In the closet of Sunflower Bean singer Julia Cumming

Cumming and I spoke on the eve of the release of Sunflower Bean’s third album, A head of sugar (released May 6). She describes the album, the indie darling’s first since 2018, as sonically more adventurous than earlier records while still, in many ways, being a return to basics – a move which is also reflected in the band’s clothing choices. When Cumming, who sings and plays bass, joined Nick Kivlen and Olive Faber in Sunflower Bean, they were “semi-gothic New York teenagers.” “With [Headful of Sugar] we kind of went back to black,” she says. At their New York exit show at Webster Hall, the entire band was dressed in black and leather, with Cumming wearing a Balmain leather corset and safety pin. “With this album, it’s soft in theory and dark in execution,” says Cumming. “I’ve always liked bands. [that use] style as a means of advancing the idea [of their music].”

Indeed, Cumming’s style and musical evolution have always been intimately linked. In fact, playing in his first band, Supercute!, sparked his initial interest in the style as an expression when he was 13 years old. She started saving up, making clothes, and wearing her bandmate’s dad’s dress shoes. “I wore crazy stuff, and I think everyone thought I was really weird, but I really didn’t care,” she recalled. “I just wanted to go to the knitting factory and see Kimya Dawson.” If playing in a band inspired her to begin her sartorial experimentation, modeling and working with industry heavyweights like Kim Sui, Steven Meisel and Pat McGrath ignited her love for fashion as a form of art. “Style is your calling card when you walk into the room of who you are and what you want to say,” she explains. “It takes a while to realize how special and cool it is to be able to change everything in your life with just one piece of clothing.”


While Cumming will always draw her personal style from rock icons like Courtney Love, Joan Jett and Kim Gordon, she also draws inspiration from many contemporary designers. When I asked who these designers were, she consults an ongoing group chat she has with her manager and stylist called “Sassy Style Bitches” and names Chopova Lowena, Charlotte Knowles, Duncan and R13. She is excited about what she sees as a general movement “towards inclusivity and individuality”, citing a period early in her modeling career when her agency would encourage her to dress less dirty. But that grunge side is part of what makes his style special. Her signature tattered tights that raised eyebrows on the streets of Paris inspired Hedi Slimane to have her wear tights backstage at a Saint Laurent fashion show, cutting them to varying degrees of destruction. These days, you can find thousands of ripped pantyhose tutorials on TikTok. “I think people are more accepting of being DIYers and being creative and sharing ideas with each other,” she says. “It’s very different from when I started [modeling].”

Before Sunflower Bean embarked on her final tour, Coveteur photographed Cumming in her home base: the same East Village apartment she grew up in. Against the backdrop of the neighborhood where she first formed her artistic identity, she showed us the clothes that mark her progression – from her one-of-a-kind lucky Saint Laurent jacket to vintage items personally gifted by Courtney Love.

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