David Lauterstein

Getting “Nasty” with designer, advocate and author David Lauterstein – Socialite Life

Launched in 1993 by married couple Frederick Kearney and David Lauterstein, Nasty Pig has evolved into a leading and influential gay-owned fashion empire.  From its humble beginnings in the couple’s Chelsea apartment, when the AIDS crisis was making headlines daily and taking the lives of countless gay men, Nasty Pig has become the top LGBTQ+ men’s fetish brand that has crossed over to the mainstream market.  

Thanks to a dedication to quality, concern for the community and innovative marketing – including using real customers as models – David and Frederick have achieved legions of fans and a crossover into mainstream retail outlets, expanding the availability of their fashion-forward and fierce collections, including underwear, athletic wear, harnesses and other accessories.

Their two-man mission was to reacquaint their customers with that feeling of positivity about their sexuality and their identity and they’ve definitely succeeded. In addition, Nasty Pig works with LGBTQ organizations including the Ali Forney Center and Trevor Project to help make the world a better place for kids growing up in the community.

David will be publishing an autobiography called Little Pig, Little Pig by Unbound Edition Press next year and Nasty Pig just launched their new sizzling hot fall/winter line. We had the chance to talk to David about his trailblazing company, his inspiration and influences and the future of fashion in our exclusive interview. We even put David in the hot sea for the Socialite Seven. Get to know this fashion pioneer.

David Lauterstein and Frederick Kearney

First off, I have to ask, how did you come up with Nasty Pig as the name of your company?
Well, to be honest, Nasty Pig was named after my husband and my Jack Russell terrier. We had to come up with the name for our company and our dog was named Piggy. And one thing about this little female dog was she would not stop humping my leg. So, one night when we were trying to figure out how to incorporate our company, I was like, “Get off me, you nasty pig.”  And I was like, that’s a great name. My husband thought I was crazy, but I stuck with it.

Who influenced and inspired you to start your own fashion line?
Our biggest influences came from streetwear brands like Stussy and Triple Five Soul and then fashion designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler. Mugler was perhaps our biggest influence and interestingly enough became a Nasty Pig customer. You cannot imagine what it was like when Manfred Mugler himself walked into our store and began shopping Nasty Pig. To have your idols buy your clothing is incredible. Those are some of our early influences. We also get a lot of influence from classic queer culture, leather culture. Tom of Finland, who’s an artist, really influenced us as well.

What do you feel like makes your fashion collection stand out among others?
Well, we put a lot of effort into quality and fit. We never rely on the lowest common denominator. We never just rely on the fact that we’re a queer owned and operated brand to get queer business.

When we first started and my husband and I had no money, we had about $50 and we’d use some of it to go buy fabric. We made a sample, cut it out and sewed it. That took about a yard. Then we had to make another sample, and we made the second sample. I was like, “Great, let’s sell it.” And my husband was like, “No, it’s not ready.” And I was like, “Honey, we only have five yards of fabric.” And he looked at me and he said, “If you want to do this with me, we’re going to do it right. I will not put out anything until it’s ready. Your choice.” His drive for quality and fit and perfection really differentiates us. He’s got a huge knowledge of construction and I’ve got kind of a knowledge of brands. So that’s kind of I think we really hit both those marks.

Nasty Pig
Photo courtesy of Nasty Pig

You use your customers as models and have created your own music. How did you devise such innovative marketing for your brand?

So, it’s all been completely organic. As I said, when we started, neither of us had any experience, but what we had were friends, you know, we are our customers. Our customers are us. And we were designing initially for friends. And so, when we began to have the opportunity to do photo shoots, we reached out to our friends and as our business expanded, so did our friend circle.

I was always about putting real people in ads. I like to know who was in my ads. I want to know they’re good people and not just beautiful looking people. Beauty comes from the inside. So, it was a natural progression to just have these people we knew and loved be the representatives of our brand. There was no big marketing scheme behind it. I wish I could claim it. It just kind of happened.

How did the music come into it?
When my husband and I started the company, I was a dreamer, but I said, I want Nasty Pig to be about fashion and music. I didn’t ever know anything about music, but I had a friend who was a DJ and a producer, and we just began to make some music. I was always experimenting, and then I left him a message on his voicemail – back when people listened to voicemail – and used it as part of a track.

And then we began to collaborate, and we realized that putting original music to the company was a really interesting edge. What is so amazing is I go out to clubs and I see all these guys dancing in our stuff, and then our music comes on, and they don’t even know it, and they’re dancing, and I’ll tell you, it brings tears to my eyes. It’s just so crazy!

And, when we do advertising, especially on Instagram and Facebook, you need original music. It’s part of it, so having great music that people haven’t heard before, and if they can search it and they end up at a Spotify page that’s from Nasty Pig, it’s a cool angle. But, again, the music has to be great, or we won’t put it out.

You had had a pop-up in Nordstrom and some of your ads have aired on shows like Drag Race. What did that mean for your brand?
So, the pop-up at Nordstrom was such an incredible experience. They approached us to have a pop-up, and I’ll tell you, I was very skeptical. I built this business. Mr. Mugler himself told me, “build this business between you and your customer.” Fashion is so much smoke and mirrors. So, when Nordstrom approached me, I was very prepared to go in and be like, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

But when they came to us and they said at this time, when there are all these culture wars going on, “we want you to shine your authentic queer light on us. We’re giving you the floor space. We’re giving you the windows. Do what you want.” It was a real moment of validation because we made it to a place where we were being included, but they were being inclusive on our terms.

