Fabric of the City

If London is your home, and you are asked for how long that has been the case, maybe the truest answer anyone can give is “one day”. Every 24 hours, somewhere between the launch of the final night bus and the Crossrail workers’ retreat, London dies and in its place rises a new city – makeup retouched, mechanics slightly altered – to face the coming dawn. Monday London is radically different from Friday London. Brexit London will not resemble EU London. A London that had never known Luftwaffe bombing raids, the Rolling Stones, Darcus Howe, the Thames Whale, Lutfur Rahman, Todd Edwards, Cara Delevingne or Southern Rail would not really be London at all. In this context, it’s possible to see London itself not just as something physical and definite, but as an event that is taking place constantly in the imagination – an ongoing war of ideas, fought, while conscious and in dream, by a population of 9 or so million, relentlessly. At the peripheries, both real and imaginary, wait countless more ready to move in and leave their cultural mark.

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For Kent-born fashion designer Liam Hodges, London was an escape route – initially, at least: “Growing up, I always wanted to move here. When I went to art college, me and my friends would come up for nights out at White Heat or Old Blue Last or wherever, sleep at Victoria station and get the first train back. For me, it was all about finding something bigger and better than home.”

Eventually, inevitably, London turned into that home. Moving here permanently in 2007 and finding his feet in the eastern borough of Hackney, Hodges has carved out a position as one of the capital’s most compelling young designers, taking his place both in the lineage of East End fashion – Alexander McQueen, Cassette Playa, 18th century Huguenot silk-weavers – and the vanguard of those who get to define what London looks like today. Previous collections have found inspiration in the rituals and insignia of pirate radio and joyriding boy racers; big, bold lettering and neon camo colours made to stand out in a packed metropolis at the same time as they let you know they’re being worn by someone who belongs. After ten years, how much does London live in his work?

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“It’s a really big part of it,” he says, “but I’m not putting pictures of Big Ben on my clothes. It’s the atmosphere and the vibe you get – especially somewhere like the strip in Dalston – of going out: the club culture, the party vibe. It’s about being young and alive in a big, metropolitan city.”

It’s arguable that over the last decade, the strip Hodges refers to – a mile-long stretch of road that runs roughly from Visions bar just south of Dalston Junction up to Bar-A-Bar basement club – has been the epicentre of non-tourist nightlife not just in East London but the city as a whole. It must be a shock to the system to come from suburbia, as Hodges does, and find in the space of a 15-minute walk ten times the number of bouncer-guarded neon doorways as there are in the centre of your hometown. But he adjusted quickly enough, living in a room above and managing Catch bar in Shoreditch on four hours’ sleep a night before throwing himself more industriously into his work, which he does now from a studio at London College of Fashion on Mare Street.

“I’ve lived in Hackney since 2008,” he says. “A lot of the pubs feel like the local from home now – places like Bardens or the Alibi. There’s always a lot going on; Hackney as a borough has so many different areas and they’re all pretty unique. Bethnal Green is one thing, Shoreditch another. The mix of people, cultures and wealth in one place is quite inspiring.”

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Nightlife without fashion is like a peacock without feathers and the two worlds tend to enjoy a symbiotic relationship in London. Yet the clothes Hodges designs don’t feel like they will be subsumed at any point into a world of self-aware fashion parties and urban elitism. Pirate radio, boy racing – these are the kinds of things young people do before they move to and are jaded by a city like London. They are, again, forms of escape, whether that’s virtually, through the grace of a foil-wrapped aerial, or the physical act of jumping in an SR Nova or Seat Ibiza and driving off to find new worlds at speed. Hodges’ work feels like young masculinity asserting itself – something his career to date has mirrored as he’s set about dressing his adopted city in his image, garnering endorsements from every conceivable worthwhile press voice, the British Fashion Council’s vaunted NEWGEN scheme (McQueen, Matthew Williamson and Julien MacDonald are previous alumni) and A-list musicians like Drake, P. Diddy and FKA Twigs along the way.

“My collections have always been about things that groups of lads do together,” he explains. “There’s this idea of aspiration in those groups where it’s OK to do your own thing. Living in Hackney, I see a lot of the people around me, and we’re all trying to make our own way outside of just ‘turn up to work and get a job’. I’ve been here ten years, but it’s always been a bunch of kids who’ve managed to carve out a career where they don’t have to wear a suit every day to the office. Nowadays, living in Hackney, that sounds like a real simple thing. But actually, it’s not.”


The aversion to suits is one that makes sense. Why would you wear the same thing every day in a city that’s always changing?

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