British design firm
Founded: by Michelle Hoggard (born in West Yorkshire, England, 1962) and Peter Leathers (born in Tyneside, England, 1962) in Tyneside, 1983. Company History: Sells clothes to local retail outlets; opened own outlet in Hyper Hyper store, London, 1985; first catwalk collection presented at British Fashion Week, London, 1986; opened shop in Rupert Court, London, 1987; established small factory in Yorkshire, England, to manufacture own label, 1987; established retail chain selling own label and other small designer labels, with shops in Leeds and Manchester, England, 1992; label falls from fashion, late 1990s; "Air" home furnishings shops opened by Michelle Hoggard, 2000s. Awards: Yorkshire Television Young Business Entrepreneur of the Year, 1985; Fil d'Or Linen award, Paris, 1991.
On PETER HOGGARD:
"Fresh Blow to City as Store Quits Its Home," available online at Bradford & District, www.thisisbradford.co.uk , 1 October 2000.
Poole, Suzy, "Good Taste in the Air," available online at Bradford & District, www.thisisbradford.co.uk , 1 October 2000.
When Oscar Wilde wrote, "One should either wear a work of art or be a work of art," little did he imagine it would one day appear embroidered on the sleeve of a Peter Hoggard jacket. Ideas such as this, not to mention coats made from a Bayeux tapestry print or Peter Rabbit appliqués on skirts, have been a staple of Peter Hoggard collections since their inception in the early 1980s. This was the age of do-it-yourself fashion, street credibility being the latest in media hypes, with style bibles such as i-D and The Face eagerly documenting the wild and outrageous sartorial antics of British youth.
Amid this heady atmosphere and fueled by their joint passion for clothes and dressing up, Peter Leathers and Michelle Hoggard formed their fashion company, Peter Hoggard. Hoggard explained, "We were both very visual people—I think that's why we were attracted to each other—I made my own clothes while Peter customized his." Their first collection was inspired by Leathers' innovative idea of making couture one-offs from hotel laundry, which were then sold to friends. Big, baggy shirts, each one sprayed with an individual pattern, were customized with de rigueur designer rips and tears. The skirts were spotted by television presenter Leslie Ash when the duo appeared suitably attired on the set of the pop music show The Tube. She promptly placed an order, as did guest artist Gary Glitter.
Encouraged, the duo decided to take the bull by the horns and approach the fashion world in a serious and businesslike way. Becoming their own agents, they sold clothes to various retailers through a trunk show. This success led in turn to the opening of their own retail outlets and a stall in Hyper Hyper, the thriving and bustling center for London's young and avant-garde designers in Kensington High Street.
Concentrating on womenswear with strong yet eclectic themes that were both interesting and inspirational to research, Peter Hoggard collections have evolved to embody a sophisticated designer interpretation of street fashion, in tune with the 1990s customer who demanded quality and superb cut. Working in fabrics that often opposed and contradicted—linen and raffia, venetian wool and plastic, waxed cotton piping and rayon—themes have included prints based on dollar and pound signs and ship rigging, which incorporated jackets and sheath dresses with waxed-cotton piped sleeves or inserts. Bomber jackets in plastic with Dada-inspired imagery were appliquéd and reembroidered to create a cornucopia of reference, and crushed velvet minidresses and jackets were trimmed in new age crystal.
Peter Hoggard has been part of a similar breed of talented British designers and design duos emerging in the early 1980s—Bodymap, Richmond/Cornejo, and Mark and Syrie—being contemporaries. Compared to the vast success of international designers such as Gianni Versace or Calvin Klein, Peter Hoggard and company run the risk of being shackled by what Michelle Hoggard calls "the great British disease," being the traditional difficulties smaller designers have with production. When public relations officer Richard Titchner described Peter Hoggard as being "the best kept secret in fashion," his ironic statement served only as a reminder that many talented individuals had to go abroad to be taken seriously as creative designers. Peter Hoggard viewed itself as an endangered species, determined to retain its design integrity and a very English look to its product—and unfortunately, its status was right on the mark. By the end of the 20th century, the Peter Hoggard label was virtually extinct.
The new millennium found Michelle Hoggard, a permanent resident in the West Yorkshire area, still dedicated to a sense of place and distinctive English style. In an interview for the "This is Bradford" website, she discussed her reason for opening two city center housewares stores to offer hard-to-find items. With 14 years in fashion retail and manufacturing behind her, she established the "Air" shops at the Wool Exchange in Bradford to reflect her taste in interior design. "When I bought my new house," she explained, "I was very conscious of wanting to put my own stamp on things, but there wasn't an awful lot around. I started going to trade shows but then I put the focus on smaller items to suit the market."
Hoggard's eye for business saw opportunity in high-end gifts and home decoration. Her shops on Hustlergate and Market streets stocked aromatherapy products, oil burners, picture frames, storage units, table decoration, and clocks. Her criteria for new additions to the household and giftware lines focused on unique global sources such as salt crystal lamps and candleholders from Germany and on items that were both natural and attractive. Her pledge to remain viable in Bradford's business district accompanied the opening of the second Air shop, a boon to a city center hard hit by business reorganizations and closures.
updated by Mary Ellen Snodgrass