In celebration of the second installment of The Goods, I sat down with Jason Lingard at Revel cafe for a quick chat about his label of the same name. Turns out that the man himself had just returned to Auckland from a meeting with his Hamilton stockist The White Room, and after recharging with a power nap (a man after my own heart), popped over for some words with What’s Good before heading on over to his secondary office job. Productivity, fellas. I had a few questions for him regarding his creative process and the logistics behind the brand, so check out what Jason had to say below:
Your designs mainly implement natural fibres such as silks, cottons, wool and leather. What is behind this organic approach to textile use?
I think it’s about a connection to the Earth. There’s just something more romantic and interesting about natural fibres. Quality wise, as well, it just feels good against your skin. It's about the market, too, and what my customers want to be wearing; a warm wool in winter, a supple kind of leather as opposed to polyester, and there’s also environmental factors to consider - the impact of polyester against our ecosystem is horrendous because of its chemical constitution. Environmentally sound clothing is definitely a global trend at the moment, you just have to look at the proliferation of organic cotton… But, I do think that it’s more prevalent in New Zealand due to our heightened awareness of the environment, and concern for the natural world.
I know that you have a background in graphic design, how has it informed your current practice? I can imagine that it facilitates print design among other things.
Yeah. It was a bit tricky, because when I switched to fashion, I didn’t really appreciate printed clothing as such - so I deliberated for a very long time about including printed pieces in my collection, and experimented with a plethora of different textile prints until I found something gratifying. It would've been a pity to not utilise my graphic design skill set in my fashion practice, but it was just a lot of trial and error to find a print that I was happy with, could work into my collection, and paralleled my aesthetic. I designed and laid out the individual bones for the bone dress from ‘ANTI -‘ which went over really well, and I'm actually working on another one at the moment for my Fall collection ‘OMEN’ that has a whole lot of feathers to it - it’ll look like you’re wearing a feathered dress. Additionally, being able to carry my aesthetic through to my logo, my business card, my website, my campaign shots, I even retouch all my own images… Things like that, and just having creative control in terms of marketing and advertising.
You’ve said that Goth culture and dystopian universes are inspiring elements in your work, what is it about them that influences you?
I guess I’ve always been more drawn to the darker side… I was a Goth when I was a teenager, which was what ‘ANTI -‘ was about; it was about me listening to Marilyn Manson’s ”Antichrist Superstar.” I’m obsessed with dystopian science fiction as well, I really love the idea of utopia and dystopia. A lot of science fiction films present the idea of a utopian society where everyone is happy, society is uniform and regimented, but there’s always a dark twist or a dark undertone, something that’s wrong with the world…
Your breakout collection ‘ANTI -‘ is said to be semi-autobiographical in that it emotes nostalgia for your teenage years in the mid-90s, could one say that ‘ANTI -‘ was the embodiment of what you were wanting to wear and who you were wanting to be during those years?
No, not at all! I didn’t want it to be literal, not just the making of a 90s goth collection, and its not, when you look at it, it's not 90s at all - it was more about a feeling from that time.
Would you agree that your current collection ‘UJU’, meaning ‘universe’ in Korean, has a distinctly lighter and brighter feel to it in comparison to ‘ANTI -‘? Particularly due to the introduction of cosmic imagery and white into the collection’s palette.
Yes, I didn’t want to pigeonhole the label too much. ‘UJU’ presents as a lighter collection with its warped striping and metallics, but it still retains a dark undertone to it that grew out of that idea of the dystopian universe. When I first arrived in Korea, I was given an alien card that literally had my photo and the term ‘alien’ stamped onto it; it was a type of identification reserved only for foreigners and I found this very strange, even sinister. But I also liked how Seoul is scarily high tech - they have the fastest internet in the world, towering skyscrapers, everything is developing so quickly but then there’s also this very traditional and conservative approach to things: I was very inspired by this juxtaposition and wanted to create a collection that reflected all these things, which is where the melding of metallics and traditional silhouettes came in.
There’s some cool synergy in your use of holographic leather that is synonymous with the overarching concept of ‘UJU’.
I was being really indecisive with the theme for that collection; I had considered doing a sci-fi themed collection and then a Korean themed collection from my time in Korea, but then I realised that they could work together, and combined the two.
I remember when you first began designing for ‘UJU’ that you cited the Hanbok (traditional Korean robes) as a point of reference for your second collection. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?
I liked the idea of overlapping, asymmetry, and tied closures, which was quite a big contrast to the first collection which featured a lot of heavy metal hardware and zip closures. So, in UJU I tried to close everything with overlapping fabrics and material ties.
What is your approach to manufacturing and production? I know that some designers like Juliette Hogan do so from a material point of view, selecting their materials first and then designing with a fabric in mind, whereas others are design-oriented and make the textile suit the garment.
I always look at textiles last. I’ve never been a fan of textile shopping, possibly because my tastes are so specific I prefer to stick to a core group of fabrics; I have a really nice silk I like and a really nice wool as well that I re-use. I don't want my brand to be overly trend driven, so using the same materials over and over and using black over and over means that it won’t date too quickly in the sense that using printed fabrics can often be too much of a seasonal look.
In an earlier discussion you mentioned that your approaching Fall/Winter 2016 collection, ‘OMEN’ is one that really satisfies you personally and while it might be a smaller 10 piece collection it cements your brand aesthetic and sets the bar for future collections. Is there a narrative to ‘OMEN’ as there was with ‘ANTI -‘ and ‘UJU’?
There’s not as much of a narrative with ‘OMEN’ as there is with the other two. This time the process was a lot more natural; I did a lot of my designing in the pattern making process and didn't make any sketches at all, so I was working out of my head and jumping straight into pattern making and making toiles. I also did a bit of draping as well, combining draping and flat pattern-making in an organic process and often working straight off the dress forms. I re-watched a lot of old horror films that I’d seen growing up: the Omen, Poltergeist, the Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby… But it wasn’t about looking at the costuming and replicating what the characters were wearing, it was more about the feeling I was having while doing the flat pattern making and draping, which is a really different way of working.
Is ‘OMEN,’ as its name suggests, a prophecy of sorts or a foreshadowing of its Spring/Summer 2016 counterpart?
Yes, I really feel that this collection is an omen of what’s to come, it really defines the direction that I want the brand to take and in some ways feels like a starting point in terms of growth and development.
Though your label has only just turned a year old, Jason Lingard boasts stock-lists across the country ranging from Auckland through to Nelson, Hamilton, Wellington and Dunedin with an additional three on their way. Where do you think the label is headed for in the coming years?
At the moment, I’m mostly just focusing on building a reputation that suits my aesthetic and that will become synonymous with the label. My next challenge is going offshore so I also have to think about crafting a style that I can market internationally, but for now I’m concentrating on the New Zealand market and keeping things local!
Photography by Apela Bell for Jason Lingard SS15 UJU cookbook