The Wardrobe with Pam Hogg

Caped Crusader

Pam looks terribly pleased with her leather-appliquéd A/W ’15 satin cape, inspired by fairy tales. The dress, a fringed Royal Stewart tartan with a leopard-print collar, is a favourite from the 1980s. She was recently delighted when the actor and Stones collaborator Anita Pallenberg turned up for a fitting in a near-identical version in leopard. “She was laughing, leaning on her stick, a fag in her mouth, saying, ‘I bet you didn’t know I bought this all those years ago.’ That felt great.” Pam wears her own VIVIENNE WESTWOOD boots with PVC leggings by PAM HOGG. The jewellery worn throughout is also Pam’s own.

Moll

“I like to think that I’m wearing a bit of the Wild West,” Pam says. With more than 2,000 hand-applied studs, this patent leather coat from her A/W ’16 collection was inspired by black-and-white westerns such as Destry Rides Again, in which Marlene Dietrich plays the anti-heroine, an ill-fated gangster’s moll. Even the spike-studded letters on the sleeves were inspired by cattle-branding irons. The boots are by VIVIENNE WESTWOOD.

“As a child, I remember seeing Diana Rigg in a patent PVC catsuit in The Avengers. It blew my mind.”

Lady

Pam designed this soft blouse with a pussycat-bow collar and a full draped sleeve to wear to the finale of her S/S ’17 show at the Freemasons’ Hall in central London. “I must admit that wearing it felt a bit like being a character from Abigail’s Party,” she says, “but I also wanted to show the world that I can do commercial design as well as showpieces.” The word “blouse” is a favourite: “It feels deliciously old-fashioned. And yet the matching latex skirt makes this one both ladylike and subversive.” The pink tights are Pam’s own.

Green Goddess

Not everyone can wear vivid green, but Pam’s pale skin and blond hair are radiant against this bright emerald velvet two-piece with patent leather appliqués from A/W ’16. “I never go out in the sun because I get freckles, which might look cute on other people, but not on me,” she says. Her beauty regime is simple — just soap and water, and a wet comb pushed through her hair to shape its natural wave into a quiff. “And then I’m out of the door in 20 minutes.” Pam’s vintage sunglasses are Italian and one of the few pairs she hasn’t lost, thanks to their oversize dimensions. The beret, eyepatch and neckerchief are also her own.

Starman

Pam once bumped into David Bowie on the dance floor of a nightclub. It was a fleeting moment, but it’s a cherished memory. “As a teen I was tuning in to bands like Led Zeppelin and the Stones,” she says, “but Bowie was the one who seeped into my consciousness — he’s still there.” This dress, in lacquered denim with appliquéd patent leather stars, designed in homage to her favourite musician in his Ziggy Stardust period, opened her A/W ’16 show. It was worn out on the town by Lady Gaga later that year. Pam feels it suits her own small frame better without the accompanying underskirt. The dainty designer favours steel dressmaking scissors for an extra-precise cut when creating her homemade patterns.

Headline Act

Pam may play Radio 6 Music in her studio, but when it comes to design, she loves channelling Bowie and Elvis. This yellow velvet studded jumpsuit from A/W ’16 might have appealed to the two music legends, fellow Capricorns both born on 8 January. “Did you know they were born four days after me?” Pam says. “Astrologists say we’re hard-working and loyal but don’t like being the centre of attention. Judging by the company, I don’t think the last part is true — do you?”

The audacious sartorial stylings of Pam Hogg are not for the shy and retiring. Shaped by the designer’s own hand for loyal clients from Siouxsie to Björk and Gaga, Pam’s fashions are a kaleidoscopic tour de force of pop, punk and PVC. Who better to showcase them than the Caledonian Queen of Cling herself? Here she comes.

“Once a punk, always a punk.” Pam Hogg laughs as she tries to extract a safety pin that’s somehow got caught in her peroxide hair. Notwithstanding working over the festive period while enduring toothache, she’s in a buoyant mood. Today’s her birthday, and she’s taken precious time out from finishing a commission at her Hackney studio for a fitting at Vivienne Westwood in readiness for Westwood’s menswear launch party later in the week.

Though Pam’s work ethic is clear, her age remains opaque. “I’m 105 and waiting for my telegram from the Queen,” she says with some finality. And yet her longevity as a designer, still relevant 32 years after opening her stall in the now defunct Hyper Hyper in Kensington Market in 1985, is astonishing – particularly as most of her contemporaries from that first new wave of British designers, such as Karen Boyd and Two Guys, are largely forgotten today.

Like Westwood, the designer she most admires, Pam has spent almost four decades creating unconventional clothes for confident women. i-D magazine, which put her on the cover of its August 1989 issue wearing a studded crown of her own design, called her “Britain’s rawest fashion talent”. Not long after that, she was running her own boutique in the heart of Soho, where she augmented her more outré designs with what has become a classic of the Hogg canon, the bodysuit. “I had customers from all round the world,” she says. “They’d saved up to come and buy something they’d seen in a magazine – there were no online stores in the 1980s.”

But a more minimalist approach to design arrived in the early 1990s, and in 1993 Pam began a successful parallel career as the lead singer of the band Doll, opening for the likes of Blondie and post-punk band the Raincoats. She’s always been (and remains) a stalwart of London nightlife and a fixture at every secret gig. “I can remember being really shy when I first went to the Blitz club, but there was always booze and speed, and we’d dance like crazy, then get on the bus.”

