For One Brief Shinning Moment: An Interview with Fashion Designer Joshua Homic

Culture — 20.06.17

Words: Patricia Ellah
Photographer: Lili Peper and Patricia Ellah
Stylist: James Gallagher 
Clothes: Homic AW 17

Joshua Homic is a fashion designer based out of New York City. Homic is what we’ve been calling Joshua because it’s his Instagram name and also the name of his fashion brand. When we finally meet, he is walking down the staircase into the lobby of his Upper West Side apartment; he is wearing a navy blue blazer and matching pants. The buttons on both the blazer and trousers have a red floral pattern. This is clearly Homic the fashion designer – who else would look this pristine on a Saturday morning?

When we walk into his apartment, a slow song is playing from somewhere behind his work desk. It sounds familiar; it’s quite hauntingly familiar. Lili asks about it as she places her camera bag close to the desk. It’s the score from Jackie, a film about the life of Jackie Kennedy played by Natalie Portman. It is a haunting film as it is the story of the events leading up to the death of her husband John F. Kennedy the 35th president of America, but more directly on how she handled his assassination. Lili had recommended this film to me late last year, and all I could think about as I too took off my equipment bag was Jackie’s pink Chanel suit and her matching pink hat covered in her husband’s blood.

Homic shows us around his apartment, which is very much his home but also his studio space. A room filled with brightly coloured clothing from his finished collections, a sewing machine in another, a living room with a grey couch, a sectioned-off bedroom and a tiny brown dog. He warns us that the dog gets excited and pees, so don’t be too enthusiastic about her. Everything has a place; it has the staple ‘New Yorker running their own business’ aesthetic. The space at once enhances my original perception of the person I’ve been emailing – someone organised, someone who always seems to be ready on time, and someone very much about the work. As we sit down to talk and the slow melody of the Jackie soundtrack continues to play, I become anxious to find out what else drives not just Homic but Joshua too.

Patricia: What art form do you feel influences your creative process for Homic the most?

Joshua: I think film has a huge impact and is a big source of inspiration to my work. In high school (Minnesota) we were introduced to film analysis, and it was mostly foreign films that were not typical for American media. I think it was interesting how that opened up my mind to European concepts. Introductions to Polanski and other Russian directors but also to Japanese cinema, filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa. He was a huge influence on my work, appreciating that work at that time and then going to Japan years later was really cool. The thing about film that I really like is that it’s not necessarily just about the clothing in the film, it’s also about the mood. That scene with Jackie in her veil walking behind her husband’s casket, that close shot of her face, the visual impact and the energy you can feel from the actor giving emotion to you. I think those are more the aspects of film that affect me, and then it becomes more about how can I take that and re-emphasize that in a physical garment or design.

Lili: There is also the scene after JFK is assassinated and you are stuck with her in the mirror for what seems to be an uncomfortably long time. All the critiques of the film that I’ve heard are from people who feel that the shot was held for too long. But that was the point, and it was for emphasis. You are with her, in the pink, and the blood, and she is staring in her vanity while she is wiping away his blood off her face. It is just this moment of pure trauma and vulnerability that is evoked obviously from the actress’s performance but also that tight shot.

Have you seen anything more recently from this year that has been important for you?

I mean of course I went to see Ghost in the Shell, that was an iconic moment. I’m coming from the perspective of someone who has seen all the animation and the anime based on this world. And yes the plot was very different, but I think the aesthetics and the overall mood was well captured. I just enjoyed watching it because it was such a feast for the eyes. It was so overly decadent, and since I’ve been to Japan, it was exciting to see this real life futuristic version of it for this specific film.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I’ve been all over the place with music lately. I love songs like this (in reference to the music playing) where the music is upbeat and yet reminiscent of classics because it is this humorous yet glamorous moment. It’s one the reasons I’ve been looking back at old Chanel runway tracks. I am drawn to more ambient music, but I also love to hear a good pop song out at the club as opposed to me enjoying it in my home. Andy Stott is one of my favourite musicians and then there’s Demdike Stare – they are equally as good. The music is sensual and dark which is quite funny because my friends come over and they’re like “what are you listening to?” They think it’s such a contrast from the clothes that I make. I think people feel that I design sweeter clothes or should I say more “proper garments” but I see them more in a sadistic darker environment – bright colours can house dark emotions too. My friend also just introduced me to the musician Nina Kraviz, “Taxi Talk” is my favourite song right now. I also really enjoy opera, this relates again to what draws me to film; you can feel this grand emotion that I find harder to experience in pop music.

James the stylist arrives. Joshua and James have been Instagram friends and are finally meeting each other in person. They hug, he sits down to join the conversation.

Is there a film that you’ve seen that you’ve taken the emotion from and have held onto for a very long time?

Under the Skin hands down. Jonathan Glazer is the only contemporary that I would place beside Stanley Kubrick. No one is really exploring alternative media films, or maybe people are, and they are just not being recognised for it. Mica Levi who scored this film also scored Jackie, she’s amazing.

Do you look at fashion films?

I definitely look at fashion films. It’s something I think about, but I feel that a lot of those concepts are so repetitive. It’s always ‘let’s pause and slow-mo on this beautiful Asian model in all-white as she has her fashion moment’. I get, I love it, but what else?

