Interview: Jillian Billard
Photo: Olimpia Dior and Matin Zad
Clothes: Foo and Foo
Gloves: Tropical Rob
Wilder Hope – @wilderhope
Kellian Delice – @kelliandelice
Jes Nelson – @_dancelawyer_
Gia Garison – @giagarison
Matin Zad – @matinzad
Jillian Billard – @jillian_billard
Christopher Willauer – @christopherwillauer
I first heard about Foo and Foo when speaking with the artist and model Gia Garison back in February (when we met, Gia was wearing a sweatshirt from the brand that she had customized herself). Since that day, I started hearing the name “Foo and Foo” everywhere. It seemed to be this little-known secret of New York’s young creatives.
After doing a bit of research, I came across Foo and Foo’s digital platform. Browsing through the tabs, it was immediately apparent that this was not your typical fashion label. (Almost as if reading my mind, the site’s About page header reads in bold, flickering text “WHAT THE F__K IS FOO AND FOO?”) There are clothes for sale––a variety of oversized monochrome hoodies, sweatpants and printed tees and tanks, some baring the label’s name in bold lettering and some printed with collaborations from artists such as Stephen Ostrowski’s “no racism, no sexism, no homophobia, no xenophobia, love over fear”––but the garments themselves are certainly not the central focus of the site. Instead, the spotlight seems to fall on the wearer. Featuring artists of all trades, from photographers to illustrators to sculptors, (there are a number of artworks for sale on the site, from notable contemporary artists including Carly Mark, Antonia Marsh, Arielle Chiara, Ser Serpas, and Lisa Signorini), Foo and Foo appears to be more of a collaborative community or breeding ground for ideas than a brand. I feel I finally understand the phrase “cult of personality.”
Eager to learn more, I caught up with the apparel designer, curator, and creative director behind it all, Elizabeth Hilfiger (Foo), to discuss her inspiration for the label, building this unique digital platform, and where she sees fashion going in the future.
When we connect, Elizabeth is out and about in L.A. She’s just come from a healing session and is on her way to get a salad for lunch. “And I went for a hike this morning…so L.A.” she jokes. She tells me she’s lived there for about three years now, but frequently travels to New York for work. (New Yorkers rejoice, because Foo and Foo will be coming to Hester Street Market this Sunday, June 3!)
If her last name sounds familiar, it’s because yes, she is the daughter of two highly lauded fashion designers. But Elizabeth’s work couldn’t be more distinct from that of her parents.
Hilfiger got her start while studying apparel at Rhode Island School of Art and Design. She originally applied for the photography program, she tells me, but going into apparel was sort of inevitable.
At school she learned traditional, technical apparel design, but on her own time Hilfiger was experimenting with more avant-garde garment construction. “I would get all of these hoodies from thrift stores and take them apart and then sew them back together” she tells me. The line came together organically. “I just wanted to make something that you can feel good in, no matter what body type you are” she says.
After she graduated, Hilfiger worked on the production side of things, interning for various fashion labels. But the fashion world just wasn’t for her. “I love clothing but I really don’t like fashion” she says. “I hate shopping. For me clothing has to be functional and wearable.” She also doesn’t abide by the fast-fashion market. “It’s not about profit” she says. Not only are the rapid production rates of today’s heavily inundated fashion world deplorably wasteful, there’s no soul behind it. “I want the wearer to have a relationship with the garment” says Hilfiger. “I want them to experience it and have fun.”
And she’s certainly succeeded at that. Since its inception, Foo and Foo (endearingly named after Little Bunny Foo Foo, Elizabeth’s childhood nickname) has developed a cult following. Comfortable and infinitely customizable, the clothing is activated by whoever is wearing it. Not only does it defy any traditional normative signifiers, it embodies the spirit of the wearer. Shooting with photographer Olimpia Dior in Chinatown, I notice how each model has a different interpretation of how to style the pieces that is unique to their own style.
I hope designs can inspire the wearer to have fun with the clothes.
“I saw what Gia did with the sweatshirt, and I just loved it” says Elizabeth “that’s what I want the brand to be…I want it to be open to interpretation.” Many of the pieces are designed with hardware, such as piercings and grommets with elastic cording looped through like a pulley system. While at school Elizabeth collaborated with jewelry designer Anna Pierce, who created the signature custom piercings. The embellishments don’t come attached to the piece, so the way it’s worn is really up for interpretation. “I‘ve only seen 3 people wear the trinity hoodie as it was designed” she says. For Hilfiger, designing is a form of exploration. Her Fall 2018 line was inspired by Newton’s Laws of Motion, which posits that every object will remain at rest or moving in a straight line unless it is compelled to change its state by an external force. “I hope (the exponential possibilities) can inspire the wearer to have fun with the clothes.”
More than anything though, Foo and Foo is about friendship and collaboration. It’s not just “Foo and Foo” says Elizabeth in our conversation, “it’s also Foo and You.” Being at RISD and working among artists of diverse disciplines proved formative for the brand. “Working with friends is important to me” says Hilfiger. “A lot of my friends are fine artists. I wanted to collaborate with them on videos and sell and show their works on the site.” Prior to even creating the clothing line, Hilfiger envisioned a digital platform that would act as a sort of gallery space. “I wanted it to be respected in both the tech world and the fashion world” says Hilfiger. “And I wanted to support my friends.” She created the site to give artists “a space to display their ideas” as well as a place “where (she) could experiment with creative pursuits to distract (her) from the chaos of the world.”
If Foo and Foo is any indication of where the fashion world is headed, it looks like we’re moving in the right direction.