Lab Magazine

Blake Hyland is an Australian-born, Canadian-based fashion designer. He has worked for labels Red Flag Design and Mono – the brainchild of Heather Martin, who interviews him here – and is known for his eclectic fabric choices and glamorous grunge approach to menswear. Hyland was a winner of the Samsung Infinite Possibilities contest and received a Designer Spotlight shoot with The Lab Magazine as part of his prize. 

HEATHER MARTIN—You up and left Vancouver for Toronto – what’s happening out east for you? Are you enjoying the change of scene? Feeling inspired? 

BLAKE HYLAND—Yeah, I did! It’s been crazy and really busy since the moment I arrived. I’m very much feeling like I made the right choice. It’s weird; I’ve been getting all these signs along the way, almost a reassurance that my decision was the right one. I’ve been loving the pace of it here and just the bigger city life in general. Feeling that pulse has for sure been it’s own source of inspiration.

HM—You are a well-travelled man… What does changing the view do for you? Have you found the right place and, if not, will you ever know when you do?

BH—Yes, that’s true. I was actually calculating that the other day and realized this move to Toronto has been the twenty-third time I’ve moved in my life. A change for me is always necessary. I don’t know if that’s something that is instilled in me now or if it’s something I require to function properly. I know that too much of an ordinary or mundane way of living drastically affects me, usually for the worst.

I’m not sure if I will ever find the right place. I hope I will! I know I haven’t found it just yet. Maybe I’m afraid of finding it. I just look at it like this – every time I’ve moved its been for a purpose: weather, work, or personal related. I see it as any natural progression, one you can learn, develop, experience, and grow from.

HM—Tell us about the place you’re from – the Gold Coast, Australia. What do you love about home? And why couldn’t you wait to leave?

BH—Haha! Well, the Gold Coast is quite the place. One where I could never live again, but appreciate it for what it is. It was a nice place to grow up. Surfing, causing mischief with friends – being a beach bum was one of my favorite past times. How things change! For sure I miss elements of home – obviously family and friends – it’s tough being so far away sometimes – Australian humor and sarcasm, the natural beauty of the place, ocean, and the food!

I couldn’t wait to leave based mostly on the fact that I thought it couldn’t cater for me so well or the career I wanted to pursue. It’s a tough place to grow up and people can be pretty harsh out there, especially if you want to be a male fashion designer. The mentality of people drove me a little crazy at times, and if you stray to far from the pack they can come down on you pretty hard. It’s a pretty remote country and very much its own, I needed to get out and experience what else was out there. Once I did, there was no going back!

HM—Where and when did your design history begin and where do you see it going from here on in?

BH—Well, it began officially in 2010 with my first collection, which I did at school then later showed publicly at fashion week. I received a good response from it and it reassured me I was doing something right. So I decided to continue producing more work. I also worked and gained experience with other designers, like yourself and Red Flag Design, which later helped further develop my skills to start my second collection, REVOLT, in 2012.

As far as the future is concerned, my next collection will be a mix of both men’s and women’s clothing. I had a great response from the last two collections by women in particular, so it makes sense for me to listen to that and hopefully create them something that they love. My main goal is to keep growing and strengthening my collections and eventually be able to produce a product that will be accessible to a larger audience.

HM—What are you thinking about when you are designing? What are you trying to solve? What concerns you? And how do you resolve those ideas or concerns?

BH—Firstly, I’m thinking about how to stay honest and true to what I’m trying to exemplify – really trying to push boundaries of clothing almost to the point where they could be questionable. Exploring. I want my clothing to instill something a little more meaningful than just a garment that can be worn; I want it to be thought about, interpreted, understood.

I’m still trying to solve everything! I have so much to learn still, and with every new piece I try to create I’m faced with new challenges. I suppose that comes with its own concerns and frustrations and I find myself trying to solve problems that I know are beyond my capabilities. But I need to take it one step at a time and keep learning from exploring ideas, whether it’s sinking or swimming.

HM—What is easy about what you do and what do you find the most challenging?

BH—Generating ideas has always been the easiest for me. My brain is always conjuring up endless ways of executing an idea, exploring new ways to manipulate a fabric, or finding a material that speaks volumes. I just wish I had more time and hands to bring them all to fruition.

Most challenging, well that would be a combination of a few things. One being pattern making. It takes decades to master and has a million variations. Like everything though, practice makes perfect. It also becomes challenging, when your work becomes more desirable, and you can see it slowly building around you, trying to juggle the business side of it all. For example, sourcing investment or funding to produce future collections or developing a product that can then be manufactured. Slowly but surely I’m trying to educate myself more about these things and how to make it all work. 

HM—Texture, drape, and proportion are prominent elements within your clothing. What pulls you towards them? What is their importance to the end result?

BH—I think exploring or pushing it with textures or creating them really makes the garment stand out from others. With that in mind, people are only going to wear clothing that fits their body well, so if the texture is busy, I keep the design or cut relatively simple. It’s a fragile middle ground; it’s easy to overstep the mark. So that’s an important factor.

I really gravitate toward leathers and skins mostly, just because they’re maybe the most extreme you can get as far as materials are concerned. It’s as real as you can get and, in a sense, recycling something that once was. That being said, draping introduces a softer, lighter feel, a contrary to leather and harder materials. So proportionately, it still maintains a balance and creates diversity throughout each collection.

HM—What concepts or processes are you currently grappling or working with?

BH—I’ve recently started working on some women’s pieces. So that alone has been a different avenue for me and still one I’m working on to get right. There’s much more shaping and technical pattern making to consider when it comes to the fit. So that has been a new area that I’ve been exploring, making some mistakes, but I’m learning along the way!

HM—What outside influences affect your process and work?

BH—Well, it could be a combination of different things. Positively, I love travel and exploring new places, ways of living, and objects. That can be a huge influence and escape for me. I feel a sense of solitude from that. Once I’m in that headspace, my mind generates its best ideas. Also my peers and other creatives help to inspire me. In a negative sense, I’m affected by my sensitivity to current affairs and global issues. The world as we know it is heading in a bad direction and quick, if we don’t become conscious of this and come together to implement a change, we may all be left to suffer. These are matters that influence my collections and will continue to; hopefully they can bring some awareness to addressing these problems.

HM—What doors have opened up for you since winning the Samsung Infinite Possibilities contest?

BH—Well, I’ve met some amazing people along the way that I definitely plan on keeping in touch with. Hopefully some future projects will come from it. An opportunity to rebuild my website has stemmed from the experience also, so I’m pretty excited to see that come to fruition.

HM—And finally, if you didn’t work as a fashion designer what would you do with your life?

BH—Good question! Well, I know it would be clothing related, as that’s what comes most naturally to me – costume, styling, possibly running my own independent store that would carry cool hand-selected pieces and small labels. Also the idea of helping or giving back to humanity appeals to me, like a social or civil rights worker.