Words & Photography by Asia Lanzi

As one of the largest queer festivals, Whole United Queer Festival returned to the dystopian City of Iron Ferropolis for its fifth edition, and it was the grandest one yet. With a musical program featuring 31 global queer electronic music collectives, WHOLE celebrated its role in establishing international safe spaces and employing dance for socio-political change and queer acceptance.

Given the undeniable impact of queer culture in the fashion world, which continues to shape contemporary trends, the fashion showcased at Whole Festival was nothing short of captivating – vividly exemplifying this rich history. Fashion transcends mere appearances; it speaks a language. This sentiment is particularly pronounced within the queer community, where style becomes a means of self-expression and a gateway to authenticity. It’s a tool to communicate one’s personality while acting as a social differentiator. In essence, this signifies grouping people into subcultures of the collective consciousness based on their style’s implications on their lifestyle. For many in the queer community, fashion is a means to empowerment, allowing exploration and expression of sexuality and gender through an unspoken, yet universally understood, language.

At Whole Festival, fashion transformed the event into a three-day runway fashion show, featuring meticulously crafted day and night outfits. The visual spectacle began even upon entering, as attendees waiting in line exuded beauty, individualism, and attention to detail. As fashion went beyond the conventional expectations of an electronic music event, it diverged from the typical black, leather, and chains. Instead, the concept of style extended beyond just clothing: It encompassed colored hair, unique hairstyles, makeup, acrylic nails, and an array of accessories including rings, necklaces, earrings, (facial) piercings, and tattoos. These elements were seamlessly combined to create visually compelling looks, underscoring the thoughtfully and authentically curated self-presentation. Observing these elevated looks, one might assume that many attendees had personal makeup and hair artists, along with stylists. However, in reality, these queer individuals possess multifaceted skills, often rooted in their own creative talents.

What’s intriguing is that although the attendees of WHOLE communicate through a mutual, unspoken fashion language, each person adds their unique twist. Recurrence of particular clothing items or style aesthetics is practically non-existent, as most garments are either thrifted, vintage, or self-designed and handmade. Of course, the ability to maintain glamorous outfits in a glamping (camping plus glamour) setting is another remarkable aspect of the festival’s fashion, defying practical limitations. The resurgence of the Y2K trend, with its mini and micro skirts (as Paris Hilton once said, “skirts should be the size of a belt”), platform shoes, knee-high boots, low-waisted pants, and a variety of accessories like rhinestones, futuristic sunglasses, saddle bags, exposed thongs, tie-dye, bubblegum pink, wide belts, and layered silver jewelry, further showcases the attendees’ devotion to style innovation.

Undoubtedly, as a queer and sexually liberating festival, the celebration of naked skin is a crucial and empowering aspect of many outfits. Mesh, knitwear, lace, fishnet, and sometimes omission of specific garments leave little to the imagination, as attendees confidently and unapologetically display their ASSets. Within the safely curated environment of WHOLE, marked by values of limitless self-expression, empowerment, non-judgment, queer acceptance, and individuality, participants are afforded the freedom to decide what to wear or not, a luxury sometimes unattainable beyond the utopian confines of the festival.

Ultimately, attending Whole Festival is a refreshing way to leave inspired, captivated, and eager to experiment with new fashion endeavors. Style reigns supreme at every corner, from the DJ stages and performances to workshops, relaxing moments by the beach, and even amidst the tents at the campsite. Imagine a dance floor where every being exudes the aura of a main character, rocking their glamorous outfits and showcasing their individual beauty. As they enjoy the company of friends and dance under the sun to their favorite DJ, they find themselves deeply absorbed in a state of pure bliss. This unique feeling of unbridled queer joy echoes throughout the entire festival, fostering an atmosphere that celebrates love. Prepare yourself to be immersed in a visual spectacle of fashion extravaganza, bold self-expression, and an abundance of glamour and confidence!

Words by Asia Lanzi
Photography by Asia Lanzi