February 08 2014

Chris Gelinas on His New Collection 'And Time Stood Still'

New York-Fashion Week

It all started with a little white lie: "I'm in fashion school, studying design," he told a Marc Jacobs staffer over the phone. Minor detail, he was in business school studying business. Oh well, it worked and Chris Gelinas landed himself the internship. Now, after eight years of working at top fashion houses including Proenza Schouler, Balenciaga, Theyskens Theory, and earning an actual fashion degree from Parsons, Galenas has struck out on his own. The fashion industry took note, and lauded him with the MADE for Peroni Young Designer Award as well as a WWD cover. Gelinas, who showed today at The Standard, High Line, invited us to his studio in the Garment district earlier this week for a little tête-à-tête.

Standard Culture: Technology and seamless innovation appear important to your process. What fabric did you find for this collection?
Chris Gelinas: I brought forward the spongy spacer fabric that I started using in Spring, finished with seamless welding – it doesn't use needle and thread – and wove it with really luxe cotton. We started thinking a lot about weightlessness. I like to take these large proportions and silhouettes and keep them incredibly light.

Why weightlessness?
I love the richness of fall and the layering of all these different pieces, but I don’t think it’s really modern to feel held down. I think women want to have the freedom and modernity to feel very light, and it should be effortless. The draping is really pure, creating single-seamed garments.

Who is your girl?
This girl is very confident and strong. The clothes are forward ideas and armored shapes. It takes a strong personality to bring attitude to the pieces. When casting, we look for girls that don’t always exhibit conventional ideas of beauty and style.

Coming from Balenciaga and Theyskens Theory, do you feel any pressure to emulate those aesthetics?
I feel a lot of pressure, but never about a direction or emulating another brand. The biggest compliment that I’ve gotten so far is that the collection looks very much like its own and very new. I’m really grateful for that.

Was going out on your own a difficult decision?
It's a scary decision. I think anyone who lives in New York knows the intensity of the city. The uncertainty of it can be scary. I’ve spent the last eight years learning as much as I could from some amazing people and that certainly helps.

What is the most exciting part of being your own boss?
It’s surreal. I get to come to this room everyday and execute my own vision. And then I have these moments towards the end where I can bring in all of these amazing talents to put their spin on it. The collection becomes this multi-layered idea. I think designing as a singular vision can be so one-dimensional and boring. I love working with great photographers and great stylists, having those eyes involved makes the collection a really modern process.

Your introduction into fashion was a bit unconventional, slipping into Jacobs as you did, would you go back and do it all over again?
Yes, I am happy to have my business background. Where I grew up in Canada [in Tucumsy, just across the border from Detroit] fashion design wasn’t exactly something you thought about. It’s a manufacturing based town, and there aren’t a lot of outlets for someone interested in design or for someone that doesn’t even know they are interested in design, but have these kind of inclinations.

So you wouldn’t have wanted to start with going to fashion school?
I like having the dynamic background. It broadens my perspective a little bit and I can hold my own in conversations with buyers and accounts. I've never let commerce dictate my design, but I think there is a really wonderful balance between commerce and creativity. We’re not straight up artists, we’re trying to bridge the gap.

This is your second season showing at The Standard, High Line. What are you looking forward to this time around?
I'm looking forward to how calm and serene the High Line room is. I was told a lot last season that when people walked into the room they felt like they could just engage with the clothes and engage with me.

I’ve been really feeling lately that the fashion industry that people are way too frantic. We need to just dial down a little bit and enjoy months of work in the making and be able to actually internalize it a little bit more, not just run from one show to the next.

The title of your show is "And Time Stood Still," is that what you are talking about?
Yes. It's a moment that is both nostalgic and futuristic, the surreal moment when time slows to a near stop. So if I can give people a nice environment to calm down and see beautiful things, give them that moment in time, then that is success.

Photos Joy Jacobs and BFA

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