Text by Anna Battista
Tonight’s Met Costume Institute Gala – informally known as the “Met Ball” – will mark this year the opening of the “Savage Beauty” exhibition, an event celebrating the career of the late British designer Alexander McQueen.
Flamboyant heiress and couture collector Daphne Guinness will be getting ready for the event in an unlikely place, one of the windows of New York’s department store Barneys. For six weeks and starting from May 2, the windows will also showcase pieces from her own closet and, as a tribute to McQueen, items from the collection of the late Isabella Blow, hats by Philip Treacy and pieces by jewellery designer Shaun Leane. Barneys’ windows will also feature designs created for Daphne Guinness by Hogan McLaughlin.
A former dancer, artist and designer McLaughlin recently rose to the attention of the media after “meeting” Guinness on Twitter. McLaughlin sent Guinness his book The Homicidal Heiress, a collection of drawings about a couture-clad fatal woman with a penchant for poisoning or garrotting with style. Intrigued by McLaughlin’s drawings that at times seem to re-enact in a fashion key Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies, Guinness commissioned the young artist a corset, a cat suit in which stretch panels seem to slash and chop the fabric while seams trace the contour of the body like surgical incisions revealing underneath pulsing bleeding muscles, and a pair of shoes dubbed by the media the “knife boots” for their dynamically sharp bayonet-shaped wings.
There are echoes of Alexander McQueen and Thierry Mugler’s haute couture designs in McLaughlin’s elongated silhouettes and in his designs that combine together fetishism, bondage and issues such as protection and empowerment.
Zoot Magazine: Do you consider yourself an artist or a fashion designer?
Hogan McLaughlin: I have been drawing since I can remember, mainly Disney characters as a child. I think studying those characters helped me to teach myself a basic, semi-proportional human form. From there, I kept refining my personal style, and still do. My process is very evolutionary, whether or not I’m conscious of it. But I’ve never been trained in fashion construction or drawing – I dislike being monitored. I would much rather discover things on my own. I think I’d consider myself both an artist and a fashion designer! I think both, for me, are heavily referential of each other. I try to treat every sketch as an art piece. I have 9-foot ink drawings that could be used as a basis for a fashion piece. I am very new to fashion production but I don’t have my own line. Of the drawings that have been made, each has been constructed with a great deal of care, for example, I just finished a corset for the Barneys windows that took over 150 hours of work. I would still consider those fashion pieces as art.
Zoot Magazine: You trained as a dancer, do ballet costumes inspire you?
Hogan McLaughlin: I’ve trained in ballet since age 2. At 16, I joined one of America’s top contemporary ballet companies. Rather than costumes, I think that the physicality of the movement was more of an inspiration. It really helped me to understand the human body and how it functions, because I had to use my own with a heightened sense.
Zoot Magazine: Is there a costume or fashion designer you find particularly intriguing or inspiring?
Hogan McLaughlin: I love the way Gareth Pugh cuts and uses lines. Of course, I loved Alexander McQueen’s designs that were always supported by a brilliant knowledge of proper tailoring. Another one is Branimira Ivanova, a Chicago-based designer, she helped me to construct the aforementioned corset. Her knowledge of corsetry and construction in general is amazing.
Zoot Magazine: Who is the Homicidal Heiress in your book?
Hogan McLaughlin: No heiress in particular. I just thought it’d be cute.
Hogan McLaughlin: 100%! Gorey – whether I know it or not – is always a bit present in whatever I do. The Homicidal Heiress was actually inspired by The Gashlycrumb Tinies, though I must admit that it was hard to find designers once I came to the oddest letters…
Zoot Magazine: Is it true Daphne Guinness got in touch with you via Twitter (http://twitter.com/in_a_cabin)?
Hogan McLaughlin: We both, more or less, found each other. I had sent a few drawings via Twitter, she wrote back, and it all sort of snowballed from there.
Zoot Magazine: What inspired the knife boots and catsuit you did for Daphne Guinness?
Hogan McLaughlin: I had actually drawn the pieces prior to our meeting – it’s funny, now the shoes are being called “knife boots”, but when I first imagined them, they were more like wings. For the Gala she will be wearing McQueen since the evening is in his honour and remembrance.
Zoot Magazine: Did you find it challenging designing these pieces for her and how did you feel meeting her?
Hogan McLaughlin: The only challenge was fabric shopping, which I’d never done before. I knew what I wanted but everything is very final once you get the fabric. I think when we met, we were both relieved. We both think in similar ways, not only artistically. It felt, at least for me, that we had known each other for years.
Zoot Magazine: Was it difficult to find a craftsman who could make the pieces?
Hogan McLaughlin: I was lucky enough to have worked with great industry insiders for the shoes and the cat suit, but, really, I just needed incentive to open my eyes to what is around me. While in Chicago working on the corset, I began visiting places I never knew existed and places that you don’t need to have a name to present your ideas to.
Hogan McLaughlin: I am ecstatic, but definitely trying to keep a level head. I’m currently a little worse for wear. Last night, I caught a redeye flight from Chicago to New York after having worked 3 days with absolutely no sleep. My state of mind is a little swirly…
Zoot Magazine: Will your pieces also be featured in the Daphne Guinness exhibition at The Museum at FIT that will take place later on this year (from September 2011 to January 2012)?
Hogan McLaughlin: I’m not sure but it’d be great!
Zoot Magazine: What are your plans for the future?
Hogan McLaughlin: Who knows? I think that it’s important for me to take a few garment construction courses. It can only help my personal evolution!
Drawings and photographs courtesy of Hogan McLaughlin; Daphne Guinness photographs by Markus and Indrani