Foo and Foo: Everyone's New Favorite Streetwear Brand
After posting a pic of myself wearing a Foo and Foo sweatshirt, a friend messaged me, “OMG that sweatshirt. That is THE coolest brand.” New to me, I went down a rabbit hole (Foo Foo is the name of the rabbit from ‘Little Bunny Foo Foo’, by the way) with the brand, quickly understanding my friend’s excitement. It does not feel, however, “cool” in the way that suggests a fleeting trend; designer and creator Elizabeth Hilfiger’s dexterous approach results in politically engaged, sophisticated streetwear with a price point that won’t result in a sea of eye rolls.
While her last name is surely familiar, the line couldn’t be further from the 23-year-old’s father’s brand. There’s more humor here, as well as fearless ethical messaging (one shirt reads ‘NO SEXISM, NO RACISM, NO HOMOPHOBIA, NO XENOPHOBIA, LOVE OVER FEAR’). We spoke to Hilfiger about her background in design, launching the line, and what’s to come.
So you’re calling from LA. Is that where you’re based or are you just there for now?
I’m based fully in LA, my production is here so I have to be close but I do come back to NY frequently.
How long have you been there for?
I’ve been here for about two years now.
Can you tell me about your background with design?
Yeah, I went to school for it; I applied to school for photography, but ended up going to the apparel program. When I applied, actually my college essay was like, “Yeah, I wanna do business,” but I got a little more into fashion and got to know myself a little better, so I guess it kind of evolved on its own.
Was your school fairly liberal with studies?
Yeah, it’s a design school: Rhode Island School of Design. It’s mostly Fine Arts, actually. A lot of my friends were in painting and sculpture who I now collaborate with on the brand.
Did you ever dabble in Fine Arts as well?
Yeah, I almost dropped out of apparel a few times because I was just over it. But then I continued, and I finally started to like it and the process of making it all.
What were some of the biggest obstacles or difficulties in learning design?
Just like, sewing and pattern making. I guess I wasn’t very focused also because I was like, “Wooo, college! Party!” And then I was just drawing all these straight lines and stuff, and measuring it and then sewing straight…and I just hated it. But then in tailoring, it was just so important to be neat and clean with it, but I just embraced it and I had this teacher who was really great and pretty intense, so I just, I guess, just wanted to do really well for her. And also my aesthetic kind of changed—at the beginning of junior year, I loved Jeremy Scott, and then at the end of my junior year I loved Celine, which are so opposite to each other.
With Foo and Foo, when did you start that line? Where did the name and idea come from?
Well, its been on my mind for a while. FooFoo is my nickname that I’ve had since I was three, or something like that, that all my close friends and family call me. So we always joked like, “Yeah, I’ll have a line called Foo and Foo,” and when I was in school I had these stupid little labels made that said Foo and Foo that I would put in all the clothes I made. It was just, like, so lame.
No, that is so cute!
And then, after school I was working and interning for a while in production and stuff, and I was kind of like, “I can’t do it, I don’t wanna do it.” Working on clothes that are just, like, silk blouses with ruffles, you know? I was like, “But like, why? No one needs that.” Everyone has it, or they can just go to Zara for the same exact quality. But you’re just pricing it for like $800, like you’re just scamming the customers—that’s horrible. And I just couldn’t stand it. First of all, I don’t like shopping. To convince me to buy something is really hard, so I was like, it needs to be functional or something. I was gonna start out with just little hoods with piercings, just like single standing hoods with these little jewelry things, and I was talking to my friend Anna Pierce who I went to school with who does jewelry, and she kind of helped me develop the piercings themselves. So it just kind of became the idea of each season, or drop, or whatever, revolves around a different hardware. And then in correlation with that, featuring different collaborations with artists and also just like selling friends’ work online on the site as well. But now I’m starting to meet more people and reach out to different artists I don’t know personally for the next drop.
So who are the artists that you’ve already worked with and how did you know them?
I knew most of them through school or through friends. Stephen Ostrowski—he did the “No no no no no” tee—
Yeah, I saw that tee and loved it. I wanted to ask about the messaging since it’s clearly pretty powerful.
Exactly. Yeah, over the fall I started hanging out with Stephen and I saw on his Instagram this painting he did that said “No sexism, no racism, no homophobia, no xenophobia, love over fear,” and it was really moving, especially with all the attacks, and I’m also a super paranoid person about ISIS. Not anymore, but back then I was like…I’m just kind of obsessive so I would kind of freak out about it.
Even last night at the concert in Manchester, it’s obviously a very real threat.
