Swiss designer Kevin Germanier might be 28 years old but there is a hopeful, bright-eyed enthusiasm that vibrates off of him that instantly clocks him as being much younger. He has a Peter Pan like positivity about him that is both infectious and endearing. So it's no wonder that he has become a bit of the designer darling of the sustainable fashion movement with his vibrant offshoot outfits, often covered in colorful upcycled crystals from Swarovski. Germanier has found a way to make environmentally friendly fashion look fun, feminine, and sexy. Words not usually associated with the sustainability set.
⏤ A graduate of Central Saint Martins, Germanier launched his signature label in 2018, while he was still working as a junior designer at Louis Vuitton. Almost immediately style leaders like Lady Gaga, Björk, Rihanna and K-pop sensation Sunmi started wearing his creations. Last year he was shortlisted for the LVMH prize and he has further cemented his rising star statue by the fact that the e-commerce site MatchesFashion has been buying a selection of his designs consistently since his debut presentation.
⏤ Having an active imagination is a key quality for any fashion designer. However, unlike some of his peers, for Germanier there is an added layer of limitations that are uniquely inherent to building collections via upcycling. Thankfully it's exactly these constraints that kick his creative thought processes into high gear. He actually does his best outside the box thinking inside his sustainable sartorial bubble.
Can you talk to me about growing up, do you have recollections of your creativity such as imaginary friends or drawing?
⏤ I always drew and played video games, such as the Sims when I was growing up. You know, the first step of any video game is to design the character and I remember I loved that step. I was not even playing the video game I was just creating the characters. I assumed that is how I imagined my muse. I always say my muse is digital, she is not physical and that is why I am creating clothes because every season I am trying to give her shape.
You do a lot of upcycling and recycling so when we talk about your creativity there is almost another level of imagination. You are not just dealing with fabrics, you are dealing with fabrics that already exist and you have to figure out how to repurpose them. You are not starting from scratch to a certain extent you already have to build from something that already exists, and I am wondering how that works for you?
⏤ I think the more limited I am the more creative I am. If you put me in a store and tell me I can choose anything I literally cannot choose. But if you give me something and tell me to make it work I am much more creative. I know it is not the same for everyone but it is my design process. For me, it is way more interesting to try different ideas than my original sketch, it is almost like problem-solving. It is like when you are in a video game you are quite limited by the style that you can choose because you cannot really create from scratch, you have to work with what you are given.
When we are talking about escapism, one of the best ways to do that now is through self-care and taking time for yourself to get your imagination flowing again. Do you find that is something that you need to do, or how do you reconnect with your imagination?
⏤ The two things that make me feel the most in my bubble is: when I am Photoshopping garments and sketches because it reminds me of a video game, and when I stitch because you are so concentrated on making sure it is one seam I do not think of anything else, such as bills or the coronavirus, just the outcome.
You mentioned the coronavirus, a lot of designers said that the in isolation months sparked their imagination in a way that had never happened before. What was that like for you?
⏤ I think it was because the system was so messed up that every six weeks we had to make a new collection of 40 pieces. Then, all of a sudden we had three months and no one to bother us. Everything slowed down. For me, I do not follow trends or seasons. I only showed during Paris fashion week because people are in town then. I see it as a garment fair. I think that every creative person also felt limited during this time and as I said earlier, limitation makes you feel more creative. If you look at some Instagram accounts of designers, you can see that they got back to drawing, with no one to bother them. However, I think what we were missing was the sharing of ideas. For me, it is extremely important that the work is a team effort because what is in my head may not be the best. I need other people’s opinions.
Would you say that the imagination is the place where freedom exists in its purest form?
⏤ I am thinking, when are you really free? I do not think you can ever really be free because if you see freedom as just being yourself with your imagination, you are already restraining yourself by telling yourself of your insecurities. Even in your imagination, I am sure you are also limited unconsciously.
Where then do you feel like you are the freest?
⏤ I feel the freest in my dreams. When you are in charge of your company, before going to bed is a mess. So what I do to fall asleep is that I create my own dreams. I started doing this when I was a kid since I always imagined there was a huge bee under my bed because I had nightmares about bees when I was little. Every time before falling asleep I just felt anxious. So I just thought before going to sleep I will just create my own dream to fall asleep and I have been doing that for the past 25 years or so. I think that is where I feel the freest because it is like a parallel world.
So you like to exist in a world with unicorns, Care Bears, and rainbows as much as possible?
⏤ Yes, I am actually very into the kawaii subcultures of the Japanese. The reason why Germanier is so colorful is that I don't really want to see the reality or face the virus in the world. I think my clothes are helping me to express and process what is going on.