Interview with Matthew Hegarty – Creative force behind British brand Hegarty
We were incredibly lucky to have a chance to interview with Matthew Hegarty, the creative force behind the British brand Hegarty. Founded in the heart of London, Hegarty emerges as a pioneering force in the realm of fashion, making an indelible mark with its unique approach to outerwear. At its core lies a fundamental mission: to create a collection of iconic garments that seamlessly blend the boundaries between women’s, men’s, and unisex ready-to-wear fashion. With an unwavering commitment to distinct design, timeless style, and uncompromising quality, Hegarty brings forth a range of outerwear that resonates with those who seek sophistication in simplicity. A standout feature of Hegarty’s ethos is its dedication to sustainable practices. Each meticulously crafted piece in their collection is proudly made in London, utilizing fine English fabrics to ensure a fusion of luxury and sustainability. As the brand evolves, it remains firmly rooted in its original principles, embodying an understated aesthetic that embodies effortless elegance.
In this exclusive interview, we delve into the creative genius behind Hegarty, uncovering the inspiration, philosophy, and vision that have propelled it into the fashion limelight. Join us as we explore the intricate tapestry of artistry and innovation that defines Hegarty’s journey, and how its creations continue to captivate fashion enthusiasts worldwide. Don’t forget to checkout their awesome range at www.hegartylondon.com/.
Can you tell us about your journey from being a fashion photographer to starting your own fashion brand? How has your photography background influenced your approach to designing and creating clothing?
I started out as a fashion photographer and so I was always looking at clothes and fashion. I felt in my core that making fashion was something I really had to do creatively. So I started. I love coats and outerwear and a fantastic coat or jacket can just make the outfit. As well as this so few of my favorite British designers make their pieces in the UK. I really felt that I wanted to create a fashion brand that begins with outerwear, that’s sustainable and made in London and we’ve already passed Hegarty’s two-year anniversary! For quite a while now gender fluidity has been far more apparent in fashion. I feel that so many pieces don’t need to be and shouldn’t be designed for one type of person. Certain pieces can be designed with a more inclusive scope. However, at the same time I also feel that some pieces do look great, and work if they’re designed particularly for a women or man in mind. For example, when I look at any Denim jacket, I love the boxy look that an oversized jacket can give to any person, and this was very much on my mind in the design process. My Photography background has really influenced my approach to creating fashion as in photography you always need to be looking, being observant, with an instinct for detail. This is reflected in my personal inspection of all my designs from pattern cutting to samples to the finished product. Every piece is finally scrutinized before delivery, and I am proud of that.
Sustainability is a key focus for you. How do you ensure sustainability throughout your design process and production? What are some of the sustainable practices you have implemented?
Having the final pieces made locally is our key practice. This is exactly how we started. I visit my manufacturers weekly throughout the sampling and manufacturing process. I can do this because the furthest one away from where im based in Southwest London is only 50 minutes away. We only source our fabrics from England and our furthest supplier is in Burnley Lancashire. The sort of designs we create are only made with sustainable fabrics and so this works into the design process. We also make sure that the dyes used in the fabrics are nontoxic and our factories are certified that they don’t use nontoxic dyes as well. I know all the owners and Directors of the manufacturers, and so this obviously helps with transparency. All the staff really are artisans and are paid accordingly.
You take pride in using British fabric and manufacturing clothes in London. How does this commitment to locality and quality influence your designs and brand identity?
Thank you, Hegarty really takes pride in this. So much so that we have a second label underneath the brand logo that says, “Made in London”. It’s absolutely in the brand DNA and identity and we are 100% committed to this ideal of London manufacturing. I’m inspired by the world over as well. I love English tailoring and military wear, but I also love the American style of denim jackets too. I’ve always been inspired by the Paris couturiers. All the Hegarty pieces are hand finished and this is something extra that we do to really push the quality. This is something that we can do locally as London and UK manufacturing is of such a high quality.
