodboard?
HELD: I’ve never shied away from camp, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to dig into that, as one might with a bag of Cheetos. [Laughs] There were actually a couple of things that carried over between designing for senior citizens to designing for young people. They had come up with an idea that we’d be referential towards all of the decades that Cheetos has been in business fashion-wise, which of course, I’m a vintage connoisseur, or something.
HELD: Archivist. Historian. Taking influence from the 50s through the present was interesting because my lynchpin years are the aughts and the 90s, so I was thinking about the way a lot of those decades were reinterpreted in the 90s. We have some Lady Miss Kier references from Deee-Lite. We have some Betsey Johnson 90s references, Heatherette, Dsquared2, and Patricia Field was certainly a reference point.
SCARABELLI: Okay, walk me through the looks from the top. We have a very stunning one-piece.
HELD: So I’ve worked with a company called Print All Over Me that has pre-existing silhouettes that you can order in a specific print that you upload. I’ve worked with them in the past on two capsule collections of custom silhouettes that I designed. The cropped jacket was based on a Chanel ’93 and ’94 reference, and the bodysuit was a full-on gymnastics unitard. When I was a teenage Brooklyn slut I designed all of these clothes with cutouts just about anywhere. That was a reference for this as well.
SCARABELLI: You were self-referential.
HELD: I read once that it’s very postmodern to be self-referential.
SCARABELLI: This whole thing is very postmodern. There are some really interesting handbag situations happening.
HELD: Hillary [Taymour] from Collina Strada collaborated with us on creating some very Cheetorific handbags. We mixed up a signature style of her brand to make it a little more Cheetos.
SCARABELLI: Is that a Flaming Hot puka shell?
HELD: It might not be, but it could and maybe even should have been. And not to reveal secrets, but I’m sure you can tell that this is just a sock that I poked a little hole in and made a boot.
SCARABELLI: Stylist secrets revealed. If you were to describe this collection in three words that don’t include Cheetos or flaming, what would they be? Wait, that’s hard.
HELD: No, I can do it. Ferocious. Levity. And high camp.
SCARABELLI: That’s four, but we’ll take it. This is very Dolce, actually.
HELD: I’m not going to say too much about that.
SCARABELLI: Vintage Dolce is fine. I want to talk about this pièce de résistance, the remixed vintage gown.
HELD: There’s a designer named David Dalrymple who designed all of the House of Field collections for Patricia Field, who was inspirational to me. We’ve seen his work on Samantha Jones in the post-it note breakup episode [of Sex and the City]. She’s wearing a New York Dolls catsuit. To me, he is the king of reworking vintage t-shirts. So I went out with my team and sourced all of the vintage Cheetos merch we could find and took that as a jumping off point. I got to give a shout-out to my seamstress and co-designer, A’kai Littlejohn, who actually sewed all of this stuff and brought it to life. It was such a gratifying experience to conceptualize something and actually manifest it in a physical form. The corporate team was really helpful in allowing me to be creative and do what I wanted to do, and I appreciated that lack of interference. These, for instance, were made out of giant 3XL fleece pajama pants.
SCARABELLI: Wow, and you turned it into a skirt and a matching crop top.
HELD: Yes. From my days being a conceptual sculptor in art school, the transformative potential of objects has always been interesting to me, and we did plenty of that. Chiseling out something totally different out of pre-existing Cheetos merch.
SCARABELLI: And within parameters that are pretty strict. Orange is a difficult color.
HELD: I’ll be totally honest. Prior to this project, it was my least favorite color, but I’ve developed actual appreciation of it through doing this.
SCARABELLI: You turned it out. And this whole thing is you through and through. Your vision is strong.
HELD: Thank you. Other than Cheetos merch, we did upcycle some vintage designer stuff from my archive that we added Cheetos elements to. I would say 90% was either custom or customized in some way.
SCARABELLI: Cool. My last question for you is, who is the dream person that you want to dress in these looks?
HELD: Oh gosh. Megan Thee Stallion would turn some of these. Spice, the dancehall artist. There’s some dancehall references in the clothes as well as the hair and makeup. I always want to dress Lil’ Kim in everything. And of course, Jazzelle and Jaime Xie, who were both kind enough to model in the show and got their own custom-made looks.
SCARABELLI: I love it. Thank you.
HELD: And shout out to my team because they’ve been really helpful. All of them.