Even in the midst of touring with Doll, Pam found time to create exuberant stage costumes. “In 2006 I made a sequinned outfit with a cut-out Ziggy Stardust flash on the back for a video for a song called ‘Opal Eyes’,” she tells me. “Last year I took it to Kate Moss’s for her Bowie-themed birthday party at her Cotswolds home. When I got there, she immediately tore off the amazing couture dress she was wearing and put it on. That was kind of gratifying.”

Returning to the catwalk in 2009, the millennial Pam Hogg wasn’t such a far cry from the Pam of two decades earlier. If anything, she’s now more confident of her strengths: recent pieces include skintight catsuits in shards of brightly coloured stretch satin that could grace the slopes of the Winter Olympics, studded leather greatcoats as prickly as porcupines, and velvet romper suits that would have looked perfect on Elvis had he shed a few pounds. Pam sells through her website and creates one-off pieces for clients including Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Lady Mary Charteris, whose famously risqué 2012 wedding dress, in satin and tulle with sheer cutaway panels, is now part of the permanent costume collection at the V&A.

In person, however, the petite woman in the leopard coat, hoodie, PVC leggings and studded beret is rather ladylike. Even her Scots accent has softened. “I was never fully Glaswegian,” Pam says. “My father was from Dumfries, which has a much softer brogue, and when I got to London, I got fed up having to repeat myself constantly, so I slowed my speech right down.” She guffaws. “But I still talk 19 to the dozen.”

Her trademark blond quiff is almost as much of a calling card as her skintight designs. She’s been bleaching her hair since the late 1970s, and over the years it’s varied in shade between fluorescent orange, candyfloss pink and – until recently – lemon yellow. After her Parisian catwalk show for Spring/Summer 2012, Pam was flabbergasted to see the first guest to come backstage and congratulate her: Vivienne Westwood. “‘I love that lemon hair, Pam,’ she said. ‘I’m so glad you don’t change.’”

Pam’s tattoos are symptomatic of spontaneous self-expression, the first dating from a trip to LA in 1989. “I’d just flown in, and we were driving down Sunset Boulevard. I spotted a tattoo parlour, and for no explicable reason, I asked my friend to pull over and give me a pen. I drew a two-inch crucifix on my hand and announced I was getting a tattoo.” She’s since expanded her collection to include the words “honour” and “justice” on her wrists; “love” and “obey” on her forearms.

Her father, who died in 2012, remains her greatest creative influence. “For birthdays and Christmas he’d reveal something that he’d been making secretly for months in his shed,” she says, “and he’d say, ‘Nobody else has got one of these.’ He had the power to turn a doll’s cradle made from old rubber tyres and scavenged wood into treasure before my eyes. He inspired me to use every inch of my imagination.”

Pam is the rare breed of designer who can fashion a simple blouse from jersey and team it with a latex skirt as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She started altering her own clothes at the age of six, initially reconstructing hand-me-downs before graduating to tailoring trousers at 15. “I saw the fabric and immediately envisaged how

I wanted them to look on me,” she says. She is driven not by trends but by an aesthetic that is cyclical. “My work’s a continuation; I build on what’s gone before and see where it takes me” – though you’re always guaranteed a flash of PVC in a Hogg collection. “The Beatles’ ‘Polythene Pam’ is a very fitting song for me,” she says, laughing. “As a child, I can remember seeing Diana Rigg in a patent black PVC catsuit in The Avengers, and it blew my mind. So I guess it must be embedded somewhere deep in my subconscious.”

Pam describes her studio as constantly in a state of “divine disorder”. She often recycles fabrics from previous collections from her own store cupboard – some of her leather pieces are taken from skins more than two decades old. It’s reassuring, in an age when designer clothing is so often produced in nameless factories overseas, to know that every stitch and stud of a Pam Hogg original is sewn by the designer herself – often in the wee hours of the morning.

Yet this extraordinary work ethic comes at a price. Pam’s self-imposed seclusion often means she misses landmark birthday celebrations, and in the aftermath of a show she’s too exhausted to communicate at all. She has more than 13,500 unanswered emails on her phone. “It’s a catch-22 – the more intense my work becomes, the less people I can have around me. Sometimes my fingers are bleeding from all the hand-sewing and -studding.”

But for Pam, designing is playtime. “For my current, Spring/Summer 2017, collection I really went back to being a painter,” she says, referring to her past studies at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art. “I spread everything on the floor in the studio and surrounded myself with five mannequins that effectively became my canvases. I allowed my ideas to collide and take me somewhere that I’d never dreamt of. It’s when I’m at my highest that I feel that I’m witness to, and not the creator of, my work.”

If you chance upon the designer furiously cycling from home to studio through her Hackney stomping grounds, though, don’t expect an encounter with a fashion plate. “I’ve no time for dressing up,” Pam says. “I don’t really care what I look like when I’m going to my studio or the shops. I live in my vintage tracksuits or my old army surplus parka.”

One element of her wardrobe that’s not of her own making is a prized collection of original drape jackets dating from the 1950s, which she personally alters to fit her five-foot-five frame. “I’ve been in love with these since I was a kid. My first memory of Glasgow was of a gang of Teddy boys hanging on a street corner in their flashy drapes and greased-back quiffs. They stood unflinching and fearless, like they knew it all. That was a huge influence for me, and you can still see it. I’m in my quiff and drapes to this day.”