You can interview all the designers in the world, but there’s nothing like talking to someone who gave up the security of a 9 to 5 in order to follow their dream. It sounds a little bit like a dream mixed with a harsh reality. Will the venture fail? Or, an even scarier question might be, will it succeed? The latter seems to have been answered. Maxwell Hudson is the new not-from-New York-Paris-Milan fashion line from designer Lindsay Stewart. Papierdoll got a chance to sit down with her and ask (or actually e-mail) a bunch of questions to Lindsay. Up and coming designers take note: it’s not easy. Read on.
PD:Who is Lindsay Stewart and why should we care?
LS: Lindsay Stewart is a daughter, sister, granddaughter, daughter-in-law, wife, mom and best friend. I married the boy I met when I was 13. We have a 19 month old baby boy. My parents are still together. I’m good at loving weird, ugly, unloved people, things and places. I’m also good at loving beautiful, intimidating, righteous people, things and places. I’m a risk taker. I make quick decisions confidently. I’m not afraid of failure. I eat peanut butter on my hotdogs. I enjoy an ice-cold can of Miller Highlife (It’s the champagne of beers, you know) in the grass on a hot afternoon with my dad and husband. I love rummaging at the Goodwill and garage sales with my mom. When I get to laughing really hard, I sound like a big sea lion running out of air. I am empathetic, compassionate, warm, honest, genuine and witty. I don’t know how to swim. In a six-month span between dental visits, I once was plagued with 13 cavities. I cannot say I love the dentist.
I’m not in the popularity contest, my clothes are. Life is good, designing is wonderful, working for myself is even better! Life is so simple, way too short and way too good to be taken so dang seriously! Sometimes the best things happen when we just lay in the weeds. That’s what my dad always says. It’s hard because we all want to change the world, do something radical and be noticed. But I think things are capable of sorting themselves out. If big, influential people in some of the scariest messes in the world right now would just sit down and lay in the weeds (maybe have a Highlife or something??) we’d all be quite surprised. Change from the inside out – for all of us – could truly reflect a better day.
PD:Where did you get your start?
LS: I got my start cutting up scratchy, metallic green fabric into a little vest, hat, arm and leg bands for my little brother, Jordan. At the time he was probably two, which would make me ten. I always cut up the extra yardage of fabric that the neighbor lady had used for her random projects. Jordan, with this particular ensemble, closely resembled a card dealer aboard a riverboat in the deep south. More seriously, however, I began drawing, sketching, playing with fabrics and subscribing to Vogue by 11 or 12. I designed my wedding gown and six bridesmaids’ dresses. My first job in the industry was working as an executive assistant to Kathrine Baumann Beverly Hills, world-renown crystal minaudiere designer.
PD:Who/what inspired you to design?
LS: I’ve always been a dreamer and a creator. But when I left the last office job I had as executive assistant to Kathrine Baumann, I fixated on how I could have a successful business all my own. A few months after leaving Kathrine Baumann, I became pregnant with Max, and at that point, I couldn’t imagine going to back to a corporate gig.
PD:Where did you grow up?
LS: I grew up in a very small town halfway between Seattle, WA and Portland, OR called Centralia, WA.
PD:What was it like where you grew up?
LS: Well, when passing through Centralia on I-5, you will notice the worst selection of outlet malls in the entire country, five gas stations and almost all the fast-food chains. If you should give it a chance and travel two miles east, your heart will flutter at historical downtown Centralia. There is a quaint post office, a library with a huge park in the center of town, a few banks, a few pubs, a jewelry store, a used book store, a few restaurants and several antique stores. There is the most adorable coffee shop across the street from my office, called Centralia Perk and it specializes in all sizes and shapes of crystal chandeliers, coffees and deserts. Hip ‘N Humble is my other favorite spot on the main drag, which hosted our trunkshow before Christmas. My best friend is also a master-stylist there and it’s one of those places you just have to stop in to say hello. It’s remarkable because it’s sincere! This town isn’t all old-school fun and games, and pretty buildings from 1897, but for the most part, it’s a wonderful area.
