Style & Substance: Cameron Carpenter

Cameron Carpenter, Organ, NYC, Michael HartBravo!

Cameron Carpenter represents a kind of anomaly that should inspire us all: a world renowned organist (the director of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra called him the best in the world), a self-proclaimed late bloomer, fashion arbiter and an intellectual in the truest sense of the word.

“Cameron Carpenter’s flamboyant style is certainly unusual in the field of classical music, but as it comes along with an impressive stage presence and genuine charm, it is beyond reproach. But there is more to him than simply a theatrical quality. His light-fingered approach and speed are intriguing […] and the constant changing of the registers give the effect of opening up the piece of music to the smallest structural details…”  SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG

Knowing very little about Carpenter prior to seeing the manicured image used to promote his performance and fashion show at the Carmel Performing Arts Center, The Palladium – I must admit I was unimpressed. His look appeared calculated, defiant and loud, the kind of contrived rock and roll aesthetic you might expect from a performer like Adam Levine or Peter Wentz. But upon meeting Carpenter, it became quickly apparent that his look is not derived or manufactured, but rather a true representation of an artist quick to acknowledge that through self-actualization, he is discovering and responding to style one day at a time.

The young musician had just arrived in Indy from Tokyo, this being the beginning of his spring tour. And though he was tired and a bit rushed for time, he remained patient, engaged and effortlessly composed. In those brief moments (we only had about 15 minutes to talk) it became clear that not only is it imperative for him to express himself through clothing, but that Carpenter has an unwavering and sincere interest in fashion, its history and evolution.  In person, Carpenter is beautiful – striking in a “stop staring!” kind of way. He wore a deep v-neck shirt, tight black pants and shoes embellished (for function, no doubt) with black tape. And suddenly, I realized I was wrong. Carpenter’s style is anything but contrived.

“Cameron Carpenter exists in a kind of parallel world where anything is possible… where outrageous showmanship can sit with an uncompromising musical intellect.” —THE AGE

Obviously music is Carpenter’s priority, but I wouldn’t doubt if we see fashion designs by Cameron Carpenter make their way into boutiques in the near future. Due in part to a rise in his popularity and the development of his look, he is frequently approached by designers and boutique owners, some hoping to dress the artist, others hoping to work with him. When I mentioned his collaboration with Converse, he pointed out his design was a one-off, but he is indeed interested in partnering with like-minded artists. And if a clothing line becomes a reality from such a partnership, I am sure what emerges will be as refreshing and inventive as Carpenter himself.

As fashion devotees, we should all be inspired by Cameron to look beyond prescribed notions of what is appropriate and conventional and strive for distinction.

Images courtesy Cameron Carpenter.

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