IMAGES: Henry Hargreaves-www.henryhargreaves.com
CASTING/STYLING/PRODUCER: John Tan
GROOMING: Yinna Wang-www.yinnawang.com
Special thanks to Corinna Ellen Springer and Michael Schwartz at Nouveau PR for their support.
Thomas Engel Hart F/W 2009-www.thomasengelhart.com
10 QUESTIONS WITH
THOMAS ENGEL HART
Designer: Thomas Engel Hart
Homebase: Originally from New York City, now based in Paris, France
Number of Collections: Relaunch in 2008, developing the 3rd
1. Could you tell us about your background and what led you to a career in fashion?
I was born in New York in the 1970s—lucky me, huh? I always was into clothing and getting dressed up—this must have reached its zenith in the '90s when all we ever did was get ready to go out, go out, stumble hime, and then make some new clothes so we could get ready to go out. Anyway, at some point I must have realized the eventual futility in all this so decided to do my best to apply my passion to the workplace and to this end I wound up at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology).
2. Since you were born and raised in NYC, do you miss being in NYC? What are some of your fond memories?
Honestly, New York is a part of me so I can't say I miss it when I'm not there. That said I'm always happy to hear the first rude taxi driver, eat my first slice, and see my favorite skyline. My fondest memories? My grandmother in her apartment at 34th and 3rd Avenue, the Pyramid club, and one night my last visit, walking across town at dusk in a light rain, which made everything look like some Steichen print.
3. As a graduate from FIT, do you see a difference between fashion students today vs. when you were in school? What advice would you give to the students who are aiming for a career path such as yours?
Work your ass off, and then some. And if you don't feel it—don't do it.
4. You are one of the select few designers who have also styled editorials for fashion magazines on occasion...could we get some insight as to your process in taking on these assignments?
I love clothing and style so really, styling is as valid a way for me to talk about my ideas as my collection—it's just a different set of elements being used. And it takes less time, which is great as well. When I do a story, it's out of love for fashion and images, really—I am a big fan of photography and I am lucky to be able to work with some great photographers for these projects.
5. For three years, you were at the helm of relaunching Thierry Mugler Homme as creative director. Could you tell us your experience working there and why you feel this is the time to move on and reintroduce your collection again?
Doing Mugler was great, but there is a point when you need to ask yourself, where is this going? And depending on the answer, you make your decision. I am certainly very proud of my work there and wouldn't change it for the world, but after 3 years I knew that the future for me was not there. So doing my own collection came naturally, as what I do is make clothing!
6. Your current and previous collections have elements of subverted culture as their themes—bondage in the current collection and a Japanese typographical motif mixed with glam in the previous collection. It seems most designers have a connection with the dark side vs. the light side. Will we ever see the light from you?
If you want to see the light, I think there's plenty of "happy" designers out there...but I don't really consider my universe "dark" anyway—it's playful, cultured and fun. Life is full of contrasts, and I dig a campy old horror movie as much as the next guy, but I also consider children the most amazing thing in the world. So there you go—I am not afraid to dibble and dabble in the influences in my creative universe, to come up with an exotic cocktail of dark and light for your fashion enjoyment!
7. Youth and rebellion have always been strong emphases in menswear fashion, yet a lot of the young guys cannot afford the designer collections that are created with them in mind. What are your views regarding this?
This is nothing new, although designers sure do love to wax poetic about "the cusp of youth," et cetera (although I am not one of said designers). Having been young, poor and way into fashion, I think that young people have a helluva lot of stuff on their side and that with a little ingenuity and even less money they can look pretty fucking cool.
8. As a fashion designer, there are many aspects of the job that most ordinary folk are not aware of that come with the territory...designing is only fraction of the process, from the organic creative thought process, sketching, selecting fabrics and construction to presentation, press/sales, production and shipping. Could you tell me which phase you enjoy the most and which phase you dislike the most and why?
I love it when we receive a fabric and then it goes from being some flat, rolled-up tube in the corner to some cool jacket hanging on the rack—I love to gather all these elements (inspiration, fabrics, buttons, leathers...) and then transform them into a three-dimensional form that can go on a human body. What do I like the least? Maybe the week after the show, when all the craziness subside and not yet begun again...that's my down time.
9. How do you determine which model is right for your image of your collection? Is it purely based on a look or personality...or both?
They have to look good and be cool—there's not much question about it. Thomas Engel Hart guys are intelligent, cool and sexy—be they models or whatever the fuck they do! So yeah, it's both. A little personality will take you a long way in this world.
10. Can a designer be designing for the young forever? How would you like to see yourself evolve as you mature with age?
I hope it happens organically—I don't really think "young"when I design, since as I said before, I'm not particularly obsessed with youth—I'm obsessed by personalities, really. Personal expression, strenght of character—that's what gets me out of bed in the morning. Youth is a wonderful gift while you've got it but once it's gone, well life sure doesn't end! I think that cool is without age.
11. Bonus Question: What is your motto in life?