PD:Is being outside of fashion hub cities like NYC, Paris etc limiting? Is it empowering? In what ways?
LS: Empowering. It’s so much better to design with instinct, from the inside out, and I feel I can do that more effectively without the constant cultural bombardment of trends, lifestyles, religions and races. On one hand, fashion is collective consciousness at work which makes it really tough to design something that has never been done, or won’t be done, on accident, at the same exact time as my wonderful idea. Mostly, it’s great. I can totally tune in to my own philosophies, and should I decide to depart from my internal style, I can do so without turning to everyone else’s idea of a great skirt. I can be private and true.
PD:What’s the fashion scene like in Centralia, Washington?
LS: The fashion scene in Centralia consists of the following: A) a wide range of Carhartt gear (a mustardy-taupy, very thick cotton, line of farmer/construction clothing) with lace-up work boots and Stihl (the chainsaw company) trucker hats (the original trucker hat, mind you). B) easy-coordinating, cotton separates from Wal Mart. C) clearance and irregular items from outlet stores like Helly Hansen, Levis, The Dress Barn and Bass. My husband and I grew up in Centralia and decided to relocate back for a while so he could finish school and so Max could have some very quality time with his family.
PD:Why name the line Maxwell Hudson?
LS: Our little boy’s name is Maxwell Hudson Stewart. We knew instantly that this little guy would be the driving force behind something very grand. Kids are funny that way. I mean we could have named him Ralph or George and we would have been given the same amazing, inspiring energy to create, dream, explore, take risks. Kids do that! It’s better than any idea I could pull from a fall runway, or from any spread in the trades. It just so happens that the name we chose sounds pretty good and kinda rolls off the tongue. The line, named after Max, was developed shortly after his birth for several reasons. Mainly, I was not an office-gal, and going back to work full time would mean computers, desks, reams of boring white paper, supervisors, “time-off-request forms,” parking validation and reimbursement, etc. Childcare was out of our budget, living in Los Angeles at the time, and if I could exercise my talents, and hopefully live a dream or two while making some money, I would be able to spend more time with Max and my husband, and less time on Wilshire or the 405.
PD:Who do you design your clothes for?
LS: We have so many different types of customers. Originally, I had intended for a mid-twenties, group of gals who needed something as unique as they are, to reflect their individuality, to make their own statement, to stop someone on the street. It’s worked out that way for the most part, except instead of appealing to that group of mid-twenties, we’re appealing to a wide, wide range of mid-twenties: rock-stars, musicians, writers, attorneys, actors, teachers, hairstylists, moms, students, bartenders, social workers, etc. We’re doing our j
ob exceptionally well by appealing to all women.
PD:The fall line seems to be a cross between trailer park, punk, feminine, what was the inspiration behind the line?
LS: The line began while we still lived in LA and, conveniently, as we moved north to Washington, the surroundings changed, my ideas morphed, everything became a little less sunny, a little less bright and cheery. It’s wonderful up here, but it’s definitely not LA and it’s definitely not as bright and cheery. We’re close to Seattle which obviously has strong musical connections, as well as a fair amount of the population suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I’m so glad the transition of styles occurred in the middle because I was able to see different sides of our designs, to go different directions and create things for different kinds of women. Now I know Maxwell Hudson isn’t just about one particular look. We really are trailer park, punk, feminine, glamour, edgy and romantic.
PD:It must have been a big step leaving the security of a 9 to 5 to go off and design clothing on your own. Why did you do that and do you regret it?
