When we think of how costume design is exhibited, and archived, we think of going to the MET museum and seeing them draped on mannequins. But what if a costume design archive can have its own retrospective at a live concert? That’s what Peaches is doing on her 20th anniversary of the Teaches of Peaches tour, showcasing over 50 different onstage costumes as she tours the world this summer, which brings together the musician’s past, present and future.
The Canadian musician is known for being a part of early electroclash, where women like Peaches (Chicks on Speed, Le Tigre, Tracy & the Plastics), used DIY electronic music to have fun and express queerness. It has been 20 years since Peaches (Merrill Nisker) released her self-produced album, The Teaches of Peaches (which was released in 2000 on Kitty-Yo Records, but the anniversary tour was pushed back, due to the pandemic). The album became an instant indie electro classic, touting feminist lyrics on simple, effective beats that are instantly recognizable, even today.
Now, after the delay of the pandemic, Peaches is on her 20th anniversary tour of the Teaches of Peaches, with dates upcoming in the UK, across Europe and back in Berlin on July 22, the city she calls home. Because let’s face it: A Peaches stage show is just as interesting visually, as it is audibly. As she performs her iconic songs, the costumes are art directed by Charlie Le Mindu.
Over 15 different fashion designers are featured in Peaches’ latest stage show, from Pissy Pussy, a New York brand that creates playful, toy-like pieces (one custom piece which Peaches wore on Full Frontal With Samantha Bee), and Poppy Cox, a Berlin-based designer and performance artist. The tour features lingerie brand Fraulein Kink, and a purple onesie emblazoned with Swarovski crystals, designed by John Renaud.
There’s also a number of pieces designed by Le Mindu, like a leather jacket-style coat with blonde hair extensions, and a piece that Peaches wears by the brand Thank God For Abortion (it’s a t-shirt turned into a leotard by Pissy Pussy). Peaches takes us into her archive, her love of hair, and explains how her costumes are a part of her past, present and future.
Forbes: How does it feel to be back on tour?
Peaches: It feels extra. First, the 20th anniversary tour brings an extra level of excitement for people, it helps them celebrate, while compounded with the pandemic, it helps them understand what that means to them even more.
What was it like playing these old songs again?
I wanted to honor the idea of archive. I wanted to honor past, present and future, that I continue and I’m conscious of what an anniversary means and how to frame it in past, present and future. I wanted to reprogram my beats from The Teaches of Peaches, but I couldn’t because they got erased by mistake, so I had to go back and reprogram every song. Its such a specific machine, half digital, half analogue, so there’s always things you must do manually.
What did you want to achieve, visually?
I don’t feel like it has ever been done, but one element I wanted to do, was a live archival show. I wanted to take elements of all my albums, costume wise, and put them in the show. And create one new piece that’s a nod to the old school, the hotpants jacket made from hotpants. And the new idea is the piece we call “Prolapse,” which fits two other dancers in it, and was conceptualized by me, Charlie Le Mindu and Søren Meisterbrau.
You start the show dressed like a granny. What’s that about?
It’s a comedic version of what I used to war. I wouldn’t wear a Victoria Secret-type bra, so I’m wearing it on top of my chest, like an over-bra. I’m wearing my archival pink hotpants and an American Apparel-style pink jersey jacket, but it’s a commemorative jacket because we put my birth year on the back “1966” and a “P” emblem on the front. Some costumes are straight up archival, other things are altered for the experience.
How do you know Charlie Le Mindu, and how did you collaborate for the Teaches of Peaches 20th Anniversary Tour?
I asked him to be the hair and costume director on the show. I asked him to go through my archive and pick the pieces that should be part of it. The new costumes are made by other people, but we worked on it together. I first met Charlie when he was 16, in 2003. He saw me open for Marilyn Manson in Paris. Never heard of me. Moved to Berlin, found me in a bar and said: “I’m your hairdresser now.” He’s very ambitious and wanted to align himself with people he cared about. The first costume he made is in 2008 and was for me. He was living in London. We used a number of his costumes for my music video Talk To Me. And I use his Cousin It blonde wigs on all my stage shows since, for the song Lovertits.
You have your own archive in Berlin, which includes over 20 years of stage costumes. How did it first develop?
