Thursday, April 2, 2015

Personal Hero: Todd Oldham

Personal Hero: Todd Oldham



Today I'm taking a moment to spotlight a man who has been an inspiration to me since I was in high school: Todd Oldham. I first "met" Oldham towards the end of his tenure as a fashion designer. I loved hunting down pieces from his bridge line, and I wore a pair of Todd Oldham jeans into the ground. I also frequented his website to make delightfully weird e-cards for friends while simultaneously supporting, if I'm not mistaken, gorilla conservation. Like the e-cards, his designs were the perfect mash-up of color, texture, pattern, and shine (often all 4 at once!), but they looked more like wearable works of art than something an insane person would wear. This was the work of someone who took his work very seriously but not overly so--while Kate Moss was working the runway for Calvin Klein, Oldham occasionally sent a drag queen or two down the catwalk. He wasn't necessarily playing by the same rules as the other fashion designers at the time, but he was still respected and successful because his work spoke for itself.

As is commonplace for people who march to the beat of their drum, Oldham has bounced from one creative endeavor to the next. When I went to college, so did he. Sort of. He designed a line for Target of dorm room furnishings and school supplies. I actually still use some of folders I picked up for sophomore year. Oldham has designed hotels, done tons of photography, and written books. Several of his books focus on modernist design, and reintroduced the American public to some of the great designers and artists of the 20th century.

One of those artists? Charley Harper. If you love all things Charley Harper, you very directly have Todd Oldham to thank. Oldham fell in love with Harper's work after stumbling upon it in consignment stores/flea markets and wanted to bring it back into the public eye. Fast-forward a handful of years, and Charley Harper is everywhere--for example, wandering through the National Gallery of Art's gift shop a year or so ago, I nearly smacked into a display of Harper items.

Todd Oldham, rocking an urban woodsman look. Image via out.com


If you have ever noticed the Kid Made Modern collection and art and craft supplies at Target, you have seen one of Oldham's most recent endeavors. He was frustrated by the lack of quality art supplies for children, so, in true T.O. fashion, he developed his own. Newly-available in stores is a sister line, Hand Made Modern, targeted (pardon the pun) towards creative adults. Expect some Hand Made Modern projects in the near future! (Spoiler alert: I'm going to love everything.)

Todd Oldham's aesthetic has the kind of quirk and hint of modernism that goes straight to my heart, but what I love about him most is that he doesn't let anything hold him back. This is a man who got his start in the fashion industry doing alterations at Ralph Lauren. It takes innate talent to decide to become a fashion designer and then just go do it, of course, but it also takes a strong drive. Many pathways in life have an unwritten road map, and it takes guts to say, 'Screw that noise! I have what it takes, this is what I want to do, and I'm going to do it!' For my money, it doesn't get much more inspirational than that.

Learn more about Todd Oldham:

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