Wonderland.

HONEY DIJON

The iconic DJ on the origins of her affinity for nightlife, the multi-faceted nature of being a trans black artist, and the importance of not waiting for other people’s permission.

Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland vinyl coat

Coat PREEN BY THORNTON BREGAZZI, tights ERDEM, shoes CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN, sunglasses RAY-BAN, necklace and bracelet PEBBLE LONDON, ring ALAN CROCETTI

Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland vinyl coat
Coat PREEN BY THORNTON BREGAZZI, tights ERDEM, shoes CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN, sunglasses RAY-BAN, necklace and bracelet PEBBLE LONDON, ring ALAN CROCETTI

Taken from the Winter issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the issue now.

It is true that a taste for mischief courses through the majority of our teenage years. Rightly so, and each of us have our tales to tell from the salad days of our adolescence. But trust me on this. There are naughty kid stories. Then there are naughty kid stories. And, try as you might with any number of fond anecdotes recalling alcopops guzzled in the twilight of a skatepark – Honey Dijon will see you and raise you. “My mother hates that story!” she exclaims of a particularly memorable incident. “Every time she reads it she calls me and goes, ‘I don’t want people to think that I was a bad parent!’”

Right now, I am perched on a stool next to the Chicago native in a studio in East London as she jokingly does some damage control, swatting away any potential judgement while regaling me with wild tales of her formative years. You see, while most of us were tucked up in bed at the age of eight or nine, a precocious Dijon was already a selector of sorts, picking the music at her parent’s basement parties before her bedtime.

“That instilled in me the love of night,” the DJ recalls. “Then, when my parents would tell me to go to bed, I would just sit on the stairs listening to all the loud laughter and cursing, to people just being so free and happy. And I think that sowed the seeds of how I ended up becoming what I am now.” Later, at the age of 12, she fully set off on her musical pilgrimage, sneaking into the “black and queer and underground” clubs of the Chicago’s South Side under the guise of going to friends’ houses for sleepovers, with a ferocious draw to the night and all its possibilities. “It was a spiritual awakening for me really; it was at the beginning of a lot of electro-pop and 80s new wave and disco and acid, and all of it was mashed together,” her voice glimmers. “You have to understand that this was at a time when you had black inner-city kids and poor people of colour creating their own world out of marginalisation and pain, and creating spaces for themselves because then Chicago was very segregated.”

Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland rain mac
Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland closeup

(LEFT) Jumpsuit BOTTEGA VENETA, sunglasses RAY-BAN
(RIGHT) Dress FENDI, sunglasses RAY-BAN

Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland rain mac
Jumpsuit BOTTEGA VENETA, sunglasses RAY-BAN
Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland closeup
Dress FENDI, sunglasses RAY-BAN

Dijon started as a club dancer and then was mentored by house music legends Derrick Carter, and later by Danny Tenaglia, moving to New York in the halcyon mid-90s, the “golden age before the internet”, amongst a mish-mash of “fashion designers, artists, prostitutes, drug dealers.” It was within this very cultural incubator that she sparked up collaborative friendships with a roster of legendary designers and stylists, who would invite her to do after-parties and, later, show soundtracks. Now her ties are beyond impressive. Nicolas Ghesquière. Riccardo Tisci. Rick Owens. Dijon famously worked closely with Kim Jones to develop soundtracks for the Louis Vuitton men’s shows. Name another underground DJ so intertwined and adored by the fashion world. We’ll wait.

It’s not even surprising though. Dijon is a provocateur not defined by genre, but ass-shakingly good times. She plays fast and loose with the euphoric soundscape she creates, fusing disco, house, and techno, and incorporating anything from fizzing percussion akin to a bottle spraying uncontrollably around the room to syncopated bass over reggae-tinged melodies. It’s tantalising; music that sounds humid. Sweaty. Like sex.

Nowadays, she can be found on decks anywhere from Berghain’s Panorama Bar, to Art Basel, to festivals all around the world. She has settled nicely into her reputation as a DJ titan of sorts, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to still call Dijon old school. She talks about the heyday of New York and Chicago with an amber glow in her eyes, but instantly flinches when I refer to her as nostalgic. However, she is the first to admit her belief that the landscape has changed irrevocably, and not necessarily for the better. When I ask her about the experience of people chanting her name and idolising her, she refreshingly decapitates it. “Yes, it’s weird as fuck. I’m from a blue-collar town, and so it’s weird. I mean, now you know DJs who have gone from artists to entertainers, so now it’s not only how you sound but what you look like, what label you are signed to, what club you played at, how many followers you have, the brands you associate with.”

When I press her on her thoughts on subcultures now, and the changing faces on the dancefloor from its original “black and queer and underground” roots, she is almost disdainful. And one thing to know about Dijon, is that she does not hold back. “No, I think we’ve peaked,” she admits. “We have because of the internet. Nothing is allowed to mature and nothing is allowed to evolve; everything is digested and spit out and done quickly. People seem to scroll through life now the way they scroll through their phone, and so I think people aren’t given enough time to even understand what is going on. Everyone is living with the fear of not having enough content. Everything is content. It’s more about what something looks like than what someone has experienced.”

There is no doubt about it, Honey Dijon is intimidating, but only in the measured and impatient way that can emit from someone who has lived many lives. And what could be mistaken for spikiness is actually just a direct, no-fucks mode of being. She doesn’t have time to waste, she doesn’t suffer fools, and her command of a room is instant.