Are there any that you’ve seen that you’ve rewatched that you felt wasn’t repetitive?

I’m a sucker for YSL ad’s like back when it was Stefano Pilati and also the womenswear ads from Tom Ford’s era. I mean anything that Tom Ford touched in regards to Gucci and YSL was phenomenal.

I’m curious to know if there is anything from your childhood, from any medium, that was groundbreaking?

I can only think of one right now, and it was a really big moment when my mother showed me 2001: Space Odyssey! Relatively speaking there is very little that goes between my aesthetic and that film but I think I reacted to the sensory experience of it, and also how he was able to convey certain ideologies. It was such a palpable moment, especially the ending! The monolith is something that really fascinated me, and I realised that I wanted to find out how to do something like that through my own means. And there’s also just being a tacky gay boy coming to New York for the first time like ‘oh my god is this fashion!?’.

Joshua laughs as he says this, James looks at Lili and they smile broadly at one another, we all definitely had that experience. It is a staple moment for many people that move to the city to redefine their style and their sense of fashion based on what they think is ‘New York.’ It is an experience that works a little like copy and paste, but then over time transforms into realising one’s own ‘look.’

Patricia: When did you decide to take on fashion design?

I think the reason I branched into fashion was that I was unhappy with what was available to me, and this is back in Minnesota where realistically there wasn’t that much made available. The most luxury place you could go to, to buy clothes was Nordstrom in the mall of America; and they had a little designer section. Also back then in 2008, what was a designer to the midwest? Nothing. I’m not wealthy, so I couldn’t afford to buy anything. It took so long to understand garment construction, for a long time it was a goal of mine, and I accomplished it, starting points usually begin from a place of need.

Do you design or are you influenced by the Midwest boy you once were?

No, not all! A burst of laughter fills the room. I’ve changed so much; there’s most likely more similarities to when I started at 12 as opposed to when I was 16, 17, 18. It’s important that the clothes are realistic, accessible and that they can be worn anywhere. They should be able to work in the circumstances of New York as they should also work in the circumstances of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I guess something that I can attribute to growing up there is driving forward this sense of accessibility that wasn’t present when I was there.

Companies like Farfetch and Net-a-Porter have this fairly new system of having certain designer pieces delivered in 90 minutes. How do you feel about fast fashion? Especially coming from the background of ‘save, save, save, save’ until you can afford it?

It is so weird that that is some people’s reality, it’s horrid. It’s so absurd. I also think as the designer in the situation like VALUE THAT! Like do you know how long that took to make? Definitely not 90 minutes. At FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) I had a professor for this leather crafting class, and he went to some of the handbag factories. He went to one, and they were making Balenciaga bags, and it takes less than 8 hours to make their standard classic city bag, the one everyone has. And then he went to a Céline factory, and it takes eight days to make a luggage tote also another bag that everyone has. The move towards fast fashion might make upcoming designers feel that they too have to join in on the fast movement, but really it’s about the priorities of your fashion house. Do you care about a quality product? Or do you just want the product out there in time for its trend?

You won the best designer in 2014 at Fusion in the Parsons vs. FIT runway show. How was that?

I still have those samples! My parents won’t let me throw them away because they think someone will steal them. And I’m like who the fuck will know! I don’t care like, please someone have it! I want to see a homeless person in one coat as a blanket; they’ll be so warm. I’ve looked at them recently trying to see if I can salvage them somehow, but I can’t, and I’m tired of that mental challenge. There’s no more room in the archive.

Do you watch TV shows on Netflix? What are your favourite shows?

Hands down ‘The X-files!’ I live for Scully. I saw her up the street once, and I literally screamed DANA SCULLY! And she turned around, and I nearly peed my pants. I was thinking the entire time, ‘OMG, I know you!’ A goal of mine is to cast her for a fashion campaign; it would be iconic.

Who do you want to work with dead or alive?

I feel like Grace Coddington would be really fun, and I feel like she is so real. Also, Jessye Norman is this absolutely beautiful renowned opera singer. She is around 70, I watch Youtube videos of her performances, and I find myself wishing that it was tomorrow and I was going to see her live.

What are your ways of looking for inspiration in the city?

I’m of course a Pinterest whore, but I also go to the library. Of late I’ve been trying to sneak into the FIT library because they confiscated my ID which I’m really sad about. I go into the art and photography books section, and I’ll pick up a random book based really on their cover. There’s this one artist; his name is Richard Misrach, he has this amazing series of people floating in the water. He has to be in a helicopter or something based on how high up from the water those angles are. The colours of the bathing suits in the backdrop of the vast ocean felt so visually impactful. They almost looked like toys. I have a thing for art jewellery books, like the oversized ones on Faberge eggs with all the details of something that a Russian empress had. Also for one of the first times, I went to the new American wing at the Metropolitan Museum to see the ceramics and glassware from that era, seeing those things inspired my buttons. There are these one specific floral buttons that I always buy. I am literally the only person in New York buying those buttons. I’m not even going to say the store, I go there every time, and the same amount of buttons are missing since the last ones I bought. I might actually start counting all the buttons just to see if someone at the store is fucking with me.

Check out HOMIC’s SS17 Collection and stay up-to-date with Joshua through his Instagram @homic_.