Max Mollison is a fashion label from New Zealand, launched in 2012. The label is contemporary pop culture oriented menswear and womenswear featuring iconic imagery that is simultaneously pervasive and relatable. The garments make use of 4 main design principles: technology, innovation, illusion and story telling. While digital textile prints reoccur across collections, Max Mollison has recently focused interest in exploring alternatives to digital printing. These endeavors include embroidering, painting, distressing, and mixing contradictory fabrics to create prints and visual illusions.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m Max, I’m a fashion designer who runs the eponymous label Max Mollison producing womenswear and menswear in New Zealand. With each collection I also create an accompanying series of artworks to curate an environment that further personalizes the garments. I grew up and studied in New Zealand, but I have been bouncing between the USA and Australia doing internships for The Walt Disney Company and Romance Was Born.
Top 3 favorite or most visited websites and why? Facebook, Pizza Hut and my emails are my most visited but they are most definitely not my favourites. Some of my favourites would be Fucking Young – just a good edit of menswear so I don’t have to wade through the boring stuff. SHOWstudio because I really love watching the panel discussions on fashion shows, I find them very insightful. Thrill Geek – because I have a passion for theme parks and resorts.
What do you want a viewer to walk away with after experiencing your work? I like viewers to walk away thinking What the hell was he thinking? or inducing a cheeky smile. While humour is obviously a large aspect of my work, when I’m making something I don’t just sit there and think How can I make this a stupid joke? It comes naturally because I always trust my instinct. That can also be problematic–it’s hard riding the line between producing garments with a humorous side and being taken seriously. I mostly want my viewers to walk away so immersed in the garment’s story enough to crave it. So often I long for an physical item, working myself into a frenzy, telling myself I absolutely need it. I want to induce a viewer into that same frenzy.
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? TV is always influencing me, in my most recent collection I made garments inspired by The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’m fascinated with the Housewives franchise for the ridiculous world that these women live in. As much as they try to present themselves as affluent, high class women, they sabotage themselves. What actually comes across is pure havoc. My work mimics this completely; I would like to be taken seriously, but what actually comes across is a trash catastrophe.
What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? My absolute favourite place is Orlando, FL. Funny, many see it as a fashion wasteland where Crocs and Frozen merchandise collide but I appreciate it for being an environment that breeds ridiculousness and adventure. Streets lined with palm trees connecting dreamlands. It’s a sensory overload of crap, so my universe and I fit in perfectly.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I’m wrapping up all my work from the last 2 years (fashion and artworks) into a book called Grand Theft Garlic Bread so I can close that chapter and move on. It chronicles my time in the USA working for Disney and the many things I created, collected, and photographed. My current project is called Parental Lockout System, inspired by my passion for the TV shows Dr Phil and Cops. I’ve recently been projecting various connotations relating to crime and mental illness onto clothing. ‘Hot felon’ Jeremy Meeks is my current muse, so we’ve a lot of prison orange and hopeless dismal slogans on sweaters. Drawing on word associations, I also make collections of words to go with each project era as names and slogans. I love starting a project by naming it. Actually naming something is one of my favourite moments in the creative process. I am also organizing events with fellow fashion designer Jack Hill in Dunedin, New Zealand, where we sell special one-off garments.
Where do you plan to travel next? Shanghai Disneyland. It’s opening very soon and I’ve been following its construction very closely. I can’t wait to see how they managed the cultural collision of producing something authentically Disney yet distinctly Chinese. I appreciate a amalgamation of opposites; it’s something I do a lot with design.
What was your first paying job? A waterpolo referee.
What do you collect? A lot of stuff! Too much stuff! Looney Tunes merchandise, DVDs, those oversized t-shirts with bikinis printed on them, other people’s trophies, Disney pins, Andrew Wyeth reproductions, novelty sized fake food, stickers, sequins, gems, rocks and investment unopened Lego sets, to name a few.
What were you like in high school? A drama conjurer. So nothing’s changed.
Favorite place to shop? Vfiles I do most of my shopping online.
Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? Reactions are important to me but I don’t have many scary reaction tales to tell. I get dismissive negative reactions when a lot of the content in my work flies over people’s heads. Behind everything I make there is a lot of research, reference, contemplative thought, and emotions (which I understand is funny considering the output appears so frivolous). So a good reaction would simply be having my work appreciated as more than just a wet t-shirt duct-taped together.