Meet Iris Spectre, who makes their own elaborate costumes from scratch

Dylan Kepp, also known as Iris Spectre, is a costume designer and drag queen from Philadelphia. 

Not only is Kepp a drag performer, but they make all of their own whimsical, imaginative and elaborate costumes. Kepp spoke with In The Know about how their passion for making clothes and their past personal traumas birthed Iris Spectre, Philly’s 2016 “Drag Queen of the Year” and star of the one-woman show Shades of Brocade

In high school, Kepp asked for a sewing machine one Christmas, and since then they’ve never stopped making things. Soon after, Kepp got into fashion school. 

“I would say it started off with Dylan creating for Iris who I didn’t even know existed yet,” Kepp told In The Know. 

Kepp says the untimely loss of their father in high school was the catalyst that led them to become Iris Spectre. 

“Iris was kind of born out of me trying to cope with the trauma of losing a parent,” Kepp said. “If my dad were here, I think he would be proud of what I’ve accomplished, especially within drag. And the way that I was able to deal with everything.” 

But Kepp and Iris Spectre aren’t just each other’s healthy alter egos, they’re each other’s support systems. 

“The difference between Iris Spectre and Dylan is that Dylan is kind of Iris’ caretaker and I am also, as Iris, Dylan’s caretaker in many ways,” Kepp explained. “I’m like this beautiful dress-up creature that kind of comes out of Dylan and Dylan’s traumas, it’s a hand-in-hand kind of relationship.”

The transformation process is a part of its allure for Kepp, who says they don’t fully become Iris until their eyeliner and lashes are complete. 

“When you change the shape of your face, you become an entirely different person,” Kepp said. “It’s why I love the transformation process and why I love drag. We get to be whatever we want.” 

But while Kepp may have heard the call of the fashion gods before drag, the drag queen said there is only one gig they can’t live without. 

“I think that I need Iris still,” Kepp said. “If I never designed again, if I had to have my clothing made by somebody else for the rest of my life, if I still got to be on stage and perform and have that moment, I would be happy.”

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If you enjoyed this story, check out In The Know’s other stories from Behind the Drag here.

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