Spirit of the Eighties: Cult designer Pam Hogg is back in the spotlight
Monday 16 February 2009
Andy Warhol would have loved Pam Hogg. Resplendent in fringed ivory wool bolero jacket, zip-fronted black Spandex top with gleaming gold lightning stripes, and skin-tight optic-print leggings, all topped off with her trademark candyfloss pink curls, she herself is clearly among her greatest creations. With her opalescent green eyes, preternaturally pale powdered skin and full mouth painted a violent red there is more than a little of the living doll about her. Not that this should be misread as sugar-sweet: Hogg's throaty Glaswegian delivery and raucous explosions of laughter – not to mention a crucifix tattooed from wrist-bone to knuckles on her left hand – give the lie to that.
For the first time in a decade, the artist/ musician/fashion designer is taking to the stage at London Fashion Week. To describe this as a comeback would be misleading: anyone familiar with the London party circuit will be quick to testify that Hogg has never been away. It is true, however, that there is renewed interest in her aesthetic. Let's call it a buzz. In October, the designer emporium Browns gave its windows over to her gothically charged collection, neatly timed to coincide with Hallowe'en. "I met Mrs B," she says of that store's legendary proprietor, Joan Burstein. "How classy is that woman, how dignified, how fantastic." Later this week the launch issue of Katie Grand's Condé Nast biannual LOVE has a feature dedicated to her work, shot by David Sims and Joe McKenna, no less.
Endorsements such as these are worth their weight in gold. It is small wonder, then, that OnOff, the independent arm of the twice-yearly designer collections in the UK, have chosen to sponsor a Hogg show. Daisy Lowe and Jaime Winstone have both offered their services as models, Hogg says; Andy Weatherall is mixing the soundtrack. "He said he'd have been more concerned if I hadn't asked him." The Dazed and Confused fashion editor, Katie Shillingford, is styling the show. Siouxsie Sioux, meanwhile – who wore Pam Hogg for her 2008 tour and made a guest appearance on her catwalk way back when – will take pride of place alongside any other self-respecting cult icon front row.
"I've been itching to show for the past three seasons," Hogg says on a frosty Monday morning at her temporary studio in East London, two weeks before the big day. "I knew I was going to come back to fashion at some point, although I didn't know when – that's how I am. I've got no money, of course. It's all about goodwill. The only reason I'm sitting here in this studio is because of the generosity of my friends."
Hogg has nothing as obvious as a design assistant. Now, as always, she cuts, sews and fits all the samples herself, though for the first time she is using a dressmaker's dummy or two – until now, she used her own body as a template. "There are five pieces that are pretty much finished," she says, "20 more that are almost there. I do have some fresh fabric, but raising money is obviously difficult right now, so I'm also recycling things that I've had in my basement for years."
The make-do-and-mend spirit that dominates her designs hasn't stopped bright young things such as Rihanna and Roisin Murphy sporting them. Kylie Minogue appeared in a metal mesh-studded catsuit of Hogg's design in the video for "2 Hearts". Hogg Couture is back on the map.
"I would love a personal assistant," Hogg says. "I would love a business person. I've never had a full-time seamstress. When I got the order from Browns I don't think they understood that just myself and a sample machinist were actually physically making most of the clothes." When she dressed the windows in Browns, "Mr B was ace. We got on like a house on fire, although I think he might have thought I was the new shop girl at first."
A whole generation of late-Eighties/early-Nineties stylists, however, know exactly who Pam Hogg is and how she works, and realise that her ability to turn something visually striking out of basically nothing is highly in tune with the times.
"Everything has been so homogenised," Hogg says. "And the big money has been ploughed into wearable items." Apart from a few notable exceptions – she names Westwood and McQueen – "there's not all that much energy out there." For her part, Hogg has energy in spades. "I know what it's like to work with no money. I'm used to it, although I would love proper sponsorship to be able to reach my full potential. If you're determined to work, and that is your whole aim, then not having money won't stop you. With the big money gone, people will maybe start remembering where they started from."
Pam Hogg was born and grew up in Glasgow. I ask her age. "Put it this way: I was a Blitz kid, so I'm not in my 30s." She studied fine art and printed textiles at the Glasgow School of Art, and went on to receive a scholarship and complete a Masters at London's Royal College of Art. In the late Seventies she joined her first band, Rubbish, supporting the Pogues in their infancy. Though she had been making her own clothes since she was a child, it wasn't until the mid-Eighties that she began designing a fully fledged collection. It first sold in the fashionable haven for up-and-coming designers Hyper Hyper, in Kensington High Street, and then in her own shop in Soho's Newburgh Street.
In 1993 Hogg formed a new band, Doll, supporting Debbie Harry. In the late Nineties she showed again at London Fashion Week and made a short film, Accelerator, starring Anita Pallenberg, Patti Palladin and Bobby Gillespie. In 2003 Jason Buckle, a musician who has collaborated with Jarvis Cocker, encouraged her to start yet another band, Hoggdoll. In 2004 she met the Spanish-born curator Xabier Arakistain at the opening of the Westwood retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and two years later he invited her to exhibit her music, film and clothing in a group show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Vigo, entitled Switch On the Power, alongside the work of Yoko Ono, Leigh Bowery, Kraftwerk and – but of course – Andy Warhol. Hogg produced two promos for the show, casting herself and friends – including Siouxsie Sioux and The Kills' Alison Mosshart – all wearing new designs inspired by metals and reflective surfaces.
"I just think the time's really right for Pam Hogg," says Katie Grand, speaking from LOVE's office in Clerkenwell. "People could have been referencing her for the last decade because of the whole Eighties, body-conscious revival, but they haven't – perhaps because there's this snobbish element suggesting maybe you have to put a frill here or a button there. Her work's much more direct than that."
It is the hands-on immediacy of Hogg's designs, Grand argues, that makes them so appealing. "You know that Pam Hogg has probably sewn most of the collection in her front room, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the orders started coming in. I think it's really brilliant that she's showing, really brilliant and refreshing, and I can also see a parallel between what she's doing and what I'm doing. At a time when you're not supposed to be starting anything new or spending any money, both of us are actually launching things."
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