As a designer and entrepreneur, how do you strike a balance between creating fashion-forward designs and maintaining a sustainable and ethical approach to fashion?
You can never forget your core pieces that continue to sell well. Our Women’s Pea Coat is one of our best sellers. We’ve ran out and restocked it a few times now, which is really wonderful. This is a piece that I really love and I am so pleased we have global customers requesting and buying it. It wouldn’t be right to just start adding designs to the collection that don’t have the sustainable bias that all our collection has and also it wouldn’t be sustainable to create pieces that won’t sell as that would be a waste of time and resources which wouldn’t make for a scalable business.
What are some of the challenges you faced when transitioning from fashion photography to starting your own brand? How did you overcome these challenges?
Well, there really weren’t too many challenges as there really are a lot of crossovers. The main crossover is that you have to have all your pieces photographed. One particular challenge was that I had to do a days work as a photographer and then go home and do another days work as a designer. I would be on set as a photographer and when we wrapped I would then have to runup to my factory to check on samples. Inevitably this is quite intense but it’s very exciting and produces great results. It is so satisfying to go to the factory and see a perfect final sample, that is exactly how I want it to be: Beautifully made and hand finished. You really have to have a vision though and I really do. I know what I want.
How do you incorporate your values of sustainability and quality into the aesthetics and design philosophy of your brand?
We never design anything that’s made from non-sustainable fabrics. Hegarty is one of those lucky brands that loves organic fabrics, and these are all used in our pieces. As you know we’re great advocates for London manufacturing and so the manufacturing process is of the highest quality. This very much plays into the aesthetics of a final piece as the stitching and cut of the fabrics are so beautifully produced.
Can you share a few examples of the most sustainable and innovative fabrics or materials you use in your collections? What inspired you to explore these eco-friendly options?
Wool is the most eco-friendly option. It lasts for such a long time and if you source it locally like we do then you know that it comes from local sheep too! Nontoxic dyes are so important now. Everything at Hegarty has been dyed using nontoxic dyes and all our suppliers are certified that they don’t use anything toxic. All our leather from our jackets to the trims are made with 100% real byproduct leather which comes from the meat industry. This is wonderfully sustainable and not enough brands use byproduct leather. We work with a wonderful UK supplier where not only are the tans nontoxic but 100% byproduct. We also on occasion use deadstock fabrics. When at my regular London factory visits, I’m often on the lookout for anything that could work! The factories are always pretty happy to sell it to me as they want to get rid of it and it frees up space. Lastly having 100% recyclable packaging that’s made from 100% recycled packaging is key as well. All our boxes and tissue paper come from this.
Fashion is a constantly evolving industry. How do you stay ahead of trends while also staying true to your brand’s values and design aesthetics?
You can’t just jump on the band wagon when it comes to trends. You have to design pieces that are going to last but also are going to be popular and fashionable. Our Cloak that we launched earlier this year is one of the most fashion forward pieces. We love that this is going to be with us for a while and not just cool for a season or two. Hegarty will NEVER be fast fashion, and this is one of our brand’s fundamental bedrock principles. Every year we create new samples in order to add to the collection in its totality, however, there needs to be harmony between all the pieces and this helps us stay ahead. Returning customers often want what is new but a first time Hegarty customer has to feel like everything is relevant, which we believe is.
In what ways do you engage with your customers to communicate the importance of sustainability in fashion? How do you encourage conscious consumerism within your brand’s community?
At Hegarty we talk a lot to our customers and audience about Made in London. It is so important to Hegarty as a fashion brand and a fashion business that it’s made locally, ethically and sustainably. On the description pages of each product on the website it says Made in London and we also talk a lot about this through our social media channels as well. On our Instagram page we have still images and videos taken at our London based factories where you can see the hard-working wonderful people literally making the Hegarty pieces. Going into to this level of detail and also the level of detail in our fabrics and trims is key and our customers and audience want to know about this.
Hegarty advocates for slow fashion and timeless designs. How do you create pieces that are not only stylish but also enduring and versatile?