Yeah, and all the transgender people being attacked…it’s just horrible. So I was like, “This is really powerful. I want to put this on a t-shirt, are you down?” So, yeah it just kind of happened like that and 70 percent of the profit from it will go to the 8-Ball Community, which he works really closely with.
How often are you planning on doing the drops? Obviously it’s a lot of time in terms of coordinating with the new artists or whoever you want it to be and then manufacturing. So what is a realistic frequency?
We’re still trying to figure that out. I have a kind of list and I’m talking to some different artists of who I want to have their work featured on the site, in addition to the people that are already on there. And then, you know, constantly still doing collaborations and photo shoots and videos and stuff. But in terms of the next hardware, which is what I’m concerned about it, it’s like this one is piercings and the next one is something else. And I know what it is and I have the samples and stuff, but I’m just waiting to release it because I’m just trying to get the brand known and sell what I have existing in inventory so I don’t get stuck with a bunch of things. Because it’s also, like, the concept of waste I really don’t like. To me it’s not about selling it, it’s more about people experiencing it and playing with it and discovering it for themselves because the only way that the next thing will work is if people understand the existing ones now because they’ll be functional with the pierced pieces.
Got it. So it’s almost a narrative of like, one drop sort of leads into the next and they’re all connected.
Yeah, and I’m gonna release a few little summer things just randomly. But I’m really stubborn- I’m a Taurus so its like, “I’ll do it when I want, with who I want.” But at the same time, I’m super into the whole organization aspect, so I’m pushing to get it done.
Yeah, well it’s a balance. But I mean that’s the nice thing about having your own brand. You can be stubborn; you can do what you want when you want. And that’s why you’re not working for Celine, designing or whatever.
Oh my god, no. As enriching as that would be…not sarcastically—it actually would be super enriching.
But it’s great that you have this flexibility since you’re fairly autonomous.
Exactly. It’s also just friends that I meet that are into the idea and into the vibe. It’s just about also supporting your friends. I’m friends with basically everyone on the thing. If not, it’s like friends of friends.
How do you define success with your clothing line?
Yeah, I think you’re successful if you’re happy, if you’re having fun working with it. Every time I do a collaboration with people or my friends or whatever I say like, “It’s supposed to be inspiring for you. Do whatever you’re into right now. What interests you? Look at Foo and Foo and understand it but then also, like, whatever you want to put into it,” you know? Just so it’s good for everyone and it’s just at a nice pace. I guess if I’m inspiring people, then that’s good. Because that’s the point of the hoodie; it’s like, even I saw you post the picture of the Trinity hoodie but you didn’t even wear it the way it is.
Did I not wear it the right way?
I don’t wanna say the right way, you know? Because there shouldn’t be a right way. For all I know, you could have bought the Tattoo tee or the Sleeve Up tee or something as well, and then pierced the Sleeve Up tee eyelet at the same point of where the eyelets are in the ear, which would be also a right way.
Yeah, I guess it’s to each their own!
Yeah, it’s all about just having fun and being fidgety. When I was in school, if I knew that we had a school mass day—where it was not just Chapel—we would have to be in the auditorium having full-on church, I would wear certain bracelets and stuff on my wrist to play with them or bring tangled necklaces to untangle.
Yeah, I’m the same way, I have to have something. That’s why I like—
The fidget spinner. I love the fidget spinner. You’re gonna see more of it in my videos.
Will I? I feel like when I’m wearing a sweatshirt I play with the hoodie and the shoelace thing in the hoodie. I catch myself playing with them like a girl plays with her hair, so I’ll like talk to someone and say something bitchy and then kind of, like, throw it back over my shoulder and not notice.
Ah! That’s great.
Or I was talking to somebody and wearing another hoodie and I was doing that thing where I was wrapping that thing around my finger and then unwrapping it over and over and over. And this girl reached out over my hand and was like “Stop doing that!” and I didn’t even notice.
Yeah, with the Trinity you can just scrunch it up but still see the eyes and its just like super bitchy.
Yeah, I just kind of need something that gives me that bitchy flare, so thank you for that.
Ok sick, yeah. It’s whatever is fun. And I have fun designing it too, like, in the Sleeve Up Tee, on the back of it it says “The shoulder is the first place that someone looks at when you’re wearing a blazer. May the bridges not leave much ash blah blah blah.” And I still laugh about it cause it’s like “May the bridges we burn light the way” or whatever. Like, I’m still having a belly laugh about it. I don’t know if anyone else does, but I don’t really care, I think it’s hilarious.
Images courtesy of Brandon Dudley, Stacey Batashova, Jakob Landovik and Grace Pickering.
Stay tuned to Milk for more up-and-coming designers.