This story appears in conjunction with HIGHTech, A Magazine by Highsnobiety. Our new issue, presented by Samsung, includes exclusive pages of interviews, shoots, merch, gadgets, technical gear and more. Order a copy here.
Gracing the cover of our newly launched magazine is the inimitable Lil Nas X, an artist we feel truly embodies the relentlessly innovative mindset of his generation more than anyone else. With this in mind, we asked the "Old Town Road"-superstar to hang up his cowboy hat and trade in his spurs for something altogether more futuristic... a 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired astronaut get-up, to be specific.
While our editorial team is certainly creative enough to make all kinds of futuristic visuals happen, it took one key ingredient to really tie the shoot together. To give it that slice of cosmic authenticity, we reached out to none other than SpaceX, who kindly loaned us a bona fide astronaut helmet for Lil Nas to strut his stuff in.
"We knew we wanted the cover to be with a helmet. We knew that before we even solidified a team or the story," says Highsnobiety's Photo Director Hannah Huffman. "We were drawn to the design of a SpaceX helmet because it was very futuristic (like the theme of the issue) and it wouldn't cover Lil Nas' face completely, but this was only at a moodboard stage. But Taylor, our set designer, being the kind of extra he is, reached out to SpaceX without telling us, thinking if nothing came of it then no harm, no foul. Saturday, the day before the shoot, Taylor calls me and urgently tells me what he'd done, that they answered him, and they want to get on a call with me in 30 minutes to talk about the project!"
"I told them about the story," Huffman continues, "How we were going to create a whole planet for Lil Nas and we'd been calling it Planet X, which is how we originally made the connection to SpaceX. We joked about how Highsnobiety was the future of fashion, Lil Nas X was the future of music, and SpaceX was the future of space travel. So naturally we all had to come together! Everyone was super lovely, but they warned us that it was a big ask and not to get our hopes up, but they would tell us that evening or the next morning (day of the shoot) if they would let us use the helmet. Sunday morning at 8am, we get a call that Elon Musk had approved the project and that someone from their team would be coming to our shoot that afternoon with the helmet."
"It seemed like a pipe dream," adds set designer Taylor Horne. "I knew it would be very powerful if I could pull it off... so I called SpaceX PR contact and left them a voicemail explaining the project and saying if there’s any way to make this work I would be very grateful. I did this the day before I flew to LA for the shoot. The following day at 8am as I was getting in my rental car to go to set I got a call from SpaceX's Sita, who said 'You did it. You got the helmet.' She also explained how this is unheard of, and how Elon had to give them permission personally."
"It goes to show you how asking honestly is the way!" Horne adds. "Also, as a white queer person, I feel it’s my duty to use the opportunities I have to empower queer POC and to push as hard as I can to elevate every opportunity that is centered on queer talent. I put so much on the line for this project and seeing Lil Nas in the helmet made me so emotional!"