The crisis and the comeback of an ingenious young designer
“I guess the years that went by was a long process of caring and not caring,” Geof Gonzales says
Mar 16, 2018
“I’m in love with poppies. They look so intoxicating,” designer Geof Gonzales says. “And parrot tulips. Drama, drama, drama.” As creative director of Rabbithole Creatives and Akong Gugma, flowers among other things keep esteemed designer busy these days. In 2011, Gonzales won the grand prize at the Look of Style Awards that provided him a short study and membership grant at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London. But after that, Gonzales gravitated towards set design and flowers instead of clothes. Six years since his last collection, Gonzales is back with the intent to examine his process, his craft, and his future as a creative.
How are you? What have you been doing lately?
Full of doubts. Will always be. Right now I’m juggling making clothes with my regular work. And reflecting on how I want to move forward with what I have in my hands.
Your new collection explores “the relationship between shape and space.” I’m not sure if this is how you describe the designs, but I find the structure a little experimental. Can you tell me more about the conception of and inspiration for this collection?
In a technical aspect, draping the fabric onto the bodice, I’m proposing ways to view the space between the “body” and the “garment.” It’s not just contouring the body but creating structures against the body. The goal is not to make clothes. I don’t know how to call it yet [laughs]. They are suspended structures contrasted with the shape of the body. I collect rare fabrics as my secret hobby. And with how I want to start making clothes again, I reckon I should create from scratch. Tracing my instincts and obsessions, the pieces are by-products of what I think is lacking. Not just physically, but metaphorically. We need more “what-is-that” objects. Encouraging viewers to ask “why?”
Also, approaching clothes in a different way, I thought of rigidly creating syntheses. It will be a series of focused meditations. This sounds so new age shit [laughs], but really it’s thoroughly reflecting on certain ideas with clothing. Instead of making clothes, I propose ideas. And question it at the same time. These abstractions inform what clothes I want to create in the future.
I was reading an article from Inquirer about the Look Awards. It said that you felt the clothes you designed were appreciated yet no one was buying them. It led you to stop designing clothes for a year. What took you so long to design another collection?
This is my existential crisis. With the nature of my regular work, I am constantly confronted with clothes. There’s just so much clothes in the world right now. Nobody needs another pair of jeans or a new shirt. It’s hard to comprehend what position a new designer should stand on. Do we prioritize ethics over ego? Creation over conservation? I still have no answers to that. It took years for me to not care anymore. But those questions drive me to create. Ironic. But it works for me.
In those six years before the arrival of this collection, what do you think led you to this collection? What made you realize that you must do this?
I have been making clothes every now and then. But the intent wasn’t focused enough. I guess the years that went by was a long process of caring and not caring. And learning what I really want to put out there. I just decided last year to start a conversation. A visual dialogue. A culmination of confrontational questions translated into syntheses.
There’s just so much clothes in the world right now. Nobody needs another pair of jeans or a new shirt. It’s hard to comprehend what position a new designer should stand on.
You also said that you chose to focus on set design, styling, and flowers before this collection. Why did you choose to prioritize them over designing clothes?
They pay better. I guess it’s more of a call for practicality. Making clothes takes a lot of courage and stamina.
How did those creative outlets affect or change your approach to design?
Those channels made me realize what I don’t want to do. And what needs to be done.
Instead of making clothes, I propose ideas. And question it at the same time. These abstractions inform what clothes I want to create in the future.
And what do you want to do?
I want to make what is not out there. What is needed/wanted does not interest me. “To give them what they don’t know they want yet,” to quote [fashion editor] Diana Vreeland.
Would you say that your design philosophy for clothes applies to those channels as well? Or is it entirely different?
I see the parallel in my sensibility and intent. I can’t escape it. They all root from the same emotions.
This question has been asked to many designers and I want to know your take on this. What is good design? What are your considerations when you design clothes?
If it moves me, then I know I did good. I just hope it inspires a single soul out there. Design that moves you. You react to it. Whether it be negative or positive.
How do you deal with creative block?
I don’t. It is what it is.
So when and where will the collection be available?
Modeled by Graciela del Fiera
Read more from Oliver Emocling:
What it means to be a designer, according to minimalist designer Joey Samson
Meet the girl who makes leather with bacteria
How to save the environment, according to Marianna Vargas
These sandals’ straps are not only made with retaso fabric, they are also naturally dyed
Upgrade your quarantine carryall with this weather-proof ‘bayong Tagalog’
If you loved Brutalist Pilipinas IG, there’s a new crowdsourcing project in search of Modernist buildings
What does it mean to be Filipino in 2020? A digital library answers, one personal story at a time
What’s making me happy: Cultured butter, tie dye tee and candles that smell like good times