An Interview with Katie Gallagher – Archive Issue II

December 5, 2014

Fashionprint magazine | by James Joseph


Katie Gallagher has been on our radar for quite some time now, as the quirky cool darling of the fashion pack Gallagher has rocketed to success over the last few years by having a unique signature of dark style that is always influenced from a narrative. Now a NYFW veteran showing at Milk Studios each season with, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar religiously featuring the designer.

Words such as safe, conservative and confined have no place next to the Katie Gallagher name, her quirky style and brilliant personality lead to creativity, edge and independence on a whole new scale. This is no surprise from a girl that wants to own a candy store, and perhaps in a new life even become a cat. Her statement is simple, yet philosophic. “Clothes aren’t really at the centre of my interests; the people that wear them and their ideals are”.

It’s rare that you come across a creative with enough talent and imagination to create narratives, whole new worlds and then work backwards. It’s the ability to float away to a new place and bring back enough vision to create something tangible. Gallagher may just be the best at this, and it truly shows in her collections. Maybe none more so that her SS12 collection “Red, Red, Blood” in which Katie imagined the world inside our bodies and the “alive, flowing, living and the brightest red” blood that is so necessary to us.

Katie’s Autumn Winter 13 collection “The Winter Froze You Away” is somewhat nomadic, a beautifully strong aesthetic where detailing such as frayed cuffs conjures images of winter taking control. Inspired by the concept of bodies becoming one with their surroundings; appearing to fade away, yet still physically present.

There is no doubt that Gallagher is next inline for the crown in dark style. So we caught up with Katie to discuss her narrative designing, the darkly romantic Gallagher aesthetic and of course that all elusive candy store.

Growing up in Pennsylvania must have been interesting, especially with New York so close? Did you always want to design?

Ha ha, New York was not close! It was a far off land, I don’t think I thought about until my junior year of high school and even then I wasn’t sold–other than watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as a child.

You self taught yourself sewing before going on to any fashion education it seems like you had a real love for fashion? 

Yes. But not because I wanted to make a career of it. I just liked to vintage and antique shop and make everything I found, fit me. It was like some sort of game. 

Was this a difficult process, or did you find it easy to take to? 

Learning how to pattern make and sew was the hardest thing. I really wanted to quit midway through my sophomore year at RISD. I couldn’t take it. I really wanted to just paint and draw. It seemed like such a luxury to me. I knew I couldn’t afford that sort of lifestyle after graduation. I needed a degree in something potentially commercial.

Do you feel that your passion for the darker side of fashion had a certain catalyst? If so, what was it? 

No, I don’t. It’s what Im drawn to I guess, always have been. And I wouldn’t say that as an absolute either. I’m mostly interested in pattern making and how we can make things new. Good design never means sticking some pretty embellishments on a shift dress. Never.

It was your AW11 collection that we first featured on Stylenoir, how do you feel your design and creativity has evolved through your collections since then? 

Tremendously. Since I sew every sample for every collection, naturally, I get better at the production of each piece. I mean the construction of it all. After all, it is just a skill set to be conquered. In terms of design, that just comes with it. The better I can create a pattern and turn it into a finished piece, the better I am at coming up with new ways to alter it and make new shapes that suit the inspiration and overall aesthetic. 

katie gallagher

Your pieces are pulled by high profile figures regularly, by Daphne Guinness to name just one, how does that feel? Does that alter how you think about the label at all? 

I’m not sure. It never really phases me. Ive never been one to awe over celebrities. It’s cool, absolutely, but it would be cooler if I were making something specific for her, speaking to her, fitting her. It’s different when a stylist is simply coming by the studio to pick up some samples for their client.

You’ve said on many occasions, that you design by creative narratives and worlds which the clothes would populate. This is such an inspiring way to design, is there something that influenced you to go down this path, or have you always been interested in alternative realities and story lines?

When I design, I like to have a theme, a story, something that inspires me initially. I like to think of the wearer’s personality, her mood, her attitude… and go from there. I usually paint to develop the right colour story I am imagining for the theme. I just like stories I guess. Made up worlds of things that you can make reality (because we get to dress the models up like this!) One of my dreams is to illustrate children’s books, have a candy store and possibly do some costume work, so I think it all works hand in hand.

Your AW13 collection “The Winter Froze You Away” conjures ideas of witchcraft, especially with the entire collection in black and off-black. What was the narrative and world behind this aesthetic? 

Not at all! “The Winter Froze You Away” was inspired by the concept of bodies becoming one with their surroundings; appearing to fade away, yet still physically present. The idea of Northern winters, very warm, heavy pieces made of knit wools, and specifically the opening scene of one of my favourite movies, Doctor Zhivago. 

If you could put yourself inside a new narrative, who would you be and what would your aesthetic be? 

I would just be a cat. A black Maine Coon sounds perfect. I’d want to have one of those food dishes like on the Fancy Feast commercials. 

Do you only wear black?

No. I like any color just so the shape of the garment and silhouette suits me. Usually though, I wear black, white, off white, grey sometimes bits of red. Navy works too!

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Forests and The Wilderness or a Dark Smoky City?

Forests and the Wilderness, but I think I’d want to be able to drive to that Dark Stormy City…rather, have someone else drive me.

Maila Nurmi or Cassandra Peterson?

Maila Nurmi! That waist! Yes, please!

Your SS14 collection ‘Bloom’ had sportswear inspired silhouettes, we are loving the idea of Gothic Sportswear at the moment, where did the inspiration for Bloom come from? I imagine this wont just be a typical flora narrative?
I was inspired by the video and lyrics from Einstuerzende Neubauten’s song, “Blume”.
The lyrics – “For you, I am a chysanthemum/supernova, urgent star/For you, I’ll be a dandelion, a thousand flowerettes in the sky, or just a drop in the ocean”. Alongside funeral flowers, primarily powder-pink carnations, Bloom examines our tendency to conceal unpleasant ordeals with beautiful objects. Sometimes even our own selves.

What has been your absolute favourite creative moment so far and what has been 
your favourite success so far with the Katie Gallagher story?

Beginning every season gives me the same feeling, I get so excited. I usually don’t wait a day. Everyone is so tired after fashion week but I could go non stop! So I don’t really break unless I really need to. So far, I’m just happy that I’m not going backwards yet. With every season I show, I find enough reasons and strength to do another. Onto season 10!

katie gallagher