The celebrity-approved costume designer on “carving a pathway to hell with good intentions.”
By Naomi Barling.
Young American designer, Edwin Mohney, designs with the “shock factor in mind. Born in Buffalo, New York State, his ambition took him to design school at Central St Martins in London, then to New York, and onto L.A., where he now resides. Below, Mohney opens up about how he turns cultural commentary into clothing worn by the likes of Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé and how he uses shock value in all his pieces.
Naomi Barling: What got you started on your design journey?
Edwin Mohney: I started making clothes when I was in High School. I was bullied a lot and didn’t fit into the pervasive conservative culture in my small town. Fashion was an escape for me. I would be on style.com constantly. Even during my chemistry labs or any class that I had a computer, I’d be drooling over Galliano or McQueen.
NB: Your B.A. and M.A. collections caused quite a stir. Do you create with the shock factor in mind?
EM: I love using shock value as a texture. It was definitely intentional after a certain point when I became aware of how jarring the outfits were. I didn’t set out to make anything shocking perse, but at some point in the process, I realized it was a key aspect of the work and asked myself how I could build on it.
NB: Would you describe your work as a comment on culture as a whole?
EM: I can comment on culture for sure. I think the main inspiration in my work is sabotage. So taking anything in the zeitgeist and then destroying/critiquing it will always be inherently attached to culture.
NB: How do you go about turning a conceptual idea into something that can be worn as clothing?
EM: I literally just put holes in things and then try them on a body over and over until I think it works. I would love to give a more intellectual answer, but my process is instinctual and follows my intuition. I unpack and critique my work after. It’s not entirely interesting to me to understand what it’s about all the time.
NB: Your work blurs the lines between fashion, art, and costume. Where do you find inspiration when starting a project?
EM: It depends on the project. When I collaborate, I start with the other person. If it’s something for myself, I usually think a lot and try to carve space out for something new. I begin every new project with extreme observation. I become like a sponge and start to look for whatever feels interesting. I drive around L.A. a lot or will try new video games. I honestly can’t pinpoint a single entry point that is specific in a methodical way.
NB: How have you found the transition from CSM to working life?
EM: Being out of school is liberating, terrifying, and exhilarating. It’s a new adventure.
NB: How do you balance your experimental vision when working with clients?
EM: It’s not always appropriate to push that vision onto everyone. When I work with clients, I think it’s always important to understand why they’ve come to me. I’m more than just my aesthetic. I am also a very skilled maker. There will always be an inherent “Edwinness” within any piece I make, even if I try not to put it there. Therefore, sometimes I just make something simple, but it works for the client because it’s about what they want and what I want out of the opportunity. However, there are situations where what the client wants is my vision, and those moments feel like magic.
NB: You have now lived in London, New York, and L.A., how do the three cities compare?
EM: They are completely different. I could go on forever, but I’ve learned there are people who will embrace you in every city. I do miss the rain, though.
NB: What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry? What is your advice for any non-conforming designers entering the working world?
EM: I’d still like to see more inclusivity and diversity. There’s been a huge awakening within the industry, but to reach a point where things are truly equal takes even more work. My advice to new designers is to see people as who they would like to be seen as, rather than feeling the need to impose your vision onto them.
NB: What’s next for Edwin Mohney?
EM: Carving a pathway to hell with good intentions. I’ve just finished costuming my first feature film and am developing more collections to be released soon!
Images courtesy of Edwin Mohney