It has been a long week for Robert Geller – and an even longer weekend. The 33-year old menswear designer recently earned top honors among the “Best New Menswear Designers of America,” which included Andre Benjamin of Benjamin Bixby, David Mullen of Save Khaki, Alex Carleton of Rogues Gallery, Sam Shipley and Jeff Halmos of Shipley & Halmos and Yigal AzrouÎl. The competition, sponsored by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and GQ, was steep and no one was more surprised about his win than the designer himself. “My heart still hasn’t stopped racing,” he said last Friday night.
But for the duration of his fall 2009 runway show, the Hamburg-born, New York-based designer seemed to be at ease. As part of his award, Geller will receive mentoring from award sponsors and a cash prize of $50,000. At a time when major retailers are defecting and major designers are opting out of elaborate fashion shows for intimate presentations, this award will go a long way for a young designer. For Geller, who launched his namesake label in 2006, it means his journey through European sartorial history continues – this time from last season’s gothic Transylvania to Vienna during the turn of the last century.
Geller’s well-accessorized young romantic now has a penchant for brass bowties, leather pants and black wingtips and dance shoes by Verb. Underneath layers of knits, dashes of color appeared in ombre dress shirts ranging from dusty rose to plum to black and scarves and cords in purple and fuchsia. Knickers and wide-legged trousers suggested alternatives to the skinny pant-leg. And a gray denim trench coat offered a look at the type of tailoring fans might expect to see when Geller’s capsule collection for Levi’s arrives at Bloomingdale’s in September.
Dazed Digital: Congratulations! How do you feel?
Robert Geller: I feel great! I had the craziest week of my life! Now everything is done and I’m very, very happy. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to win. I’m happy they’re supporting me.
DD: The award comes at an volatile time for the fashion industry. How do you think the economy will affect young designers?
RG: It’s a difficult time for everybody, but personally, we have a very good price point for the quality that we make and although a lot of large stores are saying their businesses are suffering, our business isn’t suffering. That’s very lucky for us at this point, but we’ll see how it goes. It’s going to hurt everybody, but young designers have the most barebones business to begin with. You don’t expect to make much money in the first two or three seasons anyway.
DD: How do you see the American male consumer shifting?
RG: I think there’s a new customer developing. It has to do with the Internet. There are so many forums and blogs about fashion. There’s a lot much accessibility. The customer who would buy Banana Republic or Club Monaco is more interested in something more original.
DD: Describe your latest collection. What was your inspiration?
RG: I wanted to keep the romance from last season, but add a sense of elegance. Vienna at the turn of the century symbolizes that for me. It was a starting point.
DD: Do you have any ideas what you will be doing with your collaboration with Levi’s.
RG: I don’t know yet, but I like to work with denim. We’ll have to see.