Liam Hodges Interview

HEY-NONNY-YO!


HOT LONDON MENSWEAR DESIGNER LIAM HODGES FUSES MORRIS DANCING AND HIP-HOP... AND IT WORKS!

by David Newton

When Lulu Kennedy (AKA London Fashion's Fairy Godmotherâ„¢) plucks you from your final year at university to show at London Collections: Men, the fashion world sits up and takes notice. Liam Hodges only graduated from the Royal College of Art this year and already his hyper-masculine menswear collection, channelling the superficially unconnected, but on closer inspection similar, worlds of Morris Dancing and US Hip-Hop, has been given an unrivalled international platform. Fusing folk with graffiti, the clothes evince Hodges' deep love of traditional tailoring with his equal love of present-day street culture. He popped into the Wylde offices to chat about his mates, mash-ups... and Miley Cyrus!

Wylde: When did you decide you wanted to do menswear, as opposed to womenswear?
Liam Hodges: That was the second year at Westminster University, where I did my BA.

What's wrong with women's clothes?!
There isn't anything wrong with them! It was just that I joined the course expecting it to be a fashion design course not a womenswear course. And I kept getting told to make dresses!

So did you know before you went on the course that you wanted to do menswear?
Yes, that's just what I'd always explored. I'd never even considered making dresses... When you go onto a fashion course you're always drawn to something that you like or you aspire to...which for me was menswear.

And I guess the old question is: are you designing for yourself?
Yes, just me and my mates really!

I did notice when you came in you were wearing your own designs, (which a lot of menswear designers just don't) and that's really impressive... that's what you want to see from a fashion designer.
I think it's kind of important and shows conviction and belief in yourself.

So your MA graduate collection at the Royal College of Art was more-or-less this Morris dancing one?
Yes, it was. There's a Morris Dancing Festival in Whittlesey called the Straw Bear Festival, that's what all the first lot was based on. Kind of a huge character covered in straw and I kind of re-imagined it. Then moving forward to Fashion East, I applied, found out I'd got in and we had 2 days of shows on the MA, and in between shows I was ordering fabric on the phone, trying to rush everything through and then when everyone was doing their portfolios, I was like manically on the sewing machine trying to piece everything together.

And it's not just Morris Dancing in the clothes is it? There's hip-hop, graffiti, modern British culture etc...
I think the way it is, is that I started with the Morris dancing and there's all these other things that I always look at, like I'm always interested in street art and hip-hop and the punk aesthetic. Not the high street spikes-and-leather punk style, but the DIY aesthetic really. And then I was imagining how would a graffiti artist dress himself up as a Morris dancer? How would I dress myself up as a Morris dancer? So it WAS Morris dancing... but re-interpreted through these other things.

And do you think you will always do that: mashing up different cultures?
Yes I think so. It's interesting and it's what I've always done really. I was talking with my flat-mate about this and we decided that in society now, rather than people conforming to groups, everyone brings in aspects of the different groups to make themselves how they are and present themselves. And I guess that's kind of very much how I design, how I think I am.

What music do you like? Me and my mate play a cheesy R'n'B night on a Friday night every now and then to get some money...we enjoy it! I love Gangsta Rap, UK hip-hop, heavy metal...

Anything you don't like?
Miley Cyrus!

Moving on... next collection. This is Spring/Summer 14 that we're looking at now, so do you start thinking about the next one as soon as this one's out? Or do you take some time off?
There's always things written down on napkins hidden around my bedroom...ideas and folders on my computer.

So when do you HAVE to get started on what you'd call "My Next Collection"?
I've stopped working like that, really.

So any little hints for us about what you might be doing?! Is Morris out? Or will it be continued somehow?
You've got to break the mould somehow but you can't completely change because you want to be building an identity as a brand. One of my friend's ex-girlfriends has a womenswear label and I was helping her out for the first couple of seasons and I think she did it really well. She had all these beautiful prints and long flowy stuff and then the third or fourth season in she just came out with all the nice prints again but on this rigid Balenciaga-type shapes and stuff and I was really impressed. I was like: "Yeah, that's exactly what you needed to do."

Which three menswear designers do you rate?
I really love Thom Browne, I got really into him when I was on my BA. Then Cassette Playa in London. I've worked for her (Carri Munden) since 2007 on and off. When I was doing my foundation course that's when she came out with all her stuff and that really spurred me on: "maybe I CAN do fashion..." It wasn't just suits any more. She was guest-tutoring at Westminster and that's how I met her. And Junya Watanabe MAN. Every time I go to Dover Street Market I want to cry because I can't afford it!

Can we expect to see a bit more suiting from you? This collection's quite casual...would you call it "streety" this look?
I'd rather call it "streety" than "urban"...I hate that word! When the time's right I think I definitely will do suiting. At the RCA we had a tailoring project and spent a week in Italy at Brioni... amazing. It's Savile Row on an industrial scale!

Would you be open to a (maybe struggling) fashion house wanting to get someone on board to turn things around?
Yes, definitely.

What country would you prefer to move to, if that happened?
I'm not ready to move out of London yet! But... Paris.

Are you going to pursue this very hard masculine look? There are lots of pretty floral elements to your clothes too...is that something that excites you... that frisson?
Yes I think so...

Are you going to start using chiffon?
Probably not!

Will the history of fashion be a big part of what you do?
Yes...modern history... 20th century history.

So no ruffles?
NO ruffles! Well, I say that..there might be a ruffle! Never say never!

Any mission statement?
It's fun... for now... until it has to get serious!

DAVID NEWTON