Liam Hodges

MA Fashion Menswear, 2011–13

I first came to the Royal College of Art to help out my friend, Alex Mattsson, who was working on his collection for the Graduate Show. At the time I was coming to the end of my degree. I’d already thought about doing a Master’s at the RCA but doing that month at the College really convinced me – I got a real insight into the preparation for the show. The reputation of the College was a pull, but it was really the atmosphere that got me. It felt more like an art college and less of an educational institution.

Over the first summer, before starting, we had a personal project to do, with quite a loose brief. On the first big day, there were class presentations, and then up until Christmas, we went back into it and worked it into an outfit. I wanted to get around a lot of the machinery, so I made this weird suit, making my own fabric on the jacquard machine with the help of one of the technicians. My project was all about the riots and society: the graphics in the weave were dismantled – bits of the weave were floating apart. It was quite a challenge. I went in with that idea of pushing myself. I did that with each of the projects.

If you look at the Menswear course, all the tutors are very open – there’s no one thing such as tailoring that the programme is reputed for.  For example, one of my peers did super technical work, and what I did is just kind of weird. Then there’s Lucy who had all the gold mouth pieces. It’s a diverse range. They let you do what you want – it’s about finding who you are.

One of our technicians, Rosie, took so much pride in making sure everyone had a good enough understanding of making with all the different workshops she runs – the jeans workshops, the tailoring workshop – everyone has a high level ability. It’s where you take it from that’s completely up to you.

There are loads of competitions, which can really help students out. It’s really good for students to have so many opportunities. The Burton competition wasn’t the typical Menswear project. Rather than focusing on complete creativity, it was about catering for as wide an audience as possible. It was a good learning process, and gave a better understanding of the high street market. This was the same with the IFF and Joop project. They wanted a really good story. It’s good to see how it works in the real world, otherwise students leave not fully understanding the balance between commerciality and creativity. You do need to be able to work to a commercial market to progress. You need as much creativity to cater for mass market as you do to create something entirely your own. 

There are a lot of connections to be made at the RCA. With hindsight, there’s more stuff that I could have gone to while at the College. On the Menswear programme, you have a lot of guest-led tutor projects. We had Matthew Miller in the first year; we had the Burton project with the former head of Firetrap; we had Brian Kirkby of Boudicca; and people like Simon Foxton, whose work I’ve always looked to. His whole aesthetics in the 1990s was something I looked to. Knowing he came here was a big pull.

About a month before the graduate show, I applied for Fashion East. A week before the show, I was accepted on to it and told I had to do an installation. That was really great, but it was quick and I didn’t have much time. It did quite well off the back of the show here. From that I got one stockist in Dalston, and got another order from Tokyo a shop called Gr8. That was a real surprise because they’re quite a big store. For my first season, it’s more than I hoped for. Hopefully, in the long run my business will be sustainable.

I’ll always remember the people I studied with at the RCA. It’s such an intense time. You spend so much time together and go through so much. You don’t realise what great friends you’ve made until it’s all over.

Lorna Bilsborrow, Liam Hodges, Han Chul Lee
Lorna Bilsborrow, Liam Hodges, Han Chul Lee, 2013

"We’re encouraged to do what we want and are pushed further and further."
Liam Hodges profile image
Liam Hodges profile image