That was huge. I thought it would be good for the brand, but what was amazing was that for our customers, it was a real moment of like I said, we’re this huge family and they were approaching us for weeks telling us how proud they were. And that was just a really great feeling. So that was a giant moment for the business.

Nasty Pig
Photo courtesy of Nasty Pig

In addition to your brand and everything, you do a lot of advocate work for LGBTQ causes. How important is that to your brand philosophy?

So, Nasty Pig started out as an activist organization. It was kind of our idea. My husband and I just wanted to always give back. As the business grew, we aligned ourselves with the Ali Forney Center. They are a charity that helps homeless queer kids, puts roof over their heads, educates them and prepares them for the world. Working for them, helping the most vulnerable members of our community is so important to us because as we have developed a business, not only can we raise money for them, but we do events for them where we meet the kids and we’re able to talk to them and get them to do faux interviews. We kind of want to prepare them. My husband and I will never have kids, so these kids are our kids.

And the other thing is for the first time, we have a real opportunity to hand down queer generational knowledge. There’s a time where someone of my age can talk to younger people and unfortunately a lot of my queer elders passed away due to AIDS and I didn’t have a lot of mentors. So, taking on that role with the Ali Forney Center is so important to us.

Out of everything you’ve done, what are you proudest of?

The thing my husband and I are most proud of is the loving family that we have built through this company. We talk about it all the time. We’ve done so much, but the people who we’ve brought together and the people who we’ve inspired, there’s no better feeling than the love that surrounds us. You know, Nasty Pig may design menswear for people who are exploring their queerness and their sexuality, but at our heart, Nasty Pig is a love story. It’s a love story about me and my man, our love for our community, and our love for fashion. And that love, as it’s radiated, is definitely the thing we’re most proud of.

Nasty Pig
Photo courtesy of Nasty Pig

Is there anything that you would still want Nasty Pig to produce that you haven’t gone into yet?
Yes, we’ve got a few things up our sleeves for spring and fall. We’re always trying to reach into new categories. We’re definitely about reaching a little more into the bath and home area. We’ve got a few things we’re cooking up. 2024 is our 30th anniversary so you can definitely keep an eye out. I don’t want to reveal too much, but cool things are coming.

What do you think the future of fashion holds?

I think in the future of fashion, the idea of brands controlling trends is over. We no longer live in a monoculture where a few people dictate things. Trends will come all over the place. And it’s a real opportunity for people like myself to be successful by talking to a portion of the audience. So, I think we’re going to see more of that. We’re going to see more companies that have a chance to participate in it, more individuals. And I hope another trend in fashion is real sustainability. You know, at Nasty Pig, we talk about the best way for a clothing company like us to be sustainable is to make a garment now that you’ll wear in 10 years.

And I really hope at a time when there’s fast fashion and people just throwing out garbage on Instagram that people return to understanding that the thing you wear once it goes in the trash. That thing you wear for a decade and then you can give to a friend, that’s real sustainability. So that’s where Nasty Pig is at and I hope other brands will pick up on that message of quality.

How do you envision the brand evolving? What is your dream to have it evolve into?
Well, part of that dream is I am putting out a book next year. I got a book deal. So, part of that dream is really getting to tell these people after 29 years about that love story. The book is a memoir about me and my husband meeting and starting this company. So, the evolution of people really getting to understand that there are authentic stories out there and then putting out an audio book of it and then starting to speak more about who we are and where we’re going and then just take more people along on this crazy, amazing, Nasty Pig ride.

Nasty Pig
Photo courtesy of Nasty Pig

David Lauterstein Answers the Socialite Seven

What are three things you can’t live without?
My husband, chocolate, and chocolate. That just means how much I love chocolate. Got thrown in there twice.

What fashion trend or trends would you like to see disappear off the face of the earth?

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I’m not a big fan of guys who wear gladiator skirts with flip flops. I don’t love culottes. And I’m not a giant fan of anything that’s really minimalism.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given was given to me by my husband who told me that people will tell you who they are very quickly if you just shut up and listen.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Oh, my biggest pet peeve is people who are continually late.

Since you are putting out a book, if it got made into a movie, who would you want to play you in your biopic?

Oh, my God. That’s a tough one. Who would I want to play me? I don’t know, an AI character. I’d love to see me as I was 24 years old. That’s where I would go.

(David emailed me after our interview and added this)

I have to admit you caught me totally off guard when you asked who would play me in a movie! It’s something I hadn’t thought about but since we are being approached by production companies, I wanted to give you a better answer. I recently watched It’s a Sin on HBO and I would LOOOOOOVE for Olly Alexander from the band Years & Years to play me. I would never want an AI version of me to be used, as I believe in the value of actors and writers so deeply, as I’m a writer myself.

If you could wake up in the morning and you would have any superpower or a talent that you don’t already possess, what would you want that to be?
I would love to be able to fly.

What are you most grateful for?

I am most grateful for all the love in my life. I have a lot of people who love me and I love a lot of people.

Visit the Nasty Pig website and Nasty Pig on Instagram to learn more about David and shop for some fierce fashions.


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