Beauty Icon: Pam Hogg
Everyone sees a strong feminine role in my clothes. The funny thing is I see myself as quite masculine. I love that I embrace both. there’s nothing worse than an overtly “sexy garment” for the sake of it. My desire is to find a strong sense of beauty.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
I’d been customising clothes since I was six years old, and in my early teens, when I could buy fabric, I started designing and making my own, with the help of old Vogue patterns as basic blocks. I ended up in fashion because I wanted to get into The Blitz. To pass the scrutiny of Steve Strange you had to look the part, so with an added emphasis on dressing up, I eventually started designing again, but with more intensity and purpose. I just made it up as I went along, wrapping the fabric around myself. My first sleeve pattern was a free-drawn line in the shape of a bent arm, which I attached to the body by eyelets. I never wanted to be the same as everyone else, I was never into trends. I was just creating a look for myself. I was, however, unwittingly making clothes that others loved and wanted to wear, and because they were different they were snapped up by all the magazines. At that time, in the 80s, it was amazing being a young designer because all the Americans would come over with lots of money for the sole purpose of buying London “creations” — the more unusual the better. And although there were many individual boutiques stocking up, the big stores like Bloomingdale’s and Bendel’s in New York were among the first to place orders. One of my first direct customers was Ian Astbury of The Cult. He used to squeeze into my tops and cut the arms off. I felt like a superhero when he named me as his favourite designer in Just-17 magazine. I’d just started and The Cult were like gods.
WHO I HAVE IN MIND WHEN I’M DESIGNING
I design for me, but I don’t mean that in a selfish way, as I actually give everything of myself. Every single piece I’ve made, I’ve made it on me. My way of designing is all to do with feeling, it’s not about researching. My research is what I take in — it’s the fusion of what I unknowingly absorb.
It starts with a feeling. It can be a piece of music that inspires me, it can be a phrase I’ve written. Often, it’s an imagined fabric that will trigger an idea. Once I have a feel of the fabric I want, the search begins, but because it doesn’t exist, something else will inevitably catch my eye and I’m off in another unexpected direction. I visualise everything. I won prizes for drawing and painting, but I don’t draw anything now. It’s crazy, I do everything in my mind. I see shapes, and then try to find fabrics that will accommodate my vision. At every stage I leave it open for something else to enter the equation. For me, this is the key.
MASCULINE VERSUS FEMININE
Everyone sees a strong feminine role in my clothes. The funny thing is I see myself as quite masculine. I love that I embrace both. My clothes are sexual, but I don’t think of it like that, there’s nothing worse than an overtly “sexy garment” for the sake of it. Everyone who wears my clothes says they feel powerful. In that respect, I feel I have a woman’s vision. My desire is to find a strong sense of beauty, and sometimes, for my shows, if it’s as simple and pure as a naked body, adorned only by a few straps or a see-through cape, then my task is complete.
I can’t wait to “sell in”! Getting back into the commercial arena is daunting, but I want to be able to reach my potential. I want to be able to have the fabrics I design in my head actually made. I’d love a seamstress, I’d love an expert pattern cutter for all the wearable pieces I design that I let slip by because the cut I desire would take too long. Designing is so easy, but great finishing, and end quality, is difficult to achieve without finances. I love what I do, and not having everything at my fingertips makes me delve deep for answers, and it keeps my work alive, but I’m still making every single piece myself and it’s consuming all the time I could be using more wisely. To move forward I need to find a balance.
I’m at my happiest when I’m working on my own, undistracted. It’s almost when I’m not thinking that the ideas come thick and fast. It’s quite a sacred time when it’s at its peak. It’s almost like I’m an onlooker as it unravels, but it would be amazing to further it with someone in tune.
Most kids want the brand. When I was a kid, my father would make my presents. Holding something secretly behind his back, he’d come to me and say, “No one else has one of these,” and that would make me feel like the most special person on the planet. He’d cut things out of wood. He had a toolshed at the bottom of the garden; it was like a magical place, as he made things out of anything he could find. We had nothing, but we had everything. He had such an imagination; he made great things happen for us. He made me unafraid to be different.
ON TERRY WOGAN
At the end of 1989, I’d gone up to Glasgow to stay with my sister Angela for Christmas and New Year. My birthday is on the 4th of January, so she was throwing a party for me. On the 2nd her phone rang, and I answered, unaware it was for me. This was 1990, pre-mobiles, so I must have left a message on my answering machine, saying where I could be reached. It was someone from the Terry Wogan Show, saying they wanted me, along with Mark McManus (Taggart), to appear live on the show in London on the 5th. I said, “I’m really sorry, but my sister has organised a party for me,” and I put the phone down. Angela was looking at me in disbelief, asking what I’d just turned down, she couldn’t believe it, she said: “It’s Terry Wogan, it’s one of the top shows on TV. Call them back and we can have the party tomorrow!” But I didn’t have the number, and you couldn’t dial 1471 or Google it. Next minute, the phone rang again. “How about if we pay your fare?” I was like, “Oh, hi there. Well, if you throw in a bottle of champagne, we could have a deal.” She said, “Oh, it’s normally just red or white, but I suppose we could make an exception.”
ON PUSSY RIOT
Exactly three weeks before Fashion Week, I got an email from Amnesty International, asking if I would give a nod to Pussy Riot within my collection because Fashion Week was running alongside the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. I couldn’t believe it. Although I’m not politically outspoken, I say a lot through my work: in 2010, there was my blood soaked “War Bride” dress that had bones attached by delicate silk ribbons to the back train, representing the tin cans tied to the back of the wedding car. There was also my S.O.S collection in 2013, which had nurses dressed in garments made from bandaging. The previous show was military style, the first outfit had a dirtied apron with “The Soils of War” scrawled in blood and dirt down the back, but this time, I wasn’t showing; I’d taken a time-out to try and get a selling collection together. It was such bad timing, but doing this for Amnesty meant everything to me. I knew I had to do something. Within an hour, I had my title COURAGE, inspired by when I’d seen them exit prison — still defiant and more or less saying, “Putin we’re still after your ass.” I’d also completely visualised the show. All Amnesty had asked for was a balaclava to be worn on the catwalk, but I wanted to fully celebrate Pussy Riot and gay culture. I had ten garments that had somehow never made it onto my catwalk and I conditioned myself to have two hours’ sleep a night to design and make a further ten. No one saw me for three weeks.
I was given a slot on the first day of Fashion Week, appropriately Valentine’s Day, and I used the Amnesty slogan as a second title “Love Is a Human Right”. My first outfits went down the catwalk with placards saying “This is a Dedication to Pussy Riot” and “This Collection is Not for Sale”.