'Project Runway’s' 'Original Tomboy' Alicia Hardesty Talks Fashion and Being Out
Jenna Lyons and Patricia Field aside, there are just not a lot of lesbians visible in fashion. Do you have a role model in that realm?
In terms of fashion, not really, not like lesbian specific. I have some style icons that I sort of look to. Patricia Field is very cool. I was so excited that she was on the first show because just the way she came dressed to the show, I was like, “Yes finally we get somebody who I can relate to.”
Chanel was a big influence for me just because I thought she was a really cool lady; she’s not really a lesbian role model for me, but just because of what she’s done for women’s fashion and women wearing pants and all of that. That kind of stuff is what really sticks out to me versus, you know, sexuality.
Who are your other style icons?
I really dig Tilda Swinton. I think she just has such a cool style, and she’s able to stand with the rest on the red carpet and be very elegant but she’s very different at the same time. She’s not out there with the next Oscar de la Renta gown; she’s doing something different.
And then Ellen DeGeneres—she’s the most visible especially for the lesbian community and just for the public in general, which is why I do like her so much. She’s all over the country and everyone really likes her. She has this personality and this sense of humor that everyone likes and everyone relates to. Her style is very lesbian, and then people kind of ignore that part and they’re just very cool with it, so it presents us in a very positive light, especially with fashion.
I can see both of those women actually fitting in your own line, Original Tomboy, that kind of women’s menswear with a retro feel.
You call it “brand new and Tom Sawyer like all at once.” Can you tell me a little bit about how that line came about?
This Tom Sawyer aspect comes from using my childhood as inspiration and growing up in the country in Kentucky. I was a tomboy. I was always outside and I never liked tucking in my shirts. I didn’t like dresses and I’ve always been very stubborn and just wanted to do what I wanted to do.
I didn’t understand rules and all of that, especially when it comes to dress so I just thought that was a clever and cute way to kind of put it, Original Tomboy. And then I have the whole vintage Kentucky, or vintage South [influence]. At the same time I use these other things as my inspiration but I bring in some very modern details and I want to get more into using different kind of fabrics and really moving forward with the fashion industry, but keeping that Tom Sawyer aspect to the brand.
Growing up in Kentucky, obviously that really influenced your work. Now you’re living in Los Angeles, are you seeing it impact your work as well?
I lived in New York before here and I think what impacts me with LA is the casual aspect with fashion, or the big impact that knits and denim have on the industry out here. I’ve been able to incorporate that into my line. I never really had any solid denim experience. For example, I’ve been mostly in men’s knits and wovens, and with this line, I’ve really been able to get into stuff that I’ve always wanted to work on. Los Angeles has made that easy for me because knits are just everywhere out here. And there are plenty of places where you can get your denim samples and work on some washes. I think that’s a big thing that LA has offered me, is to work on what I’ve been wanting to work on.
It’s hard for masculine women to find clothes made for them and there have been a few designers who have tried to make a go of that and haven’t succeeded long term. What’s kind of different about what you’re doing?
Sometimes it seems like people who get these brands started, they don’t have a strong foot in the fashion industry, and I think that’s where some of the problems come in. I feel like with my fashion background and just my style as a designer in general it offers Original Tomboy something different; it makes it stand out.
I want to create something that lesbians really attach themselves to because they want to wear it and it makes them feel good. I want them to be able to buy things that they like, but I’m also creating a brand that sort of is almost like a crossover. I want the feminine girls to be able to buy it too, like if they really like the stuff and they can style it differently, they can wear heels instead of sneakers and they can belt it and make it a little more fitted, or there are some things that they can do to make it more girly. I think that’s what I’m trying to with this brand that’s different from what other people have done.
It’s about being a little more inclusive in terms of the girls and the women that are going to be buying this stuff, and for women’s wear, the problem that I see is people don’t see styles they want to buy, the fit is not there, the details… I feel like I have a good sense of what will sort of bridge the gap between something that’s too masculine and something that’s too girly.
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