liam hodges's gritty and poetic beautiful reality
Drawing inspiration from car culture, boy racers, and old school garage, Liam Hodges is fast building a name for himself as one of London’s most dynamic and daring menswear designers.
From his missing front teeth and tattooed limbs to the Sunday league soccer stars, pin collectors and DJs that inspire him, Liam Hodges is not your average fashion designer. Standing at a whopping 6'6" tall with a shaved head, round glasses and mustache, he is the gentle giant of the fashion world, bringing a poetic, sometimes gritty, always beautiful reality to the London menswear scene. "As a designer, I try to take something quite normal and make it beautiful," Liam says over a pint of beer in a quiet Hackney pub. Born in Kent, Liam developed an eye for the weird and the wonderful under the tutelage of former i-D Fashion Director Simon Foxton at the Royal College of Art. Graduating in 2013, he undertook work placements with Cassette Playa, Aitor Throup and Alex Mattsson before being spotted by Lulu Kennedy at Fashion East. After three brand defining MAN shows, this January saw Liam step out on his own.
"I see my brand as aspirational, but not in the traditional, luxury sense of the term," Liam says. "When you're young you're told that when you grow up, you're probably going to have to wear a suit to work everyday. I rejected that. I studied economics at school, my dad was a banker and I thought I'd follow in his footsteps." After a couple of jobs in the city, however, Liam knew a nine to five wasn't for him. "I'm very comfortable in who I am, I don't feel like I need a six-pack to be happy," he says taking another timely sip of lager. Hodges is our kind of pin-up.
As a designer, everything Liam approaches is rooted in his experience. From his inspirations -- which include everything from Tony Blackburn to Morris dancers, Kibbo Kift youth clubs, Pagan practitioners and modified car enthusiasts -- to the models he casts to walk in his shows. Real people are Liam's people. "Myself, Mischa Notcutt [casting director] and Harry Lambert [stylist] streetcast many of the models. I judge them all on personality because that's what I relate to," he says. "The messages I try to put out there are positive, aspirational goals for real people."
For fall/winter 16, Liam drew inspiration from British boy racers and gear heads. "These lads don't own fancy cars, so they make something themselves that's unique and better than a fast car. The same way they'd take a Citroen Saxo and put a body kit on it. We're trying to do that with the clothes," Liam explains, a glint in his eye. Not that this is a customization job -- far from it. The patch-work jersey tracksuits in racing blue and traffic light yellow are brilliantly off-set with number plate detailing, while the overalls printed with tire skid marks and bomber jackets featuring abstract images of tir repair kits are guaranteed to be smash hits amongst his ever-growing tribe of fans. "The idea of a Liam Hodges' tribe is something that I've wanted to create for some time," Liam confirms. "Over the last few seasons it's become clearer that it has to be based in reality." A reality seen through Liam's own scratched lenses.
Fashion's anti-hero doesn't just celebrate difference, he thinks differently. At a time of widespread industry introspection, Liam isn't afraid to think outside of the box and challenge what it means to run a label. "I'm definitely interested in building the brand beyond two catwalk collections a year," he tells i-D. "I've worked with Ditto press on a zine and launched the site to create an extension of the Liam Hodges world, a little fun community. It's as exciting as creating a collection. I have this world in my head and I want everyone to feel part of it." Log on to Liam's website and you'll be met with an image of a laughing Liam, wearing nothing more than the doodled daydreams of his manifesto, etched on to his naked body: 'It's about creating a luxury brand that doesn't just cater to high borns,' the words read, 'for people who live for the week, not just the weekend, by which we mean men who don't drive Volvos.' The words reverberate far beyond the folds of flesh. "I want everyone to come on this weird trip with me," Liam says.
It's easy to forget that many of the emerging, and even established designers that we love have to juggle multiple gigs in order to keep the dream alive, and Liam has only recently given up his bar job. "Leaving my bar job has really focused me," Liam informs, ordering another round of drinks. From developing the website to enjoying late-night lucid moments working on a business plan, it's been a long hard slog for the designer to get to this point, so how did he do it? "It's the love that gets you through," Liam says. "When I wrote my business plan I realized that despite there being fifty-two weeks in a year, I could only really make money in two of them because of the buying cycle. Fuck that, there's fifty more weeks in which I want to make money and I want to make this work. The e-store is part of that, so is working with stores like Machine-A on product drops beyond the usual buying and selling calendar." If you're surprised to learn that Liam wrote his first-ever business plan a couple of years into the life of his business, don't be. It made sense through the designer's eyes. "Had I written one earlier, I probably wouldn't be here today because based on the numbers, it would have been too scary!" he reveals. Thankfully for London menswear, Liam took the plunge.
Liam is part of a new generation of like-minded London designers, stylists and creatives united in pushing the industry forward. "There's a real friendship in London menswear today," he says of the camaraderie that exists long after MAN. "We've all known each other for a while. Just the other day I was on the phone to Charles Jeffrey and we were talking about costing. James Long helped me out early on, Craig Green was always happy to advise... As competitive as the industry can be, in many ways it's not at all." So what are his hopes for future? "I might not be making lots of money, but there's a freedom in this," Liam concludes. "I have great people around me, we're making something we believe in and we're working towards its sustainability. Once we reach that point, I will feel a great deal more accomplished, a better person even, than if I had gone down a different route and got that job in the city."
Text Steve Salter
Photography Maxwell Tomlinson
Collage Maxwell Tomlinson and Liam Hodges
Styling Harry Lambert
Hair Tina Outen at Streeters
Make-up Jenny Coombs at Streeters
Casting Mischa Notcutt at TM Casting
Models Prince Youngmen, Will Stapleton, Jyrell Roberts, Morgan Benjamin, Mikey Pearce
All clothing Liam Hodges