Pam Hogg: interview with avant-garde fashion designer
Louder Than War’s Andrew Twambley and photographer Melanie Smith attended the preview night of avant-garde fashion designer Dr Pam Hogg’s first solo retrospective exhibition ‘Divine Disorder‘ and followed this up with an interview.
Scottish born and educated at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College in London she continued to push the boundaries of design and innovation to such an extent that anyone who is anyone in the world of fashion, flock to her shows at London Fashion Week each season, all styled and created by Pam. Her designs are worn by stars such as Kate Moss, Taylor Swift, Jessie J, Kylie, Paloma Faith, Lady Gaga, Debbie Harry and Siouxsie Sioux.
So it was exhilarating to discover that Pam was exhibiting her first solo exhibition in Liverpool, co-curated by Duo Visions James Lawler and Martin Green. The exhibition ‘Divine Disorder’ is a culmination of art, fashion and photography, which includes collaborations with photographers Rankin; Nadia Lee Cohen; Jake Walters and Ellen Von Unwerth, other photos on display by Juergen Teller and Harley Weir. a veritable feast for the eyes and not to be missed.
In order to truly understand the unconventional challenging and provocative style of super designer, Pam Hogg, we need to go back in time to the late 70s early 80’s. Nobody was getting past co-founder of the Blitz Club Steve Strange (who fiercely policed the door) wearing jeans and a T shirt. Flamboyance and originality was essential, so Pam designed her own outfits in order to gain entrance to the most outrageous New Romantic club in London, where she would rub shoulders with the likes of David Bowie, Billy Idol, Spandau Ballet, Boy George and all the other faces and style icons of the era.
Louder Than War: As early as 1990, you were described by Terry Wogan as having reached “cult status”. How did you feel about that at such an embryonic point in your career?
Pam: That was kind of crazy. My work resonating so far and so fast completely took me by surprise. I’m totally self-taught with no PA or PR to push me to the limelight, so having a world out there who got it was amazing. Through my work I’ve connected and made bonds with the most incredible people and it continues.
The general public probably know you best as a brave edgy fashion designer, but you have had quite a grounding in rock music. If you had to chose between fashion and music…….could you…and why?
For me music and fashion are intertwined, but I’ve had to put one before the other as there is just never enough time. I hadn’t intended to be a fashion designer, you could say it was my destiny; practically speaking it was the one I could just get on with by myself.
Your early musical adventures commence with Rubbish, supporting the Pogues, and moving onto Pig Face” and Doll, supporting Debbie Harry. Do you have any plans to further your musical career?
I’d like the clocks to slow down as there is not even enough time to do the fashion side, but a few years ago I was invited to interpret a song for an album of unrecorded tracks taken from lowfi tapes found in Jeffrey Lee Pierce of the Gun Club’s bedroom after he died. I was as blown away to be asked as the contributors range from Nick Cave to Debby Harry to Iggy Pop, I was caught up in too much work the first time I was asked but I’ve half recorded a track for the next album.
If you had to chose your 5 favourite albums of all time, what would they be and why?
What a difficult question.
1. The first album I bought was by Leonard Cohen, songs of Love and Hate, so that has to be there.
2. Fire of Love by Gun Club broke me up when I heard Jeffrey Lee Pierces voice.
3. Pere Ubu Dub Housing, same thing, this time David Thomas’s voice.
4. Psycocandy Jesus & Mary Chain, they encompassed everything, a landscape I felt I never wanted to leave.
5. Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division was the first album I heard John Peel play. I had a Dancette record player on the floor in my room and drove everyone crazy as it would play over and over and I’d fall asleep to it, the neighbours could hear it through the walls.
This isn’t even a question but tell me about how amazing Nick Cave is and how long you have admired him and his work.
Another Magazine asked me to write about him a few years ago, with so little time and so much to say I thought best to read and glean from this below!
“The first time I saw Nick Cave perform was with The Birthday Party at the Electric Ballroom in 1981 or 82. I was totally blown away. It was love. The energy was unreal. You could feel it, he howled to the core of you. He was such a presence: untamed, wild, free, crazy, enigmatic, charismatic, mesmerising, menacing… an incredible ball of fire! It was total: the big hair, those eyes – the don’t-give-a-damn clothes. He owned the room!
I saw him hundreds of times with The Bad Seeds. He was everything you’d want on stage with this jerky swagger and assured, strutting sexy sway. You couldn’t take your eyes off him. He’d taken to wearing suits and shirts and waistcoats, and his hair wasn’t quite so unruly then, but it made his movements all the more unsettling.
