PRIDE: Setting The Stage For A Design-Forward Drag Show


divas of drag terry mclaughlin

Luxury textiles are repurposed into costumes for drag performers at the Design Meets the Divas of Drag event, conceptualized by Terry McLaughlin. (Photo Courtesy CJ Knight @

In celebration of Pride Month, Luxe taps design pros to discuss empowerment, inspiration and the importance of diversity.

During the week, Terry McLaughlin helps design pros select the best flooring for high-end commercial and residential projects at Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. But for the past several years, he has worked the stage at the San Francisco Design Center as an emcee for a famously glamorous event: Design Meets the Divas of Drag. The event marries luxury textiles and the skills of some of the Bay Area’s best drag performers. Here, he tells us how it was born and what it means to the community.

As a showroom veteran, you are a familiar face at the San Francisco Design Center. But you are also known as the creator of Design Meets the Divas of Drag. Tell us how the event came to be.

It happened at a cocktail party for a showroom opening. Rhonda Hirata, who was then the director of marketing for the Design Center, mentioned she needed a new idea for Fall Into Fabrics, an event that celebrates textiles. I said, “What about having drag queens use showroom fabrics to create costumes?” It became a pageant-like competition that ran for five years before COVID-19 put it on hiatus.

What does it mean to the LGBTQIA+ community to see such a happening at the San Francisco Design Center?

For the SFDC to sponsor such an event, and for the design community to support, it felt like validation. This is also a fun way to recognize the art and performance of drag entertainment.

Fill in the blank: I feel pride in…

The Bay Area design community, because we all look out for each other. A great example is the Northern California Interior Design Community Facebook group, started by Jeff Holt and Peter West of the HEWN showroom during the pandemic. It became a way for people to share information and help each other.

Words of advice to younger members of the LGBTQIA+ community in this industry.

There’s a lot of acceptance in the design community, but it’s important to get your foot in the door. Take a job, even if it’s part time, as a sample librarian in showroom, an expediter or a design assistant. Schooling and education is great, but the hands-on work is invaluable.

Notable mentors or design icons that have influenced your style.

For me, growing up in Chicagoland, I was a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. Here in San Francisco, I am always inspired by Ken Fulk and his team. His work and process are explained perfectly in his new book The Movie In My Mind. I also enjoyed the work of the late Phillip Silver. Not only was he a great designer, he was a strong supporter of Design Meets The Divas of Drag before many people understood it.