Exclusive: In Conversation with Haans Nicholas Mott

Although he does not say it of himself, Haans Nicholas Mott is oppositional. His way of building garments faces the de-humanization of the apparel industry, offering an alternative to the fast-consumption of contemporary society. Every single piece he creates is fully hand-stitched, made to last and age together with the wearer, getting better and better through the years as time gives it life. His work is private, to individuals only, and he can be contacted only through referral. Haans Nicholas Mott might be a nostalgic character but his action is not driven by a sense of nostalgia, it firmly states a thought that goes against the grain. After various meetings with Haans and many enjoyable conversations, we finally put down some of our exchanges.

When did you become involved in fashion?
My older sister is solely responsible for my interest in style and, subsequently, fashion. I don’t know that I have ever really been involved in fashion, although I have engaged it at certain times and on certain levels. Contemporary fashion is trend based and therefore reactive. As mass market becomes faster and faster and faster the process of idea dissemination has been inverted, with mass market trends increasingly influencing the top designers, rather than vice versa. In the age of ‘likes’ numbers crunchers crowd source fashion, and designers act as glorified stylists articulating fresh takes on trends. Creativity becomes reactive. Rather than reactive expressions, I prefer a more active (or searching) methodology in producing pieces, as do my clients.

Do you see any relationship between the construction of concrete buildings and the creation of pieces of clothing for your private label?
A ‘building’ is a visually and conceptually and physically occupy-able space – generally in some way shared or ‘public’. The word building should never be understood as a noun; even when referring to an inhabitable object in a landscape, ‘a building’ is always an action, a transporter — something through which one perceives and moves and pauses and imagines and remembers and feels and, thus, inhabits. The mechanism through which we develop rituals and articulate relics.

Clothing is personally occupy-able, and moves through inhabited spaces. Action within action:

Clothing is action.

Style is mantra.

Space is temple.

Inhabitation is power.

What kind of dialogue is established between your clothing and the wearer’s body?
More than the body, the dialogue established is between my clothing and how the wearer wants to express their body.

What about the manufacturing? From the cutting of patterns to stitching the pieces, how does the process of developing and delivering clothing work?
I cut every pattern for every prototype and client. It is nearly impossible to make anything (even a t-shirt) without at least one fitting. Usually the client has an idea of the fabric with which we will be working. After a successful muslin fitting we make final decisions on fabric and thread, then do at least one fitting in a basted model in the intended fabric, and finally finish stitching the piece. It is not uncommon to do a final fitting after the piece has been worn. I produce tailoring in Italy, an produce the un-tailored pieces in NYC.

Why do you insist on hand stitching? Is it an attempt to affirm humanity and imperfection against the machinery standards of the textile/fashion field?
Fabric is fluid.

Fabric resents being joined tightly.

Fabric wants to explore your form.

I work in fabrics and build clothing in such a way as to maximize the amount of shifting and
shaping that can occur over time. Well made clothing, suiting with hand sewn shoulder and armhole being the best example, looks better once it has had time to shape to, or learn, the wearer. A well-made suit in exceptional fabric always looks better once the hand-sewn floating layers have settled and the canvas has shaped to the shoulder and chest of the owner. A new suit, no matter how nice, looks tawdry in comparison to an old suit well worn. I take the idea of suiting and apply it to all typologies. From hand-stitched t-shirts in the highest grade organic cotton available to overcoats in cashmere double-faced felt, I want my clothing to look its best after its been worn and become part of the life of the client. Machine stitched garments look best when new. Hand-stitched garments look best after a year of hard living and are not precious. As stated above, it is not uncommon for me to do final fittings for clients after the garment has been delivered and worn for a while, once the fabric has opened to the wearer and the seams have settled unto the body.

I favor accuracy over precision. The beauty of the machine is to repeat with utmost precision the same act (stitch) with great speed. The machine does this regardless of what the material is or how it feels, and the machine is most successful when it can perform its act unconscious of the material it sews. Generally, however, the machine is a brute and disregards the nature and desire of the material. The machine demands the fabrics behave in a specific way: therefore the fabric is reactive. The hand senses and affirms what the fabric wants: therefore the fabric is active. Clothing is action, and the hand resonates this action.

  • Exclusive: In Conversation with Haans Nicholas Mott

    Article by
    Cecilia Musmeci



    Cecilia Musmeci

    Special Thanks

    Haans Nicholas Mott