Lion Ascendant Connasse, Fashion for the queer and queens

Matteo aka Lion Ascendant Connasse is a fashion designer creating looks for our Belgian and Brussels queer icons. Recently, we have been able to see their work on the runway of Drag Race Belgique. But not only! Let’s take the time to chat and learn more about this incredibly talented person.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What has been your journey?

My name is Matteo, I’m the non-binary designer hiding behind Lion ascendant Connasse. I grew up in the south of France in a very artistic family, my father being a comedian, my mom being a fashion designer and my grandparents being painters and sculptors. I would describe myself and my work as evolving somewhere between a witch and a clown. I was lucky enough to grow up in a very loving and open-minded surrounding, my parents always encouraged my choices and supported my every move. Growing up I can see how they both influenced me so much, I make a living out of creating outfits for the drag community and costumes for theater which is literally a mix of both my parents’ practices. My mom is Swedish and I’m very attached to those roots. I feel like I was raised the Scandinavian way but still going to school and living in the south of France, two completely different lifestyles. The paradox was being taught acceptance and freedom at home, but once I was at school or outside this safe bubble that my family created, I was treated as a freak, made fun of, harassed, and bullied. I left my hometown as soon as I turned 18 for Toulouse during a year and then definitely left France for Belgium. There, I stopped feeling ashamed and embarrassed of myself. After three years in Tournai, I moved to Brussels and started connecting with the drag scene there. I met Louis/Cleo Victoire, Arnaud/Athena Sorgelikis, and Romain/Saskya Von Fotzen in 2018 and they immediately trusted my vision and gave me a chance. I started designing for them and my work became more and more visible. During the pandemic, I was left alone in my apartment and started designing for myself with what was left around me, old denim, curtains, and pieces of fabric laying around. I reconnected with my aesthetic, I left my day-to-day job, and it’s been over a year now since I started my own business. I’m proud to say that I’m living my dream by making clothes for the queer community in Belgium.

What are your current or future projects?

So I’ve been creating under Lion Ascendant Connasse for years but I feel like this year it all became very serious. The transition between doing this from time to time to a full-time job has been rough, and I’m still working on my scheduling problems. The main project I’m working on right now is something I’ve always dreamed of doing which is a collaborative project with 2 of my best friends, Pauline (@maigreserpent) who is a graphic designer, and Joachim (@sticky_food) who studies culinary design at The Fine Arts of Brussels. We joined forces to create Parapegma, a calendar inspired by personal stories or social issues we wanted to highlight. We ended up with a series of pictures that reminded us of some tales about the cycle of nature and fables on the seasons. We’re currently working on printing and selling it. I want to continue creating imagery with my very talented partner Alix (@typic.alix), a photographer. Alix has been very encouraging and has helped me so much in developing my aesthetic and I feel that it’s such a privilege to create together and have him/her by my side. I’m also working on expanding my clientele, I’m able to collaborate with people who I’ve admired for a long time like King Baxter, but I’m also creating for queer people who are not necessarily connected to the drag scene which helps me develop a line that’s more true to my style. I’m also collaborating increasingly with the theater universe, including with Lylybeth Merle on two of her projects, Hippocampe and Lilith, and with Emmanuel Hennebert for their solo project En flânant dans la ville. In the continuity of my work and with the help of my friend Landy, I’m also currently developing my website and would love to create limited pieces every month that I could sell online.

What does it mean to you to be a part of the Brussels queer community?

Being part of this community is so important to me. Growing up in a small village I had a very hard time identifying with anyone and I struggled for a very long time with the feeling of not belonging anywhere. As much as my family was accepting, I didn’t see myself in them, I was this weird kid struggling with their identity and always felt like an outcast. Now being part of the queer community in Brussels is so rewarding. I made friends and connections I never imagined would be possible, and shared so much with people who had a similar childhood, and similar experiences growing up. It’s healing truly. It’s a community that is constantly growing and I can’t wait to see what new projects will come, and what new concepts are created behind the curtains. It’s amazing to be part of it but also to serve it in a way. I’m inspired by the community and my work is the giveback, to highlight the creators, the weirdos, the freaks, the drag kings, queens, queers, the comedians, the dancers, and the list goes on.

What are your queer influences?

I found a big influence in the story of Arlequin from the Commedia Dell’Arte which is not queer per se but resonates with my story. He is this flamboyant character, constantly mocked and whose heartbreaks and tribulations are an infinite source of fun for his audience. This is basically the storyline of every queer sidekick in every movie and TV show. He and Pierrot have this intricate relationship, they’re indissociable from each other and I love exploring their connection within my work. I also like to take some fashion history details that are less known or directly linked to queer people of the past, like the stripes for example. They were used in the occidental middle age to represent the outcasts, the prostitutes, and the freaks. Today, I like to incorporate it into my work and reappropriate the motif. To me, it has become this symbol of pride and strength and I use it as an homage. I’m also inspired by queer cinema, especially the work of Gregg Araki, Luca Guadagnino, Jordan Peele, Pedro Almodóvar, John Waters, etc… and queer photographers like Franz Szony and Emma Wondra. I see a lot of queerness in those fashionable villains that we grew up with in the movies we used to watch. The majority of them are these genderless creatures wearing extravagant clothes and being super dramatic. I remember being fascinated by them, feeling represented in a way and often wanting to be like them. And I’m always inspired by my friends and chosen family of course who constantly inspire me to continue creating and pursuing my dream.

What Brussels queer initiatives are you fond of?

I’m very impressed by anyone queer taking charges and being taken seriously. Blanket la Goulue has created Playback which I’m so thankful for because it’s all about being queer in public spaces. La Veuve creating Queeriosity is so inspiring and I feel like every edition is a success where you discover something new. Propaganda by Belligerency, Krasna, and Kovaci is also very admirable. They created this space to highlight erased queerness and to talk about how being part of the LGBTQIA+ community in some parts of the world is still a danger and a threat to your life. I recently saw Nour and Nicki’s exhibition at That’s What X Said Gallery and it’s so inspiring to see queer artists investing in the space that is given to them. I’m also looking forward to any performances by my good friend Bissi who’s developing his pole dance skills but also has some feminist and queer-friendly yoga classes around Brussels which is a queer initiative I have waited for a long time.

Picture credits : Alix, Flavien, Laura Jay Nethercott, Sticky