Lessons in Fashion History with Gabriel Held

The stylist, Instagram curator and vintage aficionado talks camp, drag and, of course, the ‘90s.

By Randi Bergman

Scrolling through Gabriel Held’s feed is like peering deep into my retro-loving soul: It’s bright, bombastic and tacky in the best possible way. It’s a snap of Lil Kim covered in crystals at the SoulTrain Awards. It’s him as his drag alter ego, Baritone Baroness, slaying a Trina rap in the bathroom. It’s magazine clippings of Brittany Murphy in cowboy hats… and the list goes on. Held’s Instagram aesthetic is my own personal heaven, but more importantly, it’s a blueprint for his work as a stylist with IRL collaborators like Brooke Candy, Kehlani and Lena Dunham. That, and his treasure trove vintage collections, which span the ‘90s and ‘00s.

Here, we chat camp, drag, and a mutual love for the ‘90s.

How would you describe what you do?
In literal terms, I am a vintage dealer, stylist and an Instagram curator. As for being a “personality,” I have always just done me, but it is nice that the world is so receptive to me doing me at this moment!

How much does Instagram play a part in what you do?
I have always been a collector—not only of clothing but also of imagery. The way I curate my Instagram definitely influences my styling work. I’m always collecting fashion references, but also beauty and pop culture moments.

What are you really excited about right now as far as fashion is concerned?
I am often more excited about looking at fashion history. I love that there is lots of nostalgia for vintage in contemporary fashion right now.

What do you miss about ’90s/’00s fashion?
I miss the exuberance and lack of rules.

If you had to pick your all time favourite fashion image, what would it be?
Probably anything Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele did in the ‘90s.

How do you source your collection? Any secrets to share?
When sourcing my best advice is to look everywhere and go for what really excites you.

What would your dream styling gig be?
I have been dying to work with Kelis and Eve.

Drag has become so intertwined with fashion… what are your thoughts?
Well, while a lot of drag is not fashion lots of fashion is drag to some extent.

What role do you think camp should play in fashion? Is taking yourself as unseriously as possible important to good style?
In my opinion camp is an inherent part of fashion. While I revere designers, at the end of the day clothing is not going to save the world, but it can sure make it more exciting.

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