Why would I let go of things? My first outfit was from Le Chateau, a skanky bathing suit and a weird top. It became iconic when Tyler Clarke Burke, a friend in Toronto, took a photo of me at a live show, my crotch and shorts for Xclaim, at a live show, that became the album cover. I wanted people to see my camel toe, as there’s a Motley Crue cover where you can see the crotch in their pants. I thought: “This is it, this is the image.”
How did you develop your onstage style?
I never set out to do fashion. Everyone thought I was so aggressive onstage, so I set out to wear pink underneath a dress and do a reveal. Then, people started throwing things onstage to me. Designer Laura Shepherd, who ran a line called Gloved Up, sent me gloves with a cape attached. It said “XXX” on it. That became iconic for me, to help develop my cape personality, like the machismo you’d see of male rock stars onstage, like Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper. Wendy Jim gave me a leotard with a hand on it, that became the cover of Fatherf*cker, my 2003 album. Vaughan Alexander, a former drag performer who lived in Japan, showed up at one of my first shows in New York, looked me up and down and said “Hello” at my sound check. Came back three hours later and had made four pairs of leather hotpants that fit me perfectly without measuring me. Vaughan became my stylist, we designed Runaways-inspired leather outfits for my tour in 2006, he continued to work for me for my I Feel Cream tour, for my Russian doll babushka look.
Who else have you worked with?
John Renaud was assisting costume designer Christian Joy on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs costumes. He sent me an outfit with a card, followed up and helped develop the costumes for the second leg of the I Feel Cream tour. He started making me costumes for my DJ sets, and that thick pillow piece, and the purple bodysuit piece for Peaches Does Herself, which became a movie.
Let’s go through a few of the costumes we can see on your Teaches of Peaches 20th anniversary tour. Can you tell us about the Prolapse costume?
There’s a Berlin designer, Lu-La-Loop, she has her own store called Die Kraft Berlin. She has a punk, new school, electroclash style. It ties into prolapsed organs. that’s how Charlie Le Mindu and I developed this costume, arms flail out on the sides, it can fit three people in it.
The safety pin jacket with hair hanging from the elbows, it’s a trademark
That’s a Charlie piece, I love that jacket so much. The cover for my album I Feel Cream, I wore a piece by Brian Litchenberg. He went on to design for Beyoncé and M.I.A., I’m always the jumping off point for designers. We did one photo shoot together, and one shot ended up as the album cover.
You almost inspire designers to channel their own fearlessness in a way?
Its exciting, in a way.
Can you tell us about the jacket made of pink hotpants?
I thought it was a nod to my early shows. It was made by Søren Meisterbrau, who has a shop in berlin and is an incredible sewer. I said maybe you can develop this idea I have for it. I love cute moments, when I’m performing, and I see people in the audience look and say “OMG! It’s made of hotpants!” Cute archival moments where people pick up on it and connect it to the album cover of The Teaches of Peaches.
What about the giant braid piece?
It’s funny, Charlie Le Mindu did a job for Disney years ago. He made a Rapunzel braid for a castle. It weighs 50 pounds. It was sitting in his basement in Brooklyn with all his costumes. He told me “It’s really heavy.” When he did an exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, he asked me to perform. He said he’d dress me in all his costumes.
What is this love of hair you have? It feels like a theme in many of the costumes.
I think it all deals with body image. It’s a ridiculous way to say, ‘these are the things we always try to hide, are told are shameful on us, in a male gaze porn way, where you won’t show your hair.” In early shows, I’d hear people say “ew, you can see her hair.” So, I say now, you want to see hair? I’ll show you hair. This piece is glamorous, it’s like a boa, in itself.
What is in your archive in Berlin, anyway?
I just purchased a live-work space with an archive in it, that’s storage with an option to display when necessary. IT has over 20,000 pieces in it. I have over 8,000 hours of film, tour videos, live videos, art movies that have never been seen, Super 8 reels from the 1990s, all the posters, old merch, letters people wrote to me, stuff people threw onstage to me (I made a cave out of everything people threw at me, which I showed at the Montreal Biennale). Sculptures, old set lists, written ideas, recording equipment, pre-digital stuff. I also have Polaroids, too.
What’s your dream for your archive?
