A veteran freelance journalist who has written for Newsweek, the LA Times, The Washington Post and other fine publications, Hahn is an incredibly versatile and fun writer. I was thrilled when she took the time to answer some questions for Fashionista Piranha's readers.
Fashionista Piranha: So what inspired you to create Forgotten Fashion?
Kate Hahn: Designers, muses and fashion victims appealed to me as fictional characters because they had the potential to do extreme and funny things in the name of creativity and style that would really drive a story forward. I love reading history – and that includes 1930s issues of Vogue from the public library archives. A fake fashion history book was a way to spend more time with eccentric characters and amazing clothes – something I try to do in real life anyway.
FP: How did you select the artists whose work accompanied your "historical research”?
KH: I have known Andraé Gonzalo, from Project Runway, for years – we met while working at a Los Angeles coffee shop before either of us began our grown-up careers. Other artists were referred by friends and colleagues. Some I found by placing ads on job boards at Parsons and other art schools.
FP: Let's take a moment to hear a little bit from Andraé regarding this project!
FP: Did you write the article and then the artists drew the art, or was it done in the reverse? Was it more of a joint/group effort from idea to finished article?
KH: I wrote the chapters first, and the illustrators did the drawings based on how they interpreted the styles. To give the artists some guidelines, I supplied them with reference materials – mostly photocopies of photographs and illustrations from historical magazine spreads I studied at the Los Angeles Public Library – a place where you can not only check out books but buy counterfeit designer perfume and watches from vendors wandering through the stacks. The social science section is a veritable souk.
Although you've been writing for seven years in the beauty/fashion/entertainment field, this is your first book. Now that Forgotten Fashion has been in stores a few weeks, what's the best part of being an author with a published book? Is anything different from what you anticipated?
The best part is that my publisher, the teeny tiny imprint TOW Books, let me write the stories I wanted to write. I had a collaborative relationship with the art director. What I did not expect was the amount of marketing and publicity I have to do. Turns out books do not sell themselves and have a better chance if they are about vampires, diets, or the secret path to happiness or riches. My next book will be The Vampire Prescription: How to be Richer, Thinner, and Eternally Happy.
FP: I would totally read it. I bet you had some really interesting times in your journalistic career. Pick one of your favorite moments and tell us a story, pretty please!
My journalism stories are nothing like Christiane Amanpour’s. If I say, “I got shot at,” it means I accidentally walked in front of a camera on a movie or television show set. I risked sunburn interviewing the Jonas Bros. on the Camp Rock set in Canada (and then eardrum damage talking to them adjacent to screaming fans in Orlando); got rained on waiting to get inside the Grammys, where I proceeded to not immediately recognize Ludacris; and once was spray-tanned a lovely orange color – all in the name of journalism. A favorite recent assignment was spending the day on the set of HBO’s True Blood, watching Alan Ball direct. See, vampires.
In 2005 you analyzed how mens' hair trends reflect the country's mood for NPR's "Day to Day." If I may get political for a moment, what do the presidential candidates’ hairstyles say about them, or about us as a country?
McCain and Obama have conservative, low-maintenance cuts that say, “I’m serious and focused. You can rely on me.” These looks imply selflessness (these guys don’t waste time fussing over their own reflections in the mirror, they’re working for you), loyalty (they’re skipping the too-touchable longer locks of philandering John Edwards) and honesty (no Mitt Romney movie-star slickness for them). Americans want a president who can buckle down and get us through a crisis. Obama’s clipper cut has a slight edge over McCain’s comb-over.
Who are you favorite designers, past and present?
Original Chanel and Balenciaga; the collaborative designs between Ossie Clarke and Celia Birtwell in the Sixties; the sense of humor at Moschino; the structure of Rei Kawakubo; the theatricality of Vivienne Westwood. In my own wardrobe, my favorite dress is a one-shoulder print from last summer by Diane von Furstenberg. I did push-ups for that dress.
Any hints about future projects you'd like to share with the readers?
I contribute to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, an online humor site, and want to expand on some pieces I have published there. I will include illustrations in my next book – maybe collaborating with the artist from the start. The stories will be even shorter. I am not going to fight the shrinking American attention span.
Is there anything you've read lately you'd like to recommend, or some all-time favorite books?
One of my all time favorites is the Gormenghastseries by Mervyn Peak – novels in the fantasy genre. Recently I read Life of Pi and Atonement. I will read anything by Carl Hiassen, who writes satirical novels about South Florida; Iris Murdoch who wrote incredibly rich novels with a sharp eye and dark humor; and Alexander McCall Smith. I also suggest everyone read the care labels on their clothing.
Thank you for your time, Kate!
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