'POWER PACKED! POP! HIGHLY PLEASURABLE'. These words might scream from Michael Coates' loud and brilliant renders of poppers, but they also sum up the essence and feeling of his brand Double Vodka Lemon. I threw some questions to Michael about himself, his brand, and then some, and here's what I got back. The pictures were taken around South Richmond Street, Dublin 2.
Hey Michael! How are you today? Grand, thanks!
Why Double Vodka Lemon? I was wracking my brain for ages trying to think of a name that would appeal to people, and be funny, and be cool, and be all these things a 'brand' should be according to anything I had learned about marketing. At the time, my drink was double vodka and Fanta lemon. Nothing else would do on a night out. And it was just a little lightbulb over my head. It's zesty and refreshing and makes you drunk. It totally embodies my designs. Just fun. I don’t know how it will work if and when I decide to do something more 'serious' but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
When did you start it? I held the first t-shirt in my hands in September 2013. I had been talking about it for over a year before that. It was that summer I got let go from my job. I felt useless. In my head I was just like 'I’m a loser, I’ll never be successful, blah blah' – the usual self pity crap. And then after a few weeks I was just like, 'No! You’re actually really talented, you’ve studied for this you so know how to do it'. Plus, I had the time on my hands. I just went for it.
What’s it all about? It's really just me picking up on things that I’m finding fun or interesting right now. Like when I designed the butt print I was really into looking at Bara comics from Japan, which are basically illustrated porno that focuses on larger than life muscular guys. I was trying to pick out pieces from that subject and style. I had drawn the picture of this big muscular ass and was gonna print it really big on a t-shirt but then I downloaded Photoshop and by the end of that day I had the butt print made and that was Collection 1 pretty much finished. Now I’m onto poppers. And I’ve started working on something totally different for the next one. What makes the designs intrinsically gay is the fact that I’m gay. It's a real representation of my mind and creative process.
Who’s the kind of guy you have in mind when you design? I’m not thinking of anyone when designing the print. I do what I want to do and then look at it after and think would it actually be commercial to use this. When thinking of the actual items of clothing, it's difficult to picture a 'type' in it. Most of the items are basics. Anyone can wear a white t-shirt – stick a load of poppers bottles on that and then you need the attitude to match. So it's really about the customer matching themselves to the brand.
What non-straight guy do you want to see in one of your designs and why? From a commercial perspective I’d love to see someone like Eliad Cohen in the stuff purely because I know that these circuit types are money makers. From a personal point [of view], I would really like to see someone that typically wouldn’t wear the type of clothing I’m producing, someone like Mark Francis Vandelli – he’s always fully suited and booted in one of the Italian prestige designers. But my absolute dream would be Kanye. He’s straight but fuck it.
Are poppers gauche or glam? Glam. I think gay male culture is having a renaissance. The elements of gay nightlife that some would call 'seedy' and then the other end of the spectrum that some would call camp or stereotypical are all being looked at afresh by young guys and being embraced as it should be. Poppers are part of that. I fucking love it.
Describe, as vividly as you can, the feeling of sniffing poppers. For me inhaling poppers is like inhaling the atmosphere around you. It enhances and concentrates it for a few seconds. So the sensation is totally relative. My favourite time to sniff is when I’m dancing while out. I’m loving the music and then I sniff in this hot electric energy. Or, if you’re at an orgy or a bathhouse, it's raw testosterone – it's sexual desires you didn’t know you had in a tiny little bottle. And that’s great. But then you have the flipside. Like, if you’re getting a blowjob from some Grindr guy in his flat at 5 in the afternoon it just like a bottle of nail polish remover and you’re just like 'no thanks, hun'.
What is gay culture in Dublin for you? In Ireland we're definitely born with that original sin shame. It's in the Irish DNA. So gays have the feeling of a persecuted people. Which brings us together stronger than in other countries that might have embraced gayness sooner than Ireland. So for me Irish gay culture is centred around defiance, and strength, in everything we do. I'm so happy we're becoming much more willing to be visible to the outside. And we've got that great attitude that siblings or small town dwellers have like it's ok for us to hate each other but if someone from the outside wants to butt in they can fuck right off.
Your Instagram bio reads “being glam in Dublin” – give me your top three Glam Tips. Your bum can get you everything. Spend some real money on alcohol. Taxis. Everywhere.