I’m the first person to do a live, archival retrospective incorporated into a show. It shows the development of the past, the present and designers and ideas of the future, right in front of you, unfolding right before your eyes. You could probably have a program that tells you what you see in the show. It could be its own archival show. Thierry Mugler did a musical revue with all his costumes, too. But I like to think I have deconstructed pieces.
What costumes in the show have you never worn onstage before, which are new to the Teaches of Peaches 20th Anniversary tour?
The hotpants jacket, and the Prolapse piece that fits three people. And the bodysuit made from the t-shirt “Thank God For Abortion.” In every show, I have a leotard moment, usually when I play guitar. Pissy Pussy is an upcoming designer who made that bodysuit, which I wanted to wear in the show. He also made the costume I wore for my performance on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Those costumes are so big, I can’t travel with them. They’re not in the show, except the leotard.
A lot of musicians will stick to the safe bets like Vuitton and Gucci. But you take a chance on indie designers. Is it you love how indie designers are more experimental? Why do you support indie designers, rather than just go with the big names?
I don’t think the big names do what I do. A beautiful marriage of music and style is Bjork wearing Iris Van Herpen. That is next level. People come to me, “let’s do this.” These are the people around me; I like to work with community. Jeremy Scott made amazing things for me. The first person to make me red leather hotpants was an erotic company in Toronto called Aslan Leather. It was 22 years ago. That was probably the first gift I got.
Why did you want to cover Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” on your tour? She’s a Canadian icon.
My secret weapon is that I’m a singer. I deconstructed the song with my voice. I wanted to do something unexpected. A risk that people would say: “WTF?” It paid off. Just like this anniversary tour is a headf*ck, but it’s all coming back to me. It’s a seven-minute song. I wanted to make it 10 or 12 minutes, draw it out, drama, sidebar, and sidebar, so its not karaoke. Saying to the audience: “You’ve got a tear in your eye, really?” or “You’re wearing a Cramps t-shirt.” Bringing in that element of fun. It was fun to do in Montreal.
What about the ripped lingerie we see onstage?
I did a performance in Ghent for a one-off show and was contacted by a lingerie designer whose brand is called La Fille d’O. She said: “I’m inspired by your work, and I want to send you nonbinary lingerie.” We were just going to put dancers in ripped bodysuits and fishnets, but now we wear La Fille d’O. That’s what my performers are wearing, they’re all comfortable. The red harnesses red the dancers wear in the second half of the show is by a brand that Le Mindu found, called Jivomir Domoustchiev.
Check out all the Peaches 20th anniversary tour of The Teaches of Peaches talent credits below:
Teddy (Tif) @fannyfufu
Costume Art Direction
Charlie le Mindu @charlielemindu
Assisted by: Nirina Metz @lalimerence
Wardrobe On Tour
Hilary McDougall @holyhilary
Alexander Cameltoe @who_thefuck_isalexander
Charlie Le Mindu @charlielemindu
Fräulein Kink @frauleinkink
John Renaud @johnrenaud
La Fille d’O @lafilledo
Liz Fairbairn @lizflame
Martine Rose @martine_rose
Pissy Pussy @pp_nyc
Poppy Cox @misspoppycox
Søren Bruun @sorenmeisterbrau
Charlie Le Mindu @charlielemindu
Dylan Thomas Walker @dylanwalkerhair
Peaches tour dates
June 4 – Bergen Intl Festival, Norway @festspillene
June 5 – Stockholm @berns
June 6 – Malmö @malmolive
June 10 – Brighton @brighton_dome
June 11 – London @southbankcentre SOLD OUT ❌
June 13 – Glasgow @swg3glasgow
June 14 – Manchester @o2ritzmanc
June 15 – Liverpool @invisiblewindfactory
June 16 – Bristol @marblefactorybristol
June 19 – Amsterdam @paradisoadam
June 20 – Paris @letrianonparis
June 21 – Brussels @abconcerts
June 26 – @motherdublin Pride Block Party
July 9 – Bilbao @bilbaobbklive
July 13 – Zurich @rotefabrik
July 15-17 – Leeuwarden @villagefestival
July 16 – Graz @elevate_festival
July 22 – Berlin @huxleysberlin
Sept 1-3 – Lisbon @kaloramalisboa