Toni Paullette Hoard is an engaging woman. Her background in the fields of Sociology, Psychology, and modeling has made the genesis of her collection of one-of-a-kind pieces named simply “Q”—after her grandmothers’ love of quilting (a technique she readily employs in her own work)—possible.
Her love of fashion has taken her from the hallowed halls of academia to the runways of New York and Paris and a job with one of the most influential voices in International Fashion. A shy and caring demeanor belies the tenacity and creativity that make her clothes, and those who wear them, wage war on complacency and banality. A quality that I can whole-heartedly attest to since I had the privilege of wearing a Q pantsuit to the Costello Tagliapietra Fall 2013 Ready-to-Wear show this past February. She is without a doubt a designer to watch.
Tell me about your childhood and your relationship with Fashion growing up
I grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, which is a mid-size university town on the border of Kentucky and Ohio. When I was young I loved going “Downtown” with my Mom, Grandmother and Aunt. We’d go into the nicest shops and I loved looking at all of the beautiful clothes hanging perfectly in the carpeted salons and the sales women were always so pleasant.
Keep in mind that this was a small city and the fashions I grew up with and my appreciation of them were relative to my experience. At the time, it was so cool and a big deal. I loved going Holiday shopping with my Dad and Back-to-School shopping with my Mom.
My sister and I would also do Fashion shows around the house and perfected our “model” poses for pictures.
Tell me about your modeling career?
Through a friend at Elite Model Management, I met the owner of the Glamour agency in Paris who invited me to come to Paris to do the Collections.
I went to Paris for two months, did tons of go-sees and worked a few shows. I must admit, however, that I was young and unprepared; so I didn’t get as much work as I had hoped.
In New York I worked for a few showrooms on Seventh Ave. I also, though, had an Agency in Philadelphia that gave me tons of work; so there was lots of commuting back and forth from NYC to Philly.
Prior to all of this, I did some modeling work in Atlanta Ga., where I went to Graduate school. I did shows for Halston, Valentino, and Pauline Trigere at major department stores. I probably would have had more success but I guess my heart wasn’t in it.
When did you start making your own clothes and why?
One year, my school offered an introductory class in either cooking or sewing. I chose sewing and loved it so much that my parents bought me a sewing machine that I still use to this day.
I have always enjoyed doing anything tactile; drawing, painting, building stuff and sewing came naturally to me. My grandmothers made quilts and that’s why I call my Collection “Q” for Quilt. Just like quilts they are one-of-a- kind and handmade.
In Junior High School I started looking at fashion magazines and loved the clothes that were featured in their pages, however, none of what I liked was available to me where I lived. One of my dad’s clients, at the time, owned an interior decorating shop. He had lots of beautiful samples of upholstery fabrics. I used my new love of sewing to make the styles of clothes that I wanted to wear. Anyway, my school had a very strict conservative dress code and I hated my clothing choices. Sometimes I even got sent home because my clothes violated the dress code!
What was your major in college and how did it relate to fashion?
I attended Marshall University and graduated with a Major in Psychology and Sociology and then later, like I said, I went to grad school in Atlanta. Not until my time in Atlanta did I do anything really related to fashion.
When did you move to New York and was the move related to fashion and design?
I was 16 when I first came to NYC, in 19—I’m not telling!—with my boyfriend at the time. Some of his friends were in the fashion industry and it worked out that they helped me get some modeling jobs in New York and Paris. Those experiences taught me so much and cemented my passion for Fashion and Design.
Who is your favorite designer and why?
Rei Kawakubo without a doubt. She is such a strong woman who developed a global brand incorporating Fashion and Art into clothing.
Her clothes are not for everyone and that’s one thing I love about the brand. You don’t see her clothes everywhere.
I think she is brilliant.
I want a closet full of Comme des Garcons!!
You worked at Yohji Yamamoto, how was that experience and what did you learn from it?
From a design standpoint, I gained an appreciation of his impact on Western fashion. He has found his own signature by incorporating European tailoring within a classic Japanese sensibility.
At times Yohji moved away from more avant-garde styles, like that of Rei Kawakubo, in favor of a more wearable and classic approach to design.
At Yamamoto I was fortunate enough to become a buyer in Paris for the women’s lines and to sell the 3 women’s collections on the wholesale level to clients in the U.S. and Canada. I learned so much about budgeting and formulas for distribution of dollars.
You make me beautiful pieces including a pantsuit that I wore this Spring during NY fashion week, how do you describe your style of clothing?
I would describe my pieces as having basic shapes with a twist. My favorite pieces to make are my Big Puffy Full Skirts. The collection is comprised of strong looks that stand out on their own, like the sarouel pants and some of the dresses; but that can also be paired with something low-key from your closet like a tee shirt.
What techniques and materials you like to use?
Most skirts I make often start off as a square or rectangle and they kind of take shape from there. I also love using cotton batting to quilt along hemline.
Materials I often use are natural cotton muslin, anything cotton with unusual graphic print and boiled/washed wool. Muslin is great to use because I use Aljo commercial dyes and fabric paints.
What are your current projects?
Currently I am re-working a few Spring/Summer pieces. I am also getting a group of Spring/Summer pieces to present to If Boutique in Soho.
When and where are you happiest?
Well, I guess I’m happiest when I am at home with my two kitties, and sewing.
After my mom recovered from a very serious illness last year, I am happy every day that I have such a wonderful family.
Photograph by: Jose Miguel Compres