MODA X UWFW
Alex Hysel entered his second UW Fashion Week as student designer with a collection inspired by the phrase “art is fake.” He is a junior at the University of Wisconsin, studying Fashion and Textile Design, and a Sales Lead at local State Street clothing store, Tailgate Wisconsin. Hysel’s collection this year utilizes existing garments repurposed to create new pieces, pushing the boundaries and addressing the intricacies of what is considered art, who is an artist, and who decides and enacts these concepts. Hysel’s ‘Fake Clothing’ at UWFW’s Finale Fashion Show was sent to the runway to have us questioning the utilitarian versus artistic sides of our wardrobes, and further, how these meet to create an interesting interplay in our personal style. Taking a seat in the coffee shop with a wide grin, Hysel leaned forward with a gleam in his eyes through his glasses, enthused to begin discussing his passion before the events of UWFW took place.
MODA MAGAZINE: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? When did you first encounter fashion and realize it was a passion? Alex Hysel: Well I first got into fashion in high school, I would read about it on the internet. There was this blog called Four Pins that I used to read...that’s what really got me into it. I’d see cool designers that I liked, like Virgil Abloh with Off-White and Raf Simons. They were two of the guys who made me realize I really loved fashion. I was actually planning on going into engineering, but then I realized I wanted to go into to fashion, that this was something I want to do with my life...I was already planning on going to UW-Madison— I’m from La Crosse, Wisconsin—then I realized we have a fashion program here. I just jumped head first into it. Could you tell me about Tailgate Wisconsin and your role there? Essentially Tailgate Wisconsin is all about vintage-inspired Badger gear and collegiate gear. We have Badger and local pieces. I think it’s really cool because it differentiates itself from the Bookstore and other shops around here, because it’s really things you can wear just in your daily life, not just to a football game, which I think is the best part about it. I live in my Tailgate clothes, if I’m not wearing my own stuff I’m wearing Tailgate. I started there as an Associate and now I’m a Sales Lead. It’s definitely my favorite job I’ve had. How would you describe your personal style? Is it an evolution like your work? It’s definitely been an evolution. When I first got into fashion and started paying attention to the way I dress, I was very preppy like #menswear kind of stuff [laughs] just trying to look very good, but I found a couple pieces that I like and got more into capital ‘F’ Fashion. Now I just dress in the stuff that I like and dress for a very utilitarian purpose, I don’t pay too much attention to my style. I wear the same thing basically every day, you know change out the t-shirt, swap the sweatshirt. I like the routine of it. I like to wear brands that I appreciate, not as much for the fashion of it. Like I have this Calvin Klein crew neck on right now, I just have to pay respect to it. I like to keep it with me; it’s like I’m speaking back and forth with other designers.
INTERVIEW BY | GRACE HERNDON PHOTOGRAPHS BY | MARISSA HAEGELE
How do you feel about the line and collection your bringing to fashion week this year compared to last year? This year is way different. I feel like every year I just scrap what I was doing last year. This year I really like what I’m doing, I call it Fake Clothing. It actually came out of this train of thought sketching I was doing in my sketch notebook. I was writing down art is ‘blank,’ and then I came to the conclusion that art is fake, but I’m an artist which means that I am fake, so it’s this tension between what it means to be an artist and what it means to create art, and who decides what art is. That really inspired me. I define Fake Clothing as clothing for the sake of art, versus clothes you wear that have more of a purpose. I love clothes that are made with a distinct purpose, like workwear; it was made for utilitarian things and not for fashion, but I’m coming from the whole other side. I’m trying to make stuff for the runway and for art more so than for use. I always try to honor that idea of clothes for real art, and I feel like the area between those two things opens a lot of doors. For this collection actually I’ve taken existing garments and chopped them up in different ways and sewn them back together; I’ve made a couple of skirts out of what used to be jackets, I basically flipped them upside down and used the waistband on the jacket as the waistband of the skirt. I’m really excited about all of it. Do you feel that conversation occurring within your own work when considering what your trying to accomplish as a designer? With my work, I’m taking something somebody else has done many times and I’m doing my own thing with it, so it’s definitely that conversation, which is what I like the most. I make original pieces on occasion, but I like taking somebody else’s thing that I really respect and twisting it around and doing my own thing with it. Do you have a favorite fashion designer at the moment or one who you could attribute much of your inspiration to? My favorite fashion designer at the moment is Demna Gvasalia and Vetements and Balenciaga. I really like what’s been done with those two brands. I connect to it a lot, also, of course, Virgil Abloh and Off-White, really speaks to me. Virgil uses a lot of air quotes, and without biting in too much I use a lot of air quotes in my own stuff and on social media, just trying to be ironic and funny [laughs]. What do you think of the program here so far? I was kind of hesitant at first about the program here. We don’t have menswear, which I would say is the worst part about it, but I actually really love the program. It’s really allowed me to grow over these past couple of years. I came here quite unsure of whether I really had the creativity to design, and then at the end of my freshman year, I found fashion as something that really inspired me and the creativity blocks just went away after studying for a while. The instructors are great and understanding in allowing us to do our own things and go our own way, especially because we don’t have menswear. How do you see yourself moving forward from here in your career? I’m thinking of going to graduate school actually and getting my MA in fashion. I want to do runway shows and high fashion, that’s the big goal!