tomorrowland jacket w/draped collar, lambskin & recycled leather, $1,245, by custom order
ruffle skirt, rayon jersey w/recycled vintage lace slip, $210, by custom order
tribal fusion pendant necklace, $95, by custom order
What is your background in fashion and accessory design?
When I was about 14, I became inspired to learn how to sew. My mom pulled out her old 1970s mint green Singer, taught me how to thread the bobbin, patted me on the ass, and said, “have fun.” I started making really unique, but very badly sewn clothes, and continued to do so throughout high school. I credit much of my creative path to the teenage years I spent in the rave scene, in Buffalo and Toronto. I was inspired not only by the music, but by the people I met from all different walks of life who came to revel until the wee hours of the morning in the most fantastic and ridiculous outfits I have ever laid eyes on. I fell in love with this unapologetic self-expression, and thus began my affair with adornment. My “official” education came from Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, NY) where I studied fashion design, costume, and cultural studies. During my time at Pratt I interned with NYC accessory designer, Kelly Horrigan, to whom I credit my leather-working skills.
Do you find yourself influenced by other designers or past movements in fashion and costuming? Or do you find that more of your influence comes from outside fashion culture, looking more into ethnic influences, mass media, naturalism etc.?
I find that I’m most inspired by groups of people, tribes, I guess you could say, both ancient and modern. Native people in this country, in Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. And also the nomadic wanderers and spiritual seekers who make their pilgrimages each year to places like Goa, Burning Man, and Bali. This emerging modern tribal culture is one that offers a different approach to fashion and adornment – one that is entwined with conscious evolution.
What current designers do you follow? Who is creating clothing that excites you?
There are a handful of well-known designers that I adore: Rick Owens, Robert Cary-Williams, Alexander McQueen, Jordan Betten of Lost Art, Jean Paul Gaultier, Haider Ackermann, along with several lesser-known designers. I can appreciate most contemporary fashion on many different levels, but I can’t say that most of it inspires or excites me. It’s the designers (whether famous or independent) who are unafraid, to create something outlandish, to go against the grain, to incorporate aspects of performance into their shows, to use models who challenge the standards of beauty, to look to counter-culture rather than pop culture, these are the people who really speak to me.
avenger cape, recycled linen, $270, by custom order
dakini feathered hair adornment, $58
You work with a lot of natural materials as well as reworking existing and vintage designs, is the concept of reuse and renewal important to your work?
Absolutely. One of the things I was resistant to at the start of my fashion schooling was the wastefulness and materialism of this industry. I had a huge chip on my shoulder in the beginning. I didn’t want to admit that I was a part of the team, and my attitude created issues with my superiors. What I didn’t understand at that time was that I could be a part of the team, and still find a way to honor this earth, and the yogic lifestyle I had embraced years before. I design the way I do for aesthetic purposes, but also because it reflects how I feel about the way we live with respect to the natural world. It’s important to me to find a way to be in this industry without leaving a huge footprint behind me.
What sort of projects can we expect from you in the future?
I’m participating in the Runway and Mass Appeal Shows this year and my vision grows more expansive with each show. I’m sure they’ll just continue to get weirder from this point on. I’ll be offering a series of designer trunk shows in Buffalo this year, and vending at festivals across the US this summer. I’m also working to manifest production on my ready-to-wear and clothing-for-movement collections, which will probably require a very wealthy benefactor who wants to spend boatloads of money on a visionary young designer… know anyone?
As movements such as the banning of models under a certain Body mass index from certain fashion shows and the use of plus sized models in magazines like V becomes more prevalent, do you think the standards of beauty are becoming more democratized?
I really hope so. For my thesis project at Pratt, I created a costume collection inspired by many different cultures across the world that honor or embody their relationship with the Divine through ritual dance and adornment. Rather than runway models, I used dancers from different cultural dance backgrounds, and they were built like WOMEN strong, powerful, curvy. One of these girls was an amazing tribal bellydancer, with a much bigger body than what our country is used to seeing on a runway. I chose her for this reason. She was beautiful, and one of the sickest dancers I knew. The show was juried, and her outfit nearly escaped being cut from the final show, by just one vote. When we got the critic’s comments back, several had written scathing comments about my model being overweight and unfit for a runway. There was nothing, however, about what we were really supposed to be judged on design, theme, fit of the garments, etc. This is what just kills me about the fashion industry.
More importantly, do you think that couture fashion is becoming more accessible to the mainstream as people become more style conscious, and therefore models need to represent their buyers more in an effort to have people relate to the clothing more?
I think elements of couture, avant-garde, and counter-cultural fashion always have a way of creeping into the mainstream, but I also think that pressure to subscribe to popular culture is strong enough that the mainstream will never fully embrace the fashion that exists on the fringes of normalcy. There are fashion designers, dancers, and performance troupes that are incredibly famous inside of their particular scene, but are still not household names. While the mainstream will always be the majority, what I do see happening is a vast growth in the underground. Each year, as well-known designers sample from the underground for their fashion week collections, and as shops like Forever 21 start to throw in design elements borrowed from DIY subcultural movements, the mainstream gets a glimpse, a taste of this “other side”. And each year, a few bold souls get inspired enough to do their homework, find out where this taste came from, and dive head-long into the depths of the avant-garde.
Do you see this allowing alternative models to gain a greater visibility going into the future with certain major lines and collections?
Absolutely. As different facets of the culture evolve, there are more opportunities for beautiful people who break the mold. Although an “alternative” model may never grace the cover of Vogue, they may catch the eye of one of those fearless designers who would gladly put them on the runway.
flamenco bustle skirt, poly organza, one-of-a-kind
warrior wrap halter, stretch chiffon / rayon jersey / deer skin leather / brass chain, one-of-a-kind
snake charmer macrame hip wrap, cotton and brass coin, $315, by custom order
Do you create your pieces with a specific end user in mind, crafting pieces to work with a clients look? Or do you make your clothes for yourself first, to become and extension of your own fashion and style desires?
I guess a little bit of both. My aesthetic is an extension of myself, my soul, my vital essence. Much of my work comes in the form of custom commissions, but because my style is so distinct, people who come to me for custom work are usually seeking something that looks like it was birthed from my vision. I do, however, work in a way that honors the unique essence of each client. Some of my work is really flamboyant, which isn’t for everyone. If someone comes to me seeking something simpler and understated, but with the same flavor of my other work, I enjoy challenging myself to tone it down a bit. The result is always rewarding.
How important is supporting your own local fashion and fashion education scenes in the northeast to you?
I am honored to be a part of the small but thriving fashion scene here! Folks in larger cities often scoff at the local art and fashion scenes in smaller places where less wealth is circulating, but in the year and a half I’ve been here, I’ve met some incredibly gifted artists, and I’ve been able to live affordably enough to really devote myself to building my independent business. As a teenager, I felt stuck and often uninspired living here, but after nearly a decade away, I feel so differently about what this place has to offer. For this reason, I feel I will always support local projects, productions, and artists. In the months to come, I hope to build, work, and collaborate with other visionaries to continue growing this local scene.
more of Morgan Love’s Designs can be seen at her etsy store : www.ironandfire.etsy.com
photography and interview : Luke Copping
model : Kerry Quaile
makeup artist : Shianne Valletta
hair stylist : Kristin Draudt