Jonathan Anderson Costumes Only an Octave Apart, Justin Vivian Bond and Anthony Roth Costanzo's New Boundary-Breaking Show

© Photo: Nina Westervelt

Collaborations are the backbone of the fashion industry, and over 2020 and 2021, they have only gotten more unexpected; fashion companies are making video games and hacking each other’s runway shows. Musicians Justin Vivian Bond and Anthony Roth Costanzo are rethinking the collaboration onstage with their genre-defying new show, Only an Octave Apart, which blends Bond’s cabaret style with Costanzo’s classical operatic voice. “The combination of our voices is, at times, really funny,” Costanzo said on a video call, “and at other times, it’s kind of meaningful and poignant in a way that we don’t even have to name or talk about onstage.”

A limited run of performances from September 21 to October 3 at St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York fuses comedy and sentimentality; the show is neither cabaret nor opera, neither campy nor earnest, but some fantastic new hybrid of excitement and emotion. The pair’s songs include a mash-up of the 17th-century aria “Dido’s Lament” by Henry Purcell and Dido’s 2003 pop hit “White Flag,” as well as Philip Glass’s “Akhnaten” remixed with the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian.” 

© Photo: Nina Westervelt Bond and Costanzo wear Loewe open-sleeve blouses in silk, tie trousers in viscose, and cowboy hats in raffia and calfskin.

Bond and Costanzo’s costumes are remixes too. Jonathan Anderson, a longtime friend of Bond’s, has designed costumes for the show, pulling together ideas from both his JW Anderson and Loewe collections. “You know, I don’t do many costumes, but for Viv I would do anything,” Anderson said. “I wanted to try to work out a way in which a kind of fashion narrative meets a stage narrative—and I always think that texturally you have to think of light differently [for costumes] and how theater light affects the sheen on clothing or the silhouette itself.”\

© Photo: Nina Westervelt Bond wears a Loewe technical knot dress in lace and feathers with JW Anderson twist-chain heeled sandals. Costanzo wears a JW Anderson spring 2016 feather top and Loewe technical flared trousers in lace with JW Anderson sneakers.

Anderson designed four sets of looks for the performances that Bond and Costanzo described with glee over a Zoom call. “They are high fashion with a sense of humor in there,” Costanzo said. “The one I was just wearing, I feel like Klaus Nomi in.”

“It’s very angular with things protruding,” said Bond, finishing the sentence.

Another is “floating with feathers,” said Costanzo, and black-and-white draped looks pick up on “the classic opera costume from Don Giovanni.”

For the finale, each will wear a sequined dress with a ruffled cutout on the thigh. “The last two are very spectacular. We’re like metallic trinkets!” exclaimed Bond.

“It was remarkable how quickly Jonathan understood what we were thinking,” said Costanzo. “He asked to see the designs of the set and each scenario and have us talk him through it. What he designed for us is really spot on—it’s exactly what we had in mind.”

“I have been looking at this idea of volumes, silhouettes, and shadows, this idea that they were the same look but different,” Anderson said of his inspiration for the costumes. “This idea of volume, where you have the red velvet with the black velvet, and how they are able to articulate different types of architectures of the same thing.”

© Photo: Nina Westervelt Bond and Costanzo in Loewe knit ruffle dresses in sequins. Bond also wears Loewe shoes.

Anderson’s costuming of Bond spans decades. The designer and performer met in London in the early aughts through their mutual friend Rufus Wainwright. “Jonathan asked if he could make things for me to wear for my shows, and he made these gorgeous little pieces for me,” said Bond of their first collaboration. “Then it came time for him to do his collection for his graduate degree [at the Royal College of Art] in 2005, and he asked me to perform. So I performed at his very first show, and we’ve remained friends.” Since then, Bond has starred in campaigns for JW Anderson and become a front-row fixture at his shows. 

Anderson said of Bond, “What I love about them as a collaborator is that they are able to kind of see into the future of what we want in terms of performance. I always think that Viv has an ability to grasp on to newness within performance before it happens.”

© Photo: Nina Westervelt Bond and Costanzo’s silhouettes

Together with Costanzo, the show’s cocreator and director Zack Winokur, set designer Carlos Soto, lighting designer John Torres, and sound designer David Schnirman, Anderson forms part of what Bond calls a “queer quorum” of collaborators for the show. It’s created a beautiful and authentic spirit within the theater that the performers hope will translate to the audience. 

“There’s a totally different, magical energy that we even started to feel with our design team in the theater today where it’s like the quality of the air changes,” said Costanzo. “It has a different effect on your body and your emotions, and sharing that with an audience feels like an essential part of life.”

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