Let’s be honest. Who wouldn’t want to wear something as soft and comfortable as a sweatshirt all the time? Lobo Mau (big, bad wolf in Portuguese) is a contemporary sportswear line that blurs the lines of what we think of as the casual sweatshirt. The Lobo Mau woman maintains a sophisticated appearance even when she’s in her favorite sweatshirt. Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, designer Nicole Haddad has a masters in Fashion Design from Drexel University and began her line of jersey knits and sweatshirts in 2008 after being inspired by textile design and the idea of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We chatted with Nicole about sewing wild oats, Brazilian fashion, and the truth about partnerships.
How and why did you start designing?
I’ve been designing since I was a kid. My dad is from Brazil and it’s very easy to have custom clothing made there. When we would go for our annual family visits, I’d bring sketches for clothing I’d been dreaming about and I’d shop for fabric there. I always wanted to have unique clothing. When I decided to pursue an actual degree in fashion, I was in my mid- twenties and had already attended undergrad for Art History. I did the Master’s program at Drexel University, and it changed my life. I was on cloud nine the whole time I was in design school.
What is your fashion philosophy?
I believe in good design – clothing that makes sense, that fits correctly, that is easy to understand, that doesn’t shrink in the wash, and that flatters the body. I want to make clothing that makes people feel chic and put together. I like clean lines, interesting colors, and a minimalist aesthetic.
How has your design changed over time?
I definitely sowed my wild oats in design school. I liked loud clothing for a while. Bold colors and prints and crazy silhouettes. I got that out of my system. Now I feel that my process is more thoughtful and sophisticated. I still like pops of bright colors and loud prints sometimes, but I like to balance these designs with more minimal pieces within my collections.
What inspired your latest collection?
I realized last year that for the past 6 years I have been designing “Secret Sweatshirts.” That is, I’ve been making sweatshirts that one can wear in public, to work, to dinner, to a party. Our lives are so busy and complicated, and comfort has become so important to us. Most people rip off their work clothing the second they walk through their door. I want to make comfortable clothing that you don’t have to take off when you get home. I want to make sweats that you feel proud to wear all the time!
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
To be frank, manufacturing and raising capital has been my biggest struggle. I want a Made in USA product – I want to have a relationship with the people who make my clothing. I’ve had investors and partnerships that have not worked out. It’s tough to find people who understand your product and want to help pay to get it off the ground. Creating a clothing line is expensive! And you pay for everything up front and then wait for months to get paid. If a boutique cancels an order, it’s a big deal for an indie designer.
What do you think about fashion today?
While I admire and respect the immense talent of big name designers like Stella McCartney, Mary Katrantzou, and Alexander Wang (to name a few of my favorites), I am working with my own design philosophy. I am seeking out what people in this moment are looking to wear in their everyday lives and I’m making it my mission to design these pieces. I am trying to fill a gap with the kind of clothing that I’m making. My customers are extremely loyal. They appreciate that I take into consideration the hectic nature of their lives. In my clothing, they find a product that fulfills their basic needs: to look good, to feel comfortable, and to know that they have spent their money wisely. My clothing doesn’t fall apart and it’s machine-washable. It’s really real clothing for the modern age.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
Mainly, I get inspiration from my collaboration with textile artist Ryan Parker. We’ve been working together for 5 years and we share a similar design sensibility. He and I get really excited to come up with textile prints. These prints usually dictate the silhouettes of feeling of the collections I design.
I also go to Brazil once a year to visit my family. I love Brazilian fashion – women there are willing to take risks and stand out in a crowd. As a designer, I really appreciate that willingness. Every time I return from Brazil, I’m filled with ideas.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
Be as smart about your business as you are about your design. And watch out for partnerships. Just because someone is willing to fund your business doesn’t mean they are interested in your values and your goals. Choose wisely!
And now the choice is yours – choose comfort in anyone of Lobo Mau’s latest designs from Secret Sweatshirts.