LS: I really have a knack for adapting. I’m also always looking forward to what’s next – never anxious, just looking forward. I’m both a very content person and also a challenge-seeker. So yes, it was a big step to leave the security of a 9 to 5, but I also know that we’re all built differently with our own interests, desires and dreams. What I would sit and think about for years while working in the offices wasn’t “I gotta get outta here. What am I doing?”, but more like “OKAY, how can I get myself in a position to be a self-made woman – a respectable, unique-in-my-own-right (as well as in the fashion industry) gal?” But I guess that’s the other part of it, too. I could never say that I up and left the 9 to 5 on a whim, without a plan of attack – even if that plan meant addressing and stamping envelopes for a realtor for extra cash (which, I really did) I knew the desires in my heart, the dreams in the back of my mind, weren’t just wild hares. I was built that way. I wasn’t built with this underlying desire to be a pilot, or drive a tractor, so I wouldn’t up and do that. It’s not in me. I was built with big, humongous ideas for independence, self-expression, fashion and the knowledge that if I didn’t put one foot in front of the other and take some chances and really make it mine, I wouldn’t have a fighting chance. I have to try. What’s the worst thing to happen, I run out of money? I know that if I’m stepping out in faith and progressively seeking the best situation for me at any given time, I will be taken care of – not just minimally to get by, but taken care of abundantly, beyond my dreams, beyond my heart. I cannot and will not fail. I could never, ever regret my choice to go out on my own.
PD:Do you design exclusively or do you have assistants helping you? If you have assistants helping you, how does if feel giving up a certain aspect of control? If you don’t have assistants, how hard is it to do all the work by yourself?
LS: I don’t have any assistants yet. I do have two women who help me quite a bit, but they’re aren’t my assistants. They are extremely skilled at stitching and help to give life to some of my wild ideas. Laticia and Libya are gems. I have no problem giving up some control. They work with me because of their talent and insight to what we do. If I can lessen my load to trusted hands – great!
PD:Have you showed your lines at fashion shows?
LS: I wish! We’ve had several trunkshows, but never a fashion show. I would love an opportunity to display the line in such a 3D, high energy atmosphere. Great clothes speak volumes on hangers – that’s why we pick the good ones to try on because they look great before we even hold them up – so sharing my line with the public using multi-medias like lights, music, models, hair & make-up, photographers, etc. would be life-altering. I would be afforded incredible exposure.
PD:What kind of feedback, positive or negative, have you received about the line?
LS: Positive feedback revolves around the customer feeling complete with one of our pieces. No real need to accessorize or search for a finishing touch. Maxwell Hudson pieces are the finishing touch. Negative feedback has been real mild. I think the worst thing someone has said was the black knees rubbed out on the Skull & Crossbones sweatsuit made them uncomfortable. I was like, “Why?” I wanted to be sure the girl didn’t think I had subliminal messages going on about someone on their knees in a white Maxwell Hudson sweatsuit! If that’s how it made her feel, that’s fine – but the elbows are also rubbed out … the knee and elbow painted patches are our thing! It just so happens that the white sweatsuit with the black paint is most in-your-face. That makes it a favorite of mine!
PD:How do you approach negative feedback?
LS: Several months ago I was reading a Vogue magazine devoted to the up and coming designers in America. I read a quote, “If you’re truly innovative, everyone will think you’re doing it wrong.” That probably wouldn’t account for stellar sales because no one would be buying, but I do believe this to an extent. A few wrinkled noses means I’m absolutely successful at figuring out my market, staying loyal to my customers, and designing for them as time goes by. We’re not supposed to appeal to everyone – thank goodness or we’d all be dressed the same and living in areas similar to the eastside of Seattle where every single home, give or take 2 or 3 floorplans, is identical. You can let yourself into your neighbor’s home 3 blocks down and without aid, find the bathroom, spare linens and a cup of sugar! Negative feedback is realistic. There’s always going to be someone more talented, more insightful, more experienced. Any feedback is better than no feedback – bad press is good press.
PD:What has been the biggest obstacle in forming your company and creating your line?
The interview continues next week as Lindsay opens up and tells us about designers who should stop designing, the usage of one model in her ad campaigns and the various e-mails to her newborn Max.