It is my privilege to share with you my two most favorite posts ever to grace the IWTB sites: exclusive interviews with the two brilliant artists who illustrated our site banners — Hogan McLaughlin (IWTBAB and IWTBAC) and Isabelle Oziol de Pignol (IWTBAR and IWTBAA). I am so honored that these talented people have chosen to work with me and it is my distinct pleasure to feature the art of Isabelle and Hogan now in hopes that you will enjoy learning more about their work and their lives. My heartfelt thanks, Hogan and Isabelle, for sharing your gifts with all of us.
When asked to interview Hogan, I must admit, I didn’t know very much about him. I learned that he was working on something with Daphne Guinness for Barneys New York so I was intrigued. Then, on April 27, a photo credit in The New York Times! I was planning to attend Daphne’s “Undress” in the Barneys window prior to the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty themed MET Gala this year and I made sure to go early so I would be able to view the windows and the entire collection before the crowd. Sure enough, there was Hogan McLaughlin’s name beside his mirror-winged shoe. Impressive and inspiring! Hogan designed not only the shoes for Daphne but a Camelot corset and a catsuit as well.
I came to discover this former dancer and self-taught artist and designer sent Daphne his book The Homicidal Heiress. In it he illustrates an Erte-esque heroine, clad in haute couture and armed for, well you get the picture from the title. This relationship by the way began via Twitter, proving one can never underestimate social media and its impact, with whom you may connect and what you might be doing next.
Now embarking on his first collection for Fashion Week, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Hogan McLaughlin. I had so many questions and as you’ll see, he answered all of them eloquently and with humor. He knows how to bring fantasy, beauty, and edgy femininity in his designs. He is funny, insightful, and has depth beyond his years. His roots as a dancer provide him with a unique understanding of a woman’s body with no restrictions. Dancers always continue to challenge themselves to push to a higher level and this is evident in Hogan’s first works. His illustrations are intense and complicated and you wonder how someone at such a young age can have so much depth and substance, yet he does.
All this and the fact that we both use the same word to describe New York City, I loved him immediately! Watch for this talented and visionary young designer. I hope to continue to work with Hogan as he grows as an artist, illustrator, and designer. Love and success!
How old are you?
Where did you grow up?
A suburb, just west of Chicago, called River Forest.
Two younger sisters.
Describe your family life growing up.
My sisters and I were always given the freedom to pursue whatever our passion was. Our parents were really amazing in the fact that they never set an ideal mold and expected us to become cookie-cutter-successful. Both my mother and father are brilliant vocalists and, having gone to college for that, really got all of us involved in the arts from a young age. Aside from that, we have a large extended family that has this bond that I’ve really not seen in many other families. In fact, I’m having a pre-release showing to all of the extended family before I bring it to New York.
Tell me about your evolution from a dancer to artist to when you truly knew you wanted to become a fashion designer.
I think each idea still goes hand-in-hand with the other. My parents put me in ballet lessons at age 2, so dance has been a part of my life for over 20 years, but at the same time, I had always been sketching and making art pieces. Always, and to this day, whether I’m aware of it or not, there is a fashion influence within my drawings. I remember wanting to be a shoe designer around age 9 or 10, but the thing about me, growing up, is that I had a new life goal every other year. I wasn’t sure I wanted to dance professionally until I saw Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, but then I worked extremely hard and joined the company about two years later. After my time there, I moved to New York and figured I would do some freelance dancing around town but I had really wanted to break into the art scene. Again, I had also been sketching fashion designs and began releasing “seasonal illustrated collections” to coincide with Fashion Week, but never had them made. The turning point was meeting the amazing Daphne Guinness on Twitter. I had sent her some of my fashion sketches, along with some images of fine art pieces, and she said, “We have to make these,” and we did. It’s six months later now and I’m releasing a collection, small as it is.
As a dancer, you are obviously very aware of the human body, its range and limitations. How does that influence your designs?
Dancing for the company I did, and with the amazing people I did, I really came to find that there are very few limitations to what your body can do — why not implement that into clothing? I tend to favor very clean, mostly symmetric lines, but like to challenge those silhouettes with interesting and temperamental fabrics. It’s funny though because with some of the garments, there is very little range of motion due to those fabrics.
What about the human form do you feel compelled to emphasize in your designs?
