Someone once said that fashion reflects the society and environment that we live in. If that’s the case Cassie Hollands Hades brand definitely holds up a mirror to the zeitgeist. Ethically created and thought provoking her knitwear collections are effortlessly chic and eminently wearable. Hades “Through being Cool” collection launches today, 26 July. I caught up with Cassie to discuss it, all things Hades and the times we are living through.
1. Congratulations on “Through being Cool “, the second instalment in your trio of music inspired knitwear collabs. The first was a paean to punk band X Ray Spex, this instalment pays homage to Ohio cult outfit Devo. What is it about that era and these punk / indie performers that inspires and informs the creative process?
Thanks so much! ‘Through being Cool’ and ‘Oh Bondage! Up Yours!’ were both such a pleasure to work on as both bands were so important to me in my early years. Both bands had something profound and confrontational to say about the world they lived in, and both were able to combine a difficult message with distinctive aesthetics. Their message inspires because they correctly identified how oppressive and synthetic modern culture is (something which is even truer now than in the 1970s) but they did it in an idiosyncratic way through ingenious iconography. Both of these punk bands were on Top of the Pops on the BBC pushing a message of rebellion and anarchy - we need a modern Poly Styrene and Devo!
2. Punk came about during a period of political discontent. Many would say that we are living through a similar period now. Did this have any influence on your return to the punk motifs which characterised your debut 2016 collection?
I’d say my designs are inspired by a frustration with the prevailing order socially and culturally. Our last collection, entitled ‘Iconoclast’ was perhaps our most combative one yet. However, I can’t say that the band trios are directly inspired by recent political events, it’s more the case that punk, post-punk and counter-culture (in whatever form it takes) are leitmotifs for HADES and are something that we will always return to.
3. This is your first foray into menswear which as a fan I’m really excited about. Was this pre-planned or did it evolve as the designs took shape?
Thank you! Since launching we’ve received requests for our knits to come in men’s silhouettes and sizes, so it’s something we’ve been discussing at our studio on and off since HADES first started. We’re still a small team and have not wanted to expand too soon, the Devo collection felt like an opportune time.
4. Do you intend to move into menswear on a permanent basis or will it be influenced by each individual collection’s aesthetic?
We’ve got one further mens collection launching later this year, in September. This will be the final music collaboration in the 2019 trio, a collaboration with one of the most seminal bands in British history. Next year we will expand our menswears collections, both as extensions of our typical HADES capsule collections but also as stand alone collections.
5. The collections title “Through being cool” refers to a song Devo wrote as a response to their commercial success. How do you feel about Hades commercial success and how important is it to maintain the DIY / punk ethos which the brands renowned for?
We’ve had some commercial success and a lot of media attention and recognition from the fashion industry, which we’ve really grateful for; however, we remain an underground brand, we’re certainly not one of the big hitters! We still work with the family-run business of five people in Scotland that made our debut collection.
Of course, we want to reach a wide audience of people and we do need to achieve a certain amount of commercial success to make HADES viable, but at the moment creative freedom takes priority over income growth. DIY and punk were the initial touchstones which informed the HADES aesthetic, and we want to always honour this, although I do feel that we have an ever-evolving reason for existence.
6. Devo were named after the theory of De -evolution which states that instead of evolving humankind is regressing. Given the current political landscape both here and in their homeland do you think there’s any truth in that philosophy?
Yes, not to make your readers too despondent but I do think that their message was prophetic! Devo’s own Gerald Casale put it this way: “Presently, the fabric that holds a society together has shredded in the wind. Everyone has their own facts, their own private Idaho stored in their expensive cellular phones. The earbuds are in, the feedback loops are locked, and the Frappuccino’s are flowing freely. Social media provides the highway straight back to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave”. In the past decade this regression has seemed more conspicuous due to the debasement of ideas and dialogue as a result of social media.
7. Hades has the strongest of sustainability footprints. Many High Street and high-end labels proclaim environmentally friendly credentials which often don’t stand up to scrutiny. Is the fashion industry in danger of reducing and devaluing the sustainability message to the level of a cynical marketing strap line?
The most dangerous message (in fashion) of the last 20 years is the idea that a pair of trousers should cost £15; the unreasonable expectations about how much we can acquire and at what price have severe consequences for the planet and for workers rights. Yes, fashion labels have commodified the idea of sustainability, unfortunately this is inevitable as the realities of climate extinction conflict with the ongoing demand for exponential profit and growth - I’m not sure what the solution is to this. We’ve received criticism for the cost of our jumpers and I accept our knits are not cheap and not everyone can afford them, which is regrettable to us, however the price reflects that they are crafted in factories in Scotland staffed by people who are paid a living wage and who can unionise. Our jumpers are made from the finest quality material, hand-crafted and are made to last. On this issue however, it’s important to us not to preach, we recognise that is difficult for people to always buy sustainably and do not believe in making people feel guilty. And furthermore we are not without fault; I have some sympathy with the argument that there is no ethical consumption under capitalism.
8. The bands and literature that have inspired your work have all stood the test of time. How important to you is it that your creations also share that longevity, for both design and sustainability reasons?
We strive to create knitwear that people can wear and love for a lifetime, I’m a big believer in Vivienne Westwood’s aphorism: ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’. Our knits are made using natural fibres, handmade by a family owned business in Scotland. We only make small batches of our collections to avoid waste. We’ve also avoided making endless products in order to maximise income. Fashion is a form of art and I reject the idea that it should be ephemeral.
9. Your knitwear’s been worn by various celebrities. While I’m sure that has a commercially rewarding impact, given Hades ethos, how creatively rewarding is it to see the girl or guy on the tube or bus wearing one of your designs?
We love it when people tag us in their instagram photos and stories and, yes, it’s always a pleasure when you spot someone in the real world wearing a jumper or scarf, it’s always interesting to see how people style their knit and oftentimes surprising which knits are the most popular.
10. Looking to the future I’m super excited to see the third instalment which drops in September. Longer term how do you see Hades development and what goals and ambitions do you have for the brand?
In the immediate future - this year we are working with a number of great Japanese and Korean stockists and are looking to expand further across Asia. In the UK, this winter our classic range, the Alphabet collection will be launching in new colour-ways in Harvey Nichols. Later this year we will also launch cardigans for the first time ever, they feature handmade buttons; created in the HADES studio. Each cardigan has a theme - they’re surreal and adorable, we’re really excited to see how they are received. In the longer term we’d like to explore bigger form pieces, work with visual and performance artists and continue to release thematic capsule collections.
Thanks, so much Cassie for taking the time out in this, the collection launch week, to provide such a fascinating insight into Hades, its ethos and the new collection. The Devo collection for men and women is available exclusively from today, 26 July, at https://hades-shop.co.uk/