As part of 2117, a collaborative project between LAW Magazine and Carhartt WIP to celebrate 100 years of the iconic Carhartt Chore Coat, we spoke to London-based designer Liam Hodges. Hodges created a custom Chore Coat for the accompanying 2117 publication, as well as a futuristic survival tent, created from spliced Carhartt WIP coats, mirroring elements of his own dystopian sportswear aesthetic. 2117 magazine is now available to check out in full at Carhartt WIP stores and select retailers.
“I think it was last October I finally stopped working in bars,” admits LIAM HODGES. It is a surprisingly frank statement — in fact, it’s surprising altogether when you consider that at this point, the designer had already kitted out the likes of Drake, A$AP Rocky and Stormzy. But as any London-based independent will attest, it is not a forgiving city, it looms over you, and the road to success moves like rush-hour traffic.
“I probably could have finished sooner, it was more just that safety net, you know? I think what I’m doing is alright but at what point is it that, if it starts going a bit wrong, I can still pay my rent?” Such honesty is refreshing. In an industry where perception is everything, it’s comforting to know that all of us suffer acute pangs of imposter syndrome at times. Hodges, however, is anything but — he’s the real deal. A larger-than-life character, crammed within a hulking six-foot-plus frame, with his trademark missing front teeth and an attitude to match, his eponymous label mirrors his own infectious insouciance.
“I don't take myself too seriously,” he smiles. “The world’s so shit you need to laugh every once in a while, otherwise it gets a bit too dark.” Having studied at London’s Royal College of Art, Hodges first made waves presenting his collection at Fashion East — the London menswear platform that has been seminal in showcasing the city’s finest emerging talent, including such luminaries as JW Anderson and Craig Green. Inspired by the likes of Cassette Playa and Antwerp Six member Walter Van Beirendonck, Hodges remembers when he first witnessed the latter’s “weird collection when it was like dick helmets,” (Spring/ Summer 2008). “I was like: This is funny and I like it. But it also kind of related to shit that I understand — it's not a boring suit.”
I think it was last October I finally stopped working in bars.
While Hodges’ dystopian sportswear aesthetic differs from that of the Belgian's, they both possess a deft ability to infuse a collection with both humour and a serious message. The designer’s first ever Fashion East presentation, for example, consisted of him and his mates sitting drinking cans of lager on a sofa at 10am as bemused fashion press watched on. It was partly pragmatic, he says. “I graduated three weeks before, and I knew I didn't want to use the models they were picking so I was like: Fuck it, I've got friends who can squeeze into [the clothes], we can get a belt or turn the trousers up if they're a bit too short, or whatever,” he laughs. “The sofa was from the roof of the bar I managed. It was just what I had access to, and it was kind of, ‘That's who that lad is.’
“I was serious,” he protests. Hodges often uses humour to introduce other ideas. “If people can't see past my point of view to a more serious conversation or an idea of a boy who does that but who also spends a shit load of money on clothes... if they aren't willing to have that conversation, assess that person as a customer, then they’re the ones who aren’t serious.”
Hodges isn’t all laddish bravado and sportswear, far from it. Each season, he forgoes a press release in favour of a poem penned by the illustrious street-poet Hector Aponysus. He enlisted the ever-insightful, frighteningly talented Gaika to handle the music for last season’s show. He also skips advertising campaigns — “How many of my customers are looking at campaigns in magazines?” — instead creating a zine. “It’s about connecting with people in a way that's more tangible,” he says.
It’s not that Hodges is on a one-man mission to dismantle fashion as we know it — and have a laugh and a bit of a piss-up while doing so — it’s simply that he’s from a new generation. Success, to him, looks different. “We always talk about an idea of aspiration, in the ideas we promote, the people we promote, the people we work with,” he says. “Modern aspiration is less about wealth of money; it's more about doing everything you want to do your own way. Obviously at some point you've got to make money to get by, but if you’re working a 9 – 5, getting on with it, and then spending your weekend making some sick pots because you're really into pottery, that’s banging. That’s more aspirational than getting rich and fucking hating your life.”
That doesn’t mean he has his feet up relaxing, there’s still a business to be run. He does, however, find ways to keep it amusing. “I couldn't sleep one night, so I did twelve cash flows of different things that might happen,” he says. “You find ways to make it mildly entertaining. Like how wrong could this go, how good could this go?” The worst case he figured? “Like trying to sell my mum or something,” laughs Hodges.
At the time of writing, Mrs Hodges is not for sale.