I am always referencing historical motifs and the structure underneath the effortless exterior. That said, I think as far as a woman’s body, I love an extremely nipped waist. It’s really evident in this collection because everything is corseted — pants, gowns, etc….
What's your favorite part about conceptualizing a design?
I think my favorite part is when I surprise myself with what ends up on the page. I never set out with a goal when I begin to draw, and sometimes it’s scrapped within 60 seconds, but I really treat the initial sketches as art pieces themselves and hopefully end up with something that is translatable to actual clothing pieces.
Do you prefer sketching designs or actually constructing them?
Sketching is easy. I love the process but I’ve been doing it since I could hold a pen. It really is eye-opening and rewarding to see these sketches come to life, even more so with this collection. The pieces that I had worked on with Daphne were very fantastical, in the best way, but it’s really exciting to see these things being created that are a little more accessible.
Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of clothing.
Because I’d been doing these “illustrated collections” for so long, I have a large library of designs to choose from. I keep doing new drawings but there are so many ideas that I would love to realize first. With this particular collection, I took the sketches from the very first set of designs I had drawn. I took a few days to update them and make them feel fresh, before production began. I met with my brilliant friend, Chicago-based designer Branimira Ivanova, who took my designs and made patterns. We did a mock-up of each piece in muslin, I brought in the final fabrics, and we began cutting. My model was one of the girls I had danced with at Hubbard Street, so she was readily available for fittings in between rehearsals. Now, we are finishing some, beginning others, and are aiming to have it all completed by the end of August.
Tell me about the process of sketching a design.
I first start with a light sketch of the body, similar to beginning an animated character. I then add muscle and bone definition. Depending on the silhouette, I’ll mark where I want the waist to be and then I really just let the pen go and see where I end up. I always finish with the hair and face, no matter what.
What kind of paper, pencil, or pen do you use when drawing?
I really just use whatever is lying around. The same goes for the larger fine art pieces I do. Family members always joke that I should sign a deal with BIC pens, because people are surprised that the end product was essentially made using left over school supplies from years back.
When you’re drawing, do you think about the fabrics you’ll be using or do you wait until the design is fully completed on paper beforehand?
I definitely wait until the design is finished before I even begin thinking of fabrics. There are so many wonderful options out there, that I hate to limit myself before I’ve even begun. I’ll then take the drawings to the fabric stores and play with how things drape.
What are your favorite colors to work with and why?
My color palette isn’t the most vivid. I really love metallics and different shades of black. I do like to occasionally throw in a deep jewel tone like emerald green.
What are your favorite fabrics to work with and why?
I think I like the extremes of both ends of the spectrum. I like stiff fabrics that can almost stand on their own. Many times, I’ll have a concept that really defies gravity and these fabrics almost do the job completely without a lot of hidden support. By the same token, I think some of the most beautiful fabrics are different silk gauzes. They are almost ghost-like.
How would you define fashion?
It’s good time for those who are willing to hop the fence.
What was the first article of clothing you ever designed? Do you still have it?
Tricky — I have lost most of the “designs” I had done as a kid, but in terms of what is in my closet, I tend to re-design pieces that I’ve bought — sometimes just tailoring it differently, sometimes changing it entirely. Much to a lot of people’s horror, I do it mostly with the pricier pieces I invest in. The first time I did it was with this long, oversized overcoat from one of Alexander McQueen’s collections. I completely hacked it in half at the waist and took it in about 12 inches, to make it this sharp-fitting military jacket. I got a lot of flack for that but I love it.
How long does it usually take you to construct a piece?
Depending on the design, it can be anywhere from a week to a few months. Branimira is really wonderful at making things happen at a fast pace, but I get distracted easily.
Where do you buy your fabrics and other sewing materials?
Basic sewing materials I buy at any craft-supply store around town. For fabrics, even though the pieces are made in Chicago, I always go to B&J in New York’s garment district. There really is no place that can compare with their stock.
What, in your opinion, do you believe makes a quality article of clothing?
Integrity, the level of craftsmanship behind everything. But also, learning more and more about fabrics, I’ve come to see why some designer pieces are priced the way they are. Above all, I think whatever it is needs to fit impeccably. I am a strong believer in tailoring.
What matters to you most as a fashion designer?
Being able to keep expressing my art and maintaining new ideas to hopefully keep people interested.
You’ve said your inspiration is somewhat McQueen, Mugler. What about their designs propels you and your work?