The suits were perfect, it’s still the best look he has today – it just works for him. I also loved him in the ‘Nick the Stripper’ video where he’s just written HELL across his chest, and that tall wild hair. I’m not into facial hair as a rule but I loved his Grinderman look with the handlebar moustache. It gave him that bad dude look and worked well with his suit – like an old time outlaw.
When we first got to know each other in 1995 he asked me to go to his tailor with him and give my advice on the fabric for a new suit. We have similar tastes, so I think we connect in that way. We also both have a strong work ethic and respect for each other. He’s since mentioned that when I get round to tailoring he’d like me to make him a suit… so perhaps he’ll be my first client?
Great style isn’t just about the clothes – it’s all encompassing. Nick doesn’t hide behind anyone or anything. He finds meaning in every word and means every word he says. He’s a driven individual and whatever fires him up he goes for it and gives his all. He’s never lost that force.”
I’m totally for rebuild at whatever cost, and I’ve offered my services in any way I can to help raise funds.
With the recent devastating second fire I posted this quote, it was the one i scribbled moments before I was to receive my honorary Doctorate last year. “Arriving at the Charles Rennie Macintosh building was like landing on another planet. I hadn’t been exposed to anything like it before….the insane design…. the irregularities….the unexpected corners ….the craftsmanship…it hit me like a shockwave of joy .. it was a place that before this moment in time had never existed but where instinctively I knew I’d always wanted to be .. it drew me in like a life force .. it was the catalyst that was to forge a brand new life”
You have designed for more iconic women than anyone I can think of. Who would you love to design for? (Personally, I would love to see collaboration between yourself and Dame Helen Mirren).
All the incredible women who have worn my pieces have come to me, so I haven’t had to think about that as they’ve chosen from what they’ve seen and tried on.
I adore Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Glenda Jackson, Dame Judy Dench. I’d love to create something for them, all my work is a challenge and a puzzle I have to solve, so for someone like Judy Dench for example it would have to be as respectful and exciting and open as she is. I’d fit around their personalities. I’d also love to dress Cher and Grace Jones. Grace stroked my black PVC clad legs one night not so long ago and discovered I made catsuits. We bonded immediately, so hopefully that’s on the cards sometime in the future.
Men don’t play a major part in your shows. Do you have any plans to disrupt the male fashion world?
One day I’d love to, just no time or finances at present.
Greek mythology tells of nine muses providing people with inspiration in arts and science. Who are your muses and how do they inspire you?
Great question, so wish I had a fitting answer, but I don’t have any muses, I just create through the whirling mass of ideas in my head, I make everything on myself, so I guess you could say I’m my own muse.
Your recent collections celebrate strong women, but not aggression. What was your thinking behind that?
You don’t need to be aggressive to be powerful, quite the opposite. If you feel good within yourself you’re at one, power is taking back control, being strong in knowing who you are.
Tell me about Pussy Riot and what first attracted you to their cause? Have you ever worried about unsavoury characters watching you as a result?
I’m strong in my beliefs and if I find myself in a position to in any way right a wrong then I’m in like a shot without a thought of consequence.
The Gallery in Liverpool is one of the most exciting and forward thinking spaces, in the North West to exhibit. It is the choice of the many discerning and explosive artists. Did they come to you or did you seek them out?
They came to me, I’ve known Martin since Smashing Days, the eccentric club he used to run and DJ at. Both Martin and James had said they’d me in mind for a show for quite some time and felt now was the perfect moment as its the 100th year of Women’s rights and had particularly wanted to represent outsider women in Art.
I’m actually never satisfied. My work is a continuation; I rework ideas over and over as I know there’s always another directions to take and so much to build on. It’s just about moving forward and exploring what’s in my head, working out and solving the puzzle, that’s the joy of it. I love that the exhibition feels like its one, that its not obvious as to what date anything was completed, I don’t think that matters as I feel it works as a whole.
And finally you admit that you operate in a world of disorder, disruption and disarray. How many wet towels have you left on your hotel room floor?
When I arrived not enough. I had to ask for more as there were only 2 towels and they were used in seconds. The chambermaid eventually got wise, when I opened the door she had a tower of them piled high enough to cover the whole room.
Please note: Use of these images in any form without permission is illegal. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The exhibition is open until 26th August 2018, opening hours are Tuesday – Sunday 12-4pm @ The Gallery, 41 Stanhope Street, Liverpool L85RE
Exhibition photos and Pam (standing by her artwork) by Melanie Smith. More work by Mel on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Photography portfolio can be found here
Photography in the exhibition in collaboration with Pam Hogg by Rankin; Nadia Lee Cohen; Jake Walters and Ellen Von Unwerth, additional photos by Juergen Teller and Harley Weir.