Founded in 2012 by creative director Ian Hargrove and in its third year, AgainstAllOdds works to elevate classic, comfortable, wearable silhouettes into unique sewn sculptures. Quirky, cool, never over the top, and totally wearable is the mantra behind the AAO team approach to fashion. Designing for the Chicago woman – “unique, feisty, always fearless, and a little conflicted” – the personality of the city comes across in AAO style. In this Designer Spotlight, we talk to Ian about beating the odds and what the workout that is editing a collection.
How and why did you start designing?
I have always been into art, painting, drawing, and photography – all of it really. At some point I fell in love with clothes (I was voted Best Dressed Male in my high school by the way). In college I took some courses in design and construction and, though I never technically finished, I was hooked on the industry. I worked in all avenues of the fashion world but a few years ago I got tired of putting someone else’s clothes on models for pictures or on mannequins for store windows. That’s when I became a designer and AgasintAllOdds became a brand.
It’s a strong brand name! Where did it come from?
I named our company AgainstAllOdds for two reasons that seemed obvious to me. First, since its conception our company has worked with non-profits and charities like Easter Seals and most recently Art of Freedom. Many of these causes are daunting, but with the help of people and socially conscious companies like AAO we can “against all odds” make a difference. Second, starting and running any business is hard and a clothing label is more-so. Failure is more likely than success, so the odds are truly stacked against me and my team. Our name is a reminder to me and everyone that works with me, from senior staff to the new intern, to work hard and beat the odds.
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
Most people will give some BS answer, but honestly it’s money. Cash flow is a huge issue when starting out. Developing a collection is expensive and often designers are forced to take outside work to keep up with everything. Thanks to interns and business contacts we have been pretty lucky so far (*knocks on wood*). Every season gets a little easier, but money is the answer and probably will be for the next few seasons.
What do you think about fashion today?
I just saw a documentary where Anna Wintour said (and I’m paraphrasing) that fashion is now influenced by the people that are wearing the clothes as much as the designer with his sketch book and fabric swatches. I think there’s something really marvelous about that. That a woman no longer looks for and buys the “pre-styled” “designer-approved” look, that they themselves enter into the narrative that is fashion. I think that people have gotten ballsy and brazen with what they wear, not bound by what is cool according to someone else, but mixing and matching in amazing combinations and marching to the beat of their own internal runway anthem.
What is your fashion philosophy?
Easy. Buy something you love and wear the hell out of it.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
I’m really easily inspired. Music, art, people, even a great party all get me thinking about clothes…to be honest my problem is never lack of ideas, but too many. At least once a season I get some amazing idea that trumps my old ones and I start scrapping finished samples. Rarely do my initial sketches make it from conception to completion without some kind of creative edit, it really drives my staff crazy!
You mentioned in your previous questions that you often have to narrow down ideas – what does this process look like for you?
My editing and design process really is a perfect storm. Sketches end up covered in scribbled notes or style line edits in black sharpie. Some stuff is hastily thrown out and picked back out of the trash a day later. It really depends on the collection, some seasons go more smoothly than others, but our bulletin board is guaranteed a workout, and honestly sometimes I just decide to change something on the form for no other reason than a random musing. Creativity works that way.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
Always keep your eyes open, and be selective about who you do business with. The fashion industry survives on partnerships, and a worth-while business or media contact will take you far #nineteenthamendment
What is your brand aesthetic?
AgainstAllOdds is a textile driven ready to wear brand. I love interesting fabrics and beautiful silhouettes. Me and my team love the classics like pencil skirts and sheath dresses but want to throw something new in the mix, whether its a an unusual print or a new fabric treatment, basically classics with a twist. Rarely will you see anything from AgainstAllOdds that most people aren’t be able to wear. We have huge respect for the industry’s artists but we think fashion should be a mix of art and commerce, and there isn’t much of a market for coats with 3 hoods or a completely sheer pair of pants…yet.
Get ready for AgainstAllOdds sculptural takes on classics and follow them to get updates when they launch.