Nothing about the success of Schitt’s Creek or the meteoric rise of its creator Dan Levy has been conventional. In fact, when skimming through the sea of think pieces and trade features praising the show’s inclusive comedy and its ability to sweep virtually any awards show this past year, it’s pretty much expected you’ll be reminded of just how unconventional Levy and his work are.
A small Canadian outfit produced on a shoestring budget cobbled together through sheer will (on the part of Levy) and some surreptitious connections within the comedy world (on the part of his father, the legendary Eugene Levy), Schitt’s Creek was hosted on Pop TV for every one of its six seasons. It wasn’t until Netflix began streaming old episodes of the show — one that follows a wealthy, out-of-touch family whose bank accounts are drained forcing them to build a new life in an unfortunately-named town — that people farther south began to take notice. And just as its popularity began to rise, Levy announced the series would be ending, wrapping up six years of storytelling that had largely gone unnoticed with a final season that would cement the series as a pop-culture behemoth.
So yes, unconventionality is a theme here — which is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Levy is channeling that same motif to rewrite the script for a completely different medium: the world of fashion.
Now, on the one hand, no Schitt’s Creek fan would be shocked to learn that the man who played David Rose has good taste. Levy famously dressed each of the show’s main characters, meticulously selecting pieces for his fellow co-stars that would convey a sense of privilege and otherness beyond the outrageously accented dialogue and humorously ignorant antics acted out on screen. From men’s leather skirts to couture gowns, bohemian vintage, sharply tailored suits, and wigs … so many wigs, Levy ensured that the look of his series — one that would champion a kinder, more inclusive brand of comedy than we were used to — would be just as memorable and impactful as the message of the show itself.
It took audiences a while to discover that though, and because sometimes, life does in fact mirror art, Hollywood’s just now appreciating Levy’s own style. It only took a global pandemic and a year in lockdown but, like we said, “unconventional.”
Levy’s been (virtually) gracing awards shows this past year, racking up accolades for his work on the final season of Schitt’s Creek and though the red carpets have been stowed away and in-person celebrity schmoozing has been kiboshed because of social distancing rules, that hasn’t stopped the multihyphenate from crafting show-stopping looks that would feel revolutionary on the cat-walk, let alone a pixelated Zoom conference call.
At the Emmys last year, Levy prefaced his team’s eventual awards domination with a heather skirt suit designed by Thom Browne, head of the men’s fashion label celebrated for revolutionizing classic menswear. Browne also designed Levy’s iconic wedding ensemble for the Schitt’s Creek series finale. Both looks pushed the boundaries when it comes to the outdated expectations we put on menswear.
“I am always a fan of anyone who is true to his or herself … this is true fashion … this is true style,” Browne told WWD of the finale look. “I like to showcase these people in any way possible. We need more people like this in the world … bravo to Dan … bravo for his bravery and leadership.”
Levy would follow up his “Best Dressed” Emmys bid with another conversation-starting look — a citron Valentino couture suit paired with a matching sequined turtleneck and metallic platform oxfords.
It was a design Levy and his stylist had spotted on the runway with the actor describing Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli as a designer who “infuses this infectious joy and emotionality into the clothes he creates, so much so that it’s virtually impossible not to embody that spirit when you’re wearing them.” For Levy, the suit represented a chance to inject a sense of playfulness and whimsy, not only into an awards show that looked very different thanks to lockdown measures, but to the concept of what having a sense of style looks like for men.
“It just felt like the perfect balance between formal and casual, festive and laid back, polished yet unfussy,” he told Vogue. “And the color! Citron? Lemon? Whatever you’d like to call it, it was the best of what men’s fashion has to offer: statement-making, without taking itself too seriously.”
But Levy does take his style seriously. It’s evident in every choice he’s made since Schitt’s Creek began its historic run. As a storyteller who’s built his own platform from the ground up on a message of inclusivity and acceptance, he can’t help but harness that patented “show-don’t-tell” attitude his comedy series did so well and use it to quietly and confidently shake up the world of fashion. And these red carpet looks, dropping during some of the biggest awards shows of the year, feel like the perfect place to do it, not just because Hollywood has, historically, failed to push men’s red carpet fashion-forward — in a sea of black bow-ties and three-piece suits you were lucky to find an actor “daring” enough to sport a color that wasn’t blue, grey, or burgundy on camera — but because these virtual shows are giving Levy the freedom to experiment without the judgment and criticism of those after-show awards roundups. And because, while some men don sweatshirts and flannel button-ups — no shade, we would too — Levy knows the value in bringing a bit of glam and a lot of joy to these fairly formulaic gatherings.
Levy continues to shape the ever-expanding world of fashion beyond awards shows too, designing his own line of eyewear that he relaunched after Schitt’s Creek ended. D.L. Eyewear puts a fresh spin on timeless pieces, bridging Levy’s keen eye for what works with his desire to blur the lines between gender.
“There are some incredible frames that are not being tried on because they are delineated by gender, which feels totally absurd to me,” he told Vogue before the launch. “A lot of the frames that I have, have been vintage, or were [at] one point geared towards women.”
That fluidity and bold experimentation characterize so much of what Levy does when it comes to his personal style, molding him into an inspirational, aspirational figure within the Queer community. In Levy, young nonbinary, queer-identifying fans can see themselves — their creativity, their passion, their courage, and self-confidence — not just in his characters but in his day-to-day life. Sure, he’s not wearing haute couture all the time, but the fact that he’s wearing Valentino at all — a house that only recently began creating couture pieces for men — means something. It means he’s carving space for himself, on TV and in fashion, in a way that others can emulate. To see him play with slouchy, 90s-inspired cream linen pairing a classically masculine look with a delicate brooch or to watch as he dons a gorgeously embroidered Belgian-designed burgundy outfit — both looks he crafted for the recent SAG Awards is to see a Queer man assertively challenging fashion to up its game, to think outside the box, and to champion new concepts of masculinity.
After all, he spent six seasons revolutionizing comedy on TV. How much harder can men’s fashion really be?