It’s no surprise that Dijon has quickly become a celebrated figure in the industry, and her high-profile rise as one of the few trans women of colour in music and fashion has been noted, as well as her vocality for trans rights – but the two are not mutually exclusive. She wants to get that straight. It is not something that defines her existence by any means. “So someone put this question at me the other day, ‘how do you feel about people prefacing you as a black trans woman’,” she poses to me. “I said, ‘well, shit is what it is.’ It’s a part of me, but it doesn’t define my experience. I don’t live as a professional trans-person. There’s more going on in the story, and I’m not going to shy away from those things because without those things I wouldn’t be the DJ that I am, I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have, and you wouldn’t be here sitting talking to me if all of those things didn’t come together as one whole.”

Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland dress
Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland mac
Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland look off

(LEFT) Dress FENDI, necklace & bracelet PEBBLE LONDON
(MIDDLE) Coat PREEN BY THORNTON BREGAZZI, tights ERDEM, shoes CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN, sunglasses RAY-BAN, necklace and bracelet PEBBLE LONDON, ring ALAN CROCETTI
(RIGHT) Jumpsuit BOTTEGA VENETA, sunglasses RAY-BAN

Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland dress
Dress FENDI, necklace & bracelet PEBBLE LONDON
Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland mac
(MIDDLE) Coat PREEN BY THORNTON BREGAZZI, tights ERDEM, shoes CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN, sunglasses RAY-BAN, necklace and bracelet PEBBLE LONDON, ring ALAN CROCETTI
Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland look off
Jumpsuit BOTTEGA VENETA, sunglasses RAY-BAN

Don’t get it twisted. These are very much the words of someone who knows who she is. But everyone who has found themselves at this point knows that it’s never clear-cut, and not every step of the journey is easy. It takes years of introspection, dismantling boundaries, and — very often — pain to get there. I ask her about a James Baldwin quote I spotted when scrolling through her Instagram which unexpectedly struck a nerve with me, prompting me to study its words over again and again, re-seeking its assurance. It talks about having to drive away and “vomit” up certain demons to finally be able to “walk on the earth as though [you] had a right to be here”. We talk openly about her identity, and the time it has taken for her to find her place in the world. Her voice softens with each word, but is unwavering and matter-of-fact.

“I think we’re all in a process of unlearning,” she ruminates. “Everything that you know about yourself is because someone told you so, be it your parents, school, and being punished or rewarded because you behaved in a certain way that made other people uncomfortable. I realised that I based a lot of my self-hatred on the limitations of others, and that you give other people that much power because you’re conditioned to fall in line. When you start to say, ‘well, this doesn’t feel right anymore,’ then you just start to look for answers. I’m at the intersection of race, gender, and sexual orientation, and so you have to be clear with yourself in order to navigate a world that doesn’t value your existence. So, vomiting up all the things that you were taught about yourself, it takes a long time to unlearn all those things that aren’t true. And I live by two things: just because someone told you so, just because someone said something, doesn’t make it true.”

Dijon has fully conquered every world she has traversed, and her influence is ubiquitous. Earlier this year, she launched her namesake brand with Comme Des Garçons: Honey Fucking Dijon. And very recently, she dropped a three-piece collaboration with eyewear giant Ray-Ban: a white-framed 60s-inspired “Olympian Aviator”, a geometric pink-lensed ode to disco “Square 1973”, and the decadent 80s vibes “24K gold-plated Wings II.” Did anyone say drip? “It’s really cool because of their history with musicians,” gushes Dijon. “Initially they only wanted me to make two, but knowing me, I had to tell a story, so I did a pair from the 60s, 70s and 80s. It was sort of a stand for me to say something cool, warm and hot.”

At the end of our conversation, I ask Dijon how she feels about potentially being a role model. As is the Dijon way, she resists such constrictive terminology, instead offering a new phrase, a shimmering world that removes the pedestal and democratises her existence. “I like to be a mirror of affirmation,” she says carefully after a deliberated pause. “I don’t like to be a role model because I swear, I drink, I have sex, I fuck up; I’m not perfect, and honestly – I don’t want that pressure. But I would love to be a mirror of affirmation. What that means is that a lot of people don’t know that they can be or do something if they haven’t been presented with it; I realised I’m probably one of the few trans woman of colour to design a fashion collection, which is kind of mind-blowing. So I hope that it allows not just trans women, but all types of people, to just hopefully have the mindset that they can do what they want.”

Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland white dress
Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland closeup fuzzy

(LEFT) Jacket and tights GUCCI, sunglasses RAY-BAN, earring PEBBLE LONDON
(RIGHT) Coat PREEN BY THORNTON BREGAZZI, sunglasses RAY-BAN, necklace PEBBLE LONDON

Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland white dress
Jacket and tights GUCCI, sunglasses RAY-BAN, earring PEBBLE LONDON
Honey Dijon for the Winter issue of Wonderland closeup fuzzy
Coat PREEN BY THORNTON BREGAZZI, sunglasses RAY-BAN, necklace PEBBLE LONDON
Photography
William Spooner
Fashion
Doug Broad
Words
Maybelle Morgan
Hair
Mike O’Gorman using Wella Professionals
Makeup
Amy Wright at Caren using MAC Cosmetics
Manicurist
Edyta Betka using CND
Production
Federica Barletta
Production assistant
Tesa Pavić
HONEY DIJON