Liam Hodges’ menswear is for us, not them

© Elise Rose

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A gaggle of socks and slider-shod urchins with a thirst for Red Stripe are squashed onto a sofa in front of a TV. It’s Liam Hodges’ spring/summer ‘14 installation, shown as part of Lulu Kennedy’s East London fashion incubator, Fashion East Menswear.

Jump forward to autumn/winter ‘14 and the Hodges posse have become roadies, wearing jackets covered in strips of black gaffer tape like improvised leather, with Pagan imagery appearing sporadically. Come spring/summer ‘15, the gang moves to the MAN/Fashion East runway, taking to the catwalk as mature, badge-sewing boy scouts in two-tone baseball tops.

By autumn/winter ‘15, Hodges’ most recent collection, inspiration had come from Walthamstow market. Headlines of local bootleggers were printed, patchwork-style, on tracksuits worn with Palladium boots, where some of the Hodges lads carried sandwich boards with slogans like ‘totally safe classics’. It’s fashion from the streets, without the condescension.

“It always starts with research and that, I try to find a way to engage with the inspiration as much as possible,” Hodges explains in a café around the corner from his studio. “Last season it was the market so we spent a lot of time filming people, talking to people, trying to document it. Whether I’m watching films or submerging myself in music, I completely surround myself with it so I feel like I understand it.”

Liam Hodges Menswear
© Elise Rose

Hodges jumps seamlessly from roadies in bulky bombers, to scouts in the woods, to market stall vendors. You could run all four collections back to back, with each one elaborating on a key, distinctly British narrative. It demonstrates a fluid evolution of core ideas behind the brand.

This evolution of streetwear is integral to London mens fashion; Nasir Mazhar is decking his boys out in shiny brocade tracksuits, while Astrid Anderson has her basketball hunks in oversize vests of pink lace. Liam Hodges’ contribution to this legacy is particularly potent, tapping English eccentricity in all its downright weirdness. Identifying Morris dancers, Kibbo Kift youth clubs and Pagan practitioners as modern tribes, you can trace an amalgamation of these tropes through his collections. Though it’s a misfit concoction, the outcome is remarkably wearable.

It all boils down to Hodges’ method of turning those inspirations into a garment that he and his friends would actually want to put on. “It’s more the narrative for me, more about a story or person,” he expands. “I find something that could be fun to do and try and work out how I would do it, how my customer would engage with that activity, the rest of it. The fabrics that I stick to are just core menswear fabrics, then I bring in other stuff depending on what I’m trying to communicate.”

“The messages that I put out there are positive. Aspirational goals for real people”

As Hodges talks of his aims for his brand, it’s clear he takes inspiration from the vision of his peers. He credits cult London designers Cassette Playa and Aitor Throup for leading him to choose fashion, admiring the positive messages embroiled in their conceptual and abstract worlds, where there are simply no creative restrictions.

Though Hodges is not against tailoring – the traditional western ideal of menswear – the slick suit-wearing gent is not something he identifies with, aesthetically or in terms of what that image has come to represent. “There’s a certain tribal mentality to my clothes,” he explains. “It’s almost like a weird little community where the actual core message changes every season, as a reaction to the world around, but I guess it is about nice clothes that tell certain stories, rather than luxury, silk shirts, an archaic idea of achievement.”

Liam Hodges’ brand is simultaneously strange and familiar. The designer’s ability to merge the commonplace and the obscure comes from his genuine fascination with both. It’s high fashion born from lowbrow culture.

“I was telling someone the other day, we were talking about branding, that I see my brand as being aspirational, but not in the Dior sense of aspirational.” Not in terms of income, then, we suggest. “Not necessarily income, but more like, the things I look at, the messages that I put out there are positive, aspirational goals for people, but not necessarily a pretty bloke with a rich wife, swanning around in a Mercedes.

“I guess, again, it’s different every time. There are constants. Every season there are different end goals, different aesthetics I want to portray,” he muses. “Ultimately, I’m taking something quite normal and making it beautiful.”

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