oak staff diary: megan & sobotka

For anyone who grew up wanting to be Weetzie Bat of Francesca Lia Block’s Dangerous Angels fame -the coolest girl in the world who would roll around town on cowboy boot roller skates and design witchy, gossamer dresses for Laurel Canyon punk goddesses – Megan Marie Dodge is basically living out your dream (except for the roller skates). “(Weetzie) was like reading an independent dream-tale about all of the best parts of myself; all of the things I wanted to be, make and see. It just clicked,” Megan recalls about her childhood infatuation with the book series; a favorite of girls and boys who grew up to be designers, punks, and muses themselves. After graduating from Parsons, LA-native Dodge remained in New York where she began working at OAK Bond and on her independent label Sobotka — named after her Tarot card-reading, blueberry patch-tending Grandma, Ms. Sobotka, who commanded intense respect from everyone she knew. The resulting pieces are cosmically-charged and fiercely independent; fit for magickal Francesca Lia Block ingenues whether they’re moshing at punk clubs, dancing in the waves of Coney Island, throwing Barbies in the punch, or commanding entire rooms with their awesomeness. The line is already stocked in places like The Black Tag and End of Century in New York and has been written up in The New York Times and Bullett. Below we catch up with Megan as she designs her newest collection, prepares for an SS122 presentation this NYFW, and talks a bit about the origins of the Sobotka vision.

OAK: What’s your name and what do you do?

Megan Marie Dodge. I am a designer. I also play shopgirl at Oak on Bond Street.

OAK: How long have you been with OAK?

MMD: Since April 2010.
I interviewed to work here a few days after presenting my senior thesis collection at Parsons. I was devastated and depressed because of all the free time I suddenly had.

OAK: What was your formative fashion experience? When did you first realize that you wanted to design clothes?

MMD: I used to read a lot of books — especially a lot of fantasy books — when I was young. My parents would pack me big filing boxes filled with books for road trips. This is what really informed my world. I finished a book one time just as we pulled up to the Carlsbad Caverns. I hid in my room in the house reading instead of lying by the pool. I read through midnight on New Years once. As a child when you live in a fantasy world in books — and in your head — it really changes your reality. Everything could be electric and magical. Open roads and deserts and olive tree groves and dark damp caves- it all seemed like so much more. I grew up in L.A., and when I turned fourteen I started this series called Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block. Weetzie Bat is this girl that roller skates down Melrose Avenue and buys thrift store clothing and then sews it all crazy, jumps in the mosh pit at the Whisky A Go-Go, and surfs with the boys at dawn. It was all the things I kind of did- wearing vintage lingerie to school, getting slammed around at the Whisky as my salty bassist boyfriend jammed away, cracking my gum at the boys who stared at my cowboy boots in class, driving to Malibu at daybreak with a car full of blond boys determined to get me some waves.
Although she was way more genius and did it on roller skates — covered in glitter or in a mint-green convertible or whatever — I was like, begging my mom to drive me to Jet Rag on Sunday mornings so I could sew up all new outfits for the week ahead. Weetzie was like reading an independent dream-tale about all of the best parts of myself; all of the things I wanted to be, make and see. It just clicked. In one of the last books, what she does, is she’s a fashion designer. She’s drinking fizzy pink cocktails at the Beverly Hills hotel. And she’s wearing white denim and a ton of turquoise, and I realized I knew where I was going from that point on.

OAK: Why did you decide to start your own clothing brand fresh out of school?

MMD: Once I left school, it was like New York became a different place. The kind of support I received after graduating was so insane. It was like I was allowed to feel confident in my work for the first time. School can sometimes be a stifling place; even in a creative atmosphere. If you want recognition you have to conform. I was wholly encouraged to go my own direction and jump off of cliffs, but in the end no one really wanted to join me there. I started working at OAK and John saw my clothes for the first time. He called and set up the meeting for me. I went in to meet with the boys at the Black Tag on Mulberry St. It was so hot out, and they hung my clothes on the rack right there — like a smog-hazy summer dream. That was sort of it for me. I had to keep going.

OAK: Where does the name Sobotka come from? What’s your brand mission?

MMD: It was my great-grandmother’s last name. She was a really hard worker. She had this great blueberry patch and train tracks in her backyard that we would hide pennies on — then we would collect them all smashed after the trains went by.
I was thinking about using her name for a long time, just because she was a woman who I not only had so much respect for, but who so fiercely commanded respect. The defining moment was overhearing a conversation between my Nana and baby sister. My grandmother was explaining to her: “You can’t ever have your tarot cards read. It won’t work on you. The blood you have running through your veins is gypsy blood. It hides from the cards.” That’s when I knew it was the right name for my label. I’m all about creating destinies instead of letting them be foretold. I think that’s why I get so stuck on this idea, basing all these collections on the prophesized world ending. It has always been my ambition to make clothing with meaning. I feel that we have all these chances- you know: if you listen to the wind and give away your love and dance to the world beat -it could really be a new age. Why not? I think that’s so great.

OAK: Where and how do you get your best ideas?
MMD: I collect experiences- I always really like things I’ve never done before. It really helps provide perspective for me. When it comes down to it, it’s really easy in New York City to do something incredibly different every day. That’s why I like it here. The taxi shifts change around five and the cab drivers all get out on Bond Street- they all just wear such slammin’ outfits- I stand there behind the glass scribbling on post-its.

OAK: Top five inspirations behind your aesthetic.
MMD: (in chronological order) Space, Mayan mythology, alchemy, tarot cards, National Geographic.

OAK: Describe your aesthetic in a sentence.
MMD: It’s all happening.

OAK: Hardest part of having your own business.
MMD: Self-discipline.

OAK: Best part of having your own business.
MMD: The idea that a girl I don’t know wants something I thought up.

OAK: What would like to see more of in fashion?
MMD: Irreverence to judgment.

OAK: If you could dress anyone in the world who would it be?
MMD: I’m starting with everyone I know.

OAK: Do you have a muse?
MMD: All the women I surround myself with are my muses. There are all these things I admire so much about the girls I spend my time with, and that’s what really inspires me. There’s so much firelight in their eyes.

OAK: What inner characteristics best complement your clothes?
MMD: Bravery, freedom, mysticism.

OAK: Last coolest discovery.
MMD: Sometimes you really are the girl next door.

OAK: Favorite spot in New York.
MMD: Anywhere where the cocktails are free and the company’s better.

OAK: Freeform list of things you like.
(I answered this question for my Oak employee profile… I think I’m going to make a new one for today.)
MMD: Fringe because it’s swingy when you spin, books because I have so much to learn, pink sangria to end the day, dancing to get the itches out, talking to my family on the phone to calm the waves, Polaroids for the instant gratification, painting faces to send the warriors into space.

OAK: Make up your own question and answer it.
MMD: In what do you believe and why: “the early bird catches the worm” or “there is always another time”? To be n’importe quoi- there is always another time.


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