From his work designing for Marc Jacobs and Cloak, to his current eponymous collection―which this year landed him the CFDA award for Best New Menswear Designer―Robert Geller has proven himself as a singular force in mensʼ fashion. Capturing all the complexities of the modern man, the Robert Geller brand injects some much-needed masculinity into contemporary menswear. Geller graciously took some time out from unpacking at his new Manhattan studio to talk to his personal friend Laura Vignale about his life and work.
All photos by: Thomas Lohr
Describe your experience at Cloak.
I joined Alexander [Plokhov] who had already started Cloak. We met at Marc Jacobs. It was amazing because it was very successful in a very short time and we got a lot of attention for it. But we could never make it work financially. That was the problem. But it was a great experience. We learned a lot on our own―from production to finance, self-representation to building a collection, developing ideas, learning what works and what doesn’t.
Who are your favourite designers right now and why?
Ann Demeulemeester. I think she has her own aesthetic. She’s never comprised on anything. It’s pretty amazing that’s she’s been able to make it work. I know how difficult the business is. But of the million of designers, even those who’s aesthetic I don’t share, I respect them all because I know how difficult it is.
What inspires your designs?
The way I work in terms of starting a new collection is that I find a time and place that interests me. The last one was Vienna at the turn of the century. I was interested in art of that time and philosophy. I started looking at that and from those influences I built a collection not based on what they wore at the time but on what I would have wanted them to wear at the time. It’s a little bit of a fantasy but still making it wearable today. Every collection needs to have to have a boundary otherwise it’s going to be all over the place. So I create this boundary with the story and a time. It allows me to focus. I think it’s important as a designer when you show that there’s a consistent message that you’re sending in your collection.
Why do you manufacture in Japan? There aren’t many high-end labels that make clothes there. How do you keep your prices competitive? Is it a hard balance?
No, it’s not a hard balance because I have a great production partner in Japan. I am very lucky. We are able to get nice prices, great quality and nice fabrics because our production partnership also owns the mills and the factory.
How did your collaboration with jewelry designers Hiroshi and Chie of Driftwood come about?
I liked their work before I even started my brand. I thought they had an aesthetic that matched mine. We’ve been doing it now for 5 seasons and I think it really adds a lot to the brand. They have a great way of communicating and coming up with ideas and I think they are super, super talented.
What inspired your interest in colours for this fall collection?
I’m a sucker for colour. I think especially for menswear there’s not enough use of beautiful colours. Every collection that I make does have special colours.
With the fall collection you seem to have gone back to more European cuts with impressive tailoring details. Why did you decide to go with the European slim tailoring in comparison with your spring collection that played more with casual silhouettes?
Spring is always more casual. People want to wear T-shirts, jeans and shorts and that’s it. If you see what sells, it’s those things. You have to work with really light fabrics. You can make a million suits but no one’s going to buy them.
How did you feel after winning the GQ/CFDA award for Best New Menswear Designer? Do you think this was an important moment for your collection?
Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s a great thing to be honoured because our collection is not really mainstream. That people are seeing the beauty in it, speaks not only to our success but to where American menswear is going. We had such support from GQ and CFDA that I never expected. It makes me really happy.
What’s next for Robert Geller? Any plans for a sub-brand?
We’re starting a cut and sew line. In Japan we have such an advantage to work with beautiful jerseys for a really nice price. So we’re starting small, beautifully washed and great seamed t-shirts. We will get into cut and sew pants and sweatshirts eventually but just t-shirts for now.
Where will it be available?
We’re going to make it more accessible, maybe open the distribution a little. It will be available in the US and Japan, and a few key stores in Europe…and Canada!
What kind of man do you design your collection for?
A guy who wants to look good but has a bit of an edge. He would go to a soccer game but maybe get into a fight. A modern man, with that kind of complexity. He likes manly things but also sensitive things. He’s a tough guy that loves his mom very much.