McQueen mostly, because he had an amazing tailoring talent. If you stripped the garments down to their innards, you’ll see an impeccably tailored coat, trouser, whatever. What I love is that he maintained that integrity but built upon it by pushing boundaries, not only artistically, but also with the materials he chose to use.
Is fashion cyclical with small variations or do you think there are real pioneers doing unique work never been done before?
I think everything is derivative, even if it isn’t intended. That isn’t to say that there aren’t those who are bringing something new and exciting to the table, but there will always be some little nuance that an outside person will dissect and claim that it has already been done. It’s the same with dance and choreography — someone may be making waves with a new movement style but the fact of the matter is, a plié is still a plié.
In a word, how would you describe NYC, London, Paris, Milan?
NYC: clusterfuck (can I say that?)
What is the most difficult aspect of designing?
Pattern-making — I’ve always hated math.
How would you define your personal style?
It’s really a mixed bag. I’m a sucker for amazing shoes. If I’m buying a really nice item, I’ll usually go for something that has interest, but will still be relevant in 50/60 years time so I can pass it down to my children. Usually though, especially now in the summer, I’m fine with a t-shirt and jeans, but I usually find myself channeling an early-70s rock vibe… at least I think so….
What are some of your fashion goals?
I don’t really see myself mass-producing my own 40-look ready-to-wear, resort, pre-fall collections, but who knows? I feel like what I’m doing right now is an extension of the ink art pieces I’ve done in the past. I’m hoping people will respond to these garments and appreciate them in that regard, even if they never intend to wear them. My goal is to pique people’s interest.
What is your biggest accomplishment so far?
Wow, so many, but in terms of fashion, I think the biggest thing was simply taking that first step and getting the designs off of the page and into production.
What surprised you about the fashion industry if anything? Do you find you have to be equally concerned with the business aspect of the industry as much as the creative?
As someone who is extremely new to the whole business, I have a lot to learn about the process as a whole. There is no way in hell that one person can do it on their own. Freelance, yes, but to have a successful label, you need help. Particularly for me, I need a business partner who can handle the executive side of things, while I do the artistic. There are so many elements that are really just common sense, but in the grand scheme those are the last things you tend to think of.
What can we expect next from you in the coming year?
I’m keeping myself open to whatever comes my way. I know I want to do a Spring 2012 collection (I’m showing Fall 2011 this September), but so many wonderful things tend to happen without warning that I take it day by day.
At what stage do you see yourself in three to five years? Will you be in New York?
I hope to have a bit of a following by then. I’ve always been enamored with London and I think that there are so many talented, but unsung designers there. I also just really love the city. The same can be said for Paris, though I think it’s purely the city and less the Parisian fashion industry. I’m not sure, logistically, where I’ll be, but I hope to be enjoying myself then as much as I am now.
What trends do you see being big for 2012?
I have this joke “fashion forecast” I do every year for my friend. It’s just a doodled comic prediction trends for the upcoming seasons and next year is going to be all about death-metal-scuba-divers with Harry Potter accent pieces. She keeps them all on her refrigerator.
Is there any advice do you have for other aspiring fashion designers, or is it too soon to tell?
I’d probably be the last one anyone should ask for advice. Before this past March, I had never sewn in my life. I suppose I would say that if you have the passion for it, don’t second guess yourself. Give it your all and someone will notice.
What are some of your Favorites?
Clothing stores (anywhere): Atelier New York, Rick Owens, Obscura Antiques
Fashion magazines: Muse, Man About Town, W
Books: The Windup Bird Chronicle, A Song of Ice and Fire Series
Films: Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Spirited Away
Web sites: World of Solitaire
Blogs: TLo, Haute Macabre, IWTBA…
Personal item/s of clothing: Balenciaga motorcycle jacket, Rick Owens tailcoat
Cities: London, Paris, Montreal
Restaurants: Avec (Chicago)
Museums: Musée Fragonard, The Louvre, Victoria & Albert
Models: Abbey Lee Kershaw, Thomas Penfound, Lara Stone, Yuri Pleskun
Designers: Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh, Alexander McQueen, Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, old-school Vivienne Westwood
Past or present, dead or alive, is there someone in particular you would love to design for?
Hogan McLaughlin art and photographs © 2011 Hogan McLaughlin, Cheryl Mann, and Sara King. All Rights Reserved. Daphne Guinness photographs © 2011 Markus Klinko and Indrani. All Rights Reserved.