Already counting Björk among his fans, Kevin Germanier wants to show that being eco doesn’t just mean making clothes out of linen and hemp
Sustainability. As vital as it is, in the context of fashion, it often conjures up images of clothing that’s homespun, hippyish, and not exactly what you might consider wearing. The good news is that today, that’s a total myth – and you only need to look so far as Central Saint Martins graduate Kevin Germanier for proof.
The Swiss-born designer often felt like he was being judged by his peers for pursuing the eco route, but this changed following the presentation of his final BA collection last year. It was, in a word, fabulous. Models in bright neon wigs paraded down the runway to the sound of 80s disco, in nude bodysuits bedazzled with colourful beads, as if they had been dipped in glue and then had handfuls thrown at them. Each girl’s outfit was finished off with a pair of XXL beaded hoop earrings.
“It was just a natural thing for me,” Germanier explains about his decision to go down a sustainable route. “When I moved to London and I had no money, I had to upcycle my bedsheets to create my toiles.” Eschewing stereotypical eco-fabrics like linen or hemp (“it’s so cliché”, he says) Germanier uses unwanted beads that can’t be used because of discolouration. The result: an explosion of rainbow colours with beads covering nude bodysuits, upcycled jeans, and basically any fabric available. Aided by the hazy photographic style of his AW18 lookbook, the clothes are like that Kirakira app IRL.
Not that he still needs validation – Björk chose one of his designs for her Utopia promo pics – he hopes his designs will help create more excitement when it comes to sustainability. “I know it sounds very naīve but I hope that this vision will be accepted and respected in the fashion industry,” the young designer says. “I don’t think it’s bad to say ‘there’s a hole there’ – we should embrace that hole, and fill it with colourful beads.”
Here, we talk to Germanier about the importance of sustainability and his newly released AW18 collection.
Was fashion design something you were always interested in?
Kevin Germanier: I grew up in Switzerland and I did my foundation course at HEAD in Geneva, the fashion school for art and design. I was studying womenswear and menswear. When I turned 20 I was like: ‘Are you happy with your life right now?’ I always wanted to apply to CSM, but it was something I would only think about and never think I would actually do it. So I said, ‘You know what, I’ll just grow some balls and just apply. Worst case scenario, they will say no and life just goes on.’
How was your time at Central Saint Martins?
Kevin Germanier: I did my first two years and then for my sandwich year I applied for the EcoChic Design Award. It’s an international award for sustainability and you have to design six looks that are sustainable. I received the first prize which was to go and work for six months in Hong Kong. When I was there, I saw this man digging holes and he was throwing away all these beads. They can’t burn them, so instead of finding a way to recycle them, they just throw them away. I thought it was so ridiculous, so I came back to London with 93kg of beads.
Have you always been interested in sustainability?
Kevin Germanier: I am a sustainable designer, but I don’t like to say that because when you think of sustainability, so it’s like a linen t-shirt and it says ‘Go Green!’ It’s not just that, you have to think outside the box and challenge people’s taste as well. You need to catch people’s eyes too. We’re making clothing, and they need to look appealing. Once you know more about the product and you learn that it’s sustainable, all the beads and recycled jeans, it adds value.
“There all those clichés that I just want to break out of. It’s satirical. I’m making fun of fashion by making the most glamorous collection out of trash” – Kevin Germanier
Do think attitudes towards sustainability are changing?
Kevin Germanier: I truly see people getting more interested in sustainability, but when I did my collection – the one for Hong Kong – it was almost shame I felt that I was doing a sustainable competition. It felt like people were judging me for doing it, instead of being like ‘that’s great!’.
Over the past three years, I can see how people’s vision of sustainability is evolving. I met this amazing woman Orsola de Castro (co-founder of Fashion Revolution) who is like my mum. She really pushed me in the sense that it might not look sustainable, but that’s the best thing about what I’m doing. That’s the strength, it’s not the weakness. When we talk about the fashion, it’s very sleek, no-one can touch it. There all those clichés that I just want to break out of. It’s satirical. I’m making fun of fashion by making the most glamorous collection out of trash.
How have things changed since you graduated?
Kevin Germanier: The morning after the show I was a bit hungover and I received a call from the HR of Louis Vuitton saying I had a job offer. It was just very surreal. So I’m still working at LV, I have a double life like Batman, I work from 9:30am to 8:30pm at LV and then work on my brand during the night, from 9pm to 3am. So it’s an intense way of life but I love making clothes – I really do. It’s a way of expressing frustration, my worries, when I show sadness, it’s really so cheesy and cliché but it’s really how it is. I’m just passionate about clothes.
To be honest, the first thing I always said when I was at CSM was that as long as I’m not stable I don’t plan to do a brand because there are so many designers, it’s a lot of energy, a lot of investment. It’s a lot of sacrifices but I just realised the other day ‘Oh, hell I’m actually doing it without realising.’ So maybe that’s the beauty of it, that I’m still naïve and I still believe that when you want something it’s not a problem of money or time, you just make it work.
How did the AW18 collection evolve from your graduate one?
Kevin Germanier: It’s always that inner explosion. I’m obsessed with Sailor Moon, but not the aesthetic, more about this girl who evolved into this badass digital queen. I’m really into digital.
I didn’t want to toile for my BA but I had to, so this time it was more like I seriously had no time to toile. Everything I was making, I was using. I created almost no waste, I really limited it. I’m more proud of the new collection because it’s even more me. The message is even more strong because I made it every night for two months.
The idea behind it was no toiling and having fun because the beauty of Germanier is that it’s a bunch of friends helping each other. All my friends have jobs as well but they were all coming after their jobs to help me. It’s the beauty of the brand.
How do you see the brand growing in the future?
Kevin Germanier: I see everyone wearing Germanier, that’s how I see it! On a more serious note though, it is growing slowly but surely. It’s amazing, I really feel touched about what’s happening right now. But to be honest, I don’t like to predict the future because it always scares me a little bit, so I go day by day. Hopefully, everyone’s going to be wearing Germanier though – let’s be super optimistic!