It all takes time. I’m always working daily on the design process. I instinctively study fashion from films, news, history and over the years have developed an internalized background of style and innovation which is subconsciously reflected in my current working. I don’t want to create something that isn’t going to last. I want to create fashion pieces that are stylish and will last the test of time. To my mind really great fashion is something that is relevant now but when trends change, which they do, you’ll put your beautiful Hegarty piece in the wardrobe to only bring it back out years later and be bang on trend again. It’ll stay with you and there’s also the practical element to consider as well. Hegarty pieces are incredibly well made with excellent fabrics, so they are going to last.
As a fashion designer, what do you see as the future of sustainable fashion? What steps do you believe the industry needs to take to become more eco-conscious?
It has to be local and made within the country of the brand’s origins and location. Far too many brands say they’re sustainable and then they source their fabrics from one country and then ship it to another country for its manufacturing and then ship to where the brand is based only to then hopefully ship it out when it sells. This to me isn’t sustainable. The carbon footprint on that is so bad and not eco conscious at all. We’re so lucky in the UK that we make some of the best fabrics and trims and sourcing locally has to be the future. This is something that we really believe in at Hegarty. I also think it’s a wonderful idea to source fabrics from the country of the brand’s origin as it really helps with the brand’s story and message. I’m not a politician but I feel strongly that if more brands did this then it would be far better ecologically for the environment and also better economically for the country.
Who is an ideal Hegarty customer?
Someone with principals who understands what Hegarty is and what we’re trying to do. Someone who understands quality and where a garment comes from completely. They also understand the importance of where something is made and what it’s made from. They have exceptional taste and want to look great and feel empowered.
How would you define Hegarty in three words and in your opinion, what makes it stand out from the rest?
Design, Ethics, Quality.
These three fundamentals really make Hegarty stand out from the rest. Local, London made fashion made in beautiful sustainable fabrics with great design is how it must be done.
Changing a career path can be quite challenging. How successful do you think you have been with Hegarty so far and what will you like to achieve in the near future?
I am very grateful for the success Hegarty has had so far but for me it’s never enough and I mean that in a good way. I always want more for the brand and the business. There are so many more avenues that we want to get involved in. I want to have a really wholistic collection including more accessories and more ready to wear. This is the great focus of Hegarty along with creating beautiful fashion pieces that are always made in London with the finest British made fabrics but to expand the brand and business as well.
What advice would you give to the upcoming designers or/and photographers who would want to follow your footsteps?
I think the best advice I can give is just to start! Don’t think and analyze too much about it. Don’t ask too many people’s opinions, just crack on! If you have a dream and a vision, then really go for it. Everything takes time but if you love it, it will all be so worth it and when you’ve created something that you’re proud of and can get behind it’ll be super transparent that you’re doing the right thing and you won’t want to do anything else. When you start getting traction and you’re creating work that is great then you’ll really know you’re on the right path. When you start to get sales too that’s immensely reassuring as someone that you’ve never met before understands what you’re trying to say and create, so much so that they’ve put their own money behind.
What has been the biggest achievement so far as a designer that you have been very proud of?
Having a fully thought-out collection is one of the biggest achievements. When I started two years ago I had just two styles, now everything is much more fleshed out. I’m very proud of all of it but starting it all by myself, all be it with lots of support from friends and family does make me proud.
Can you tell us about your current collection and how does it convey your vision?
My current collection is expanding and developing steadily with variations on structure and tailoring. Right now I am inspired by 1940’s and 1970’s ready to wear and also elements from the French Revolution era and how that works with what we have done previously.
My ultimate vision is to create garments and accessories which people will love to wear because they look great,are long lasting and give dignity to the wearer and the producer. I want to encourage an alternative to fast fashion or any fashion which can be exploitative in manufacturing, and which is ultimately destructive. I want to promote fashion design and manufacturing which is beneficial and supportive: and I believe the right principled choice in fashion can do that.