Read up on our latest One to Watch, Kevin Geddes: the under-the-radar womenswear designer making slouchy sportswear look cool
Having worked with the likes of Richard Nicoll and Fashion East’s Lulu Kennedy, Kevin Geddes is now getting ready to launch his second standalone womenswear collection. His first collection for Spring/Summer 2014 was inspired by “big brand packaging and British drinking culture” and made a loud and confident entrance into the industry which was very well received by the fash’ pack.
But in the flesh Geddes is anything but brash. When we caught up with him he explained that he prefers to take a backseat from the limelight, particularly as he feels that he’s still honing his craft. Which is great news for us, because that means that his slouchy, sports-inspired clothes still have that cool, under-the-radar edge that makes them all the more desirable.
So read on to get the insider scoop on this up-and-coming designer’s journey towards creating his own brand, and also see some exclusive pics of his upcoming Spring/Summer 2015 collection.
Could you take us through your journey up to the launch of your first standalone collection?
I had a bit of a strange one actually, because I went to Central St. Martin’s but I dropped out after a year. So then I went back to Birmingham – my home town – and got this sewing job for a bridal company. That was how I learned to sew! So I did that for around four years, and then decided to go and finish university. So when I went to university the second time around I knew how to make clothes and I also knew exactly what I wanted from it. The second time I actually went to Coventry University, which might seem a bit odd. But it was really close to Birmingham, and they’d just opened a new course with lots of technology. I was really interested in using the new technology which I knew a lot of other universities didn’t really have yet. Stuff like sonic welding machines, big laser cutters… I’d never used them, but I wanted to learn how. I knew how to make clothes – I’d been designing on and off just by myself – so I wasn’t really struggling with that side of it. But it was more that I wanted to know about how I could improve…
Since then you’ve worked with the likes of Richard Nicoll and Lulu Kennedy. What was that like?
I was pattern cutting for Lulu for a couple of seasons. Lulu’s lovely. I’d met her at Richard’s, so I it was nice because we kind of had a friendly relationship already, and it was just really nice working with her for a couple of seasons and seeing her build her collections. Then I’d been working with Richard for about three and a half years, and it’s always tricky because sometimes you need to make a move, I think, to keep it interesting. I’d always wanted to do my own thing, so that was really the point where I just thought that I’d either have to do it now or I’d never do it. So I decided to give it a shot! It’s something that I’d been working on for quite a while; taking my time and not rushing. I’m more interested in building a business than just being a flash in the pan sort of thing. Ultimately I love making clothes. That’s what I do.
So once you got some experience with established designers, that really pushed you to think that you could set up your own label?
Yeah, exactly. I was building up the confidence and also the knowledge of how it works: the behind the scenes stuff. There’s all this production and it’s just so much to take on board that I wanted to have that set in my head before I went into it on my own. For example, when I was at Coventry I won a big competition with my-wardrobe.com where they produced a collection I created, and that actually highlighted to me how much I didn’t know. I’d never had to deal with the production side of designing before that, and so it scared me a little bit. It was great to win the competition, and they did do all of the production work for me, but it was also terrifying!
How did winning that competition come about then?
I was actually made to enter some sort of competition through the university as a project! I think it was aimed at third year students, and I was a second year student at the time, but I thought the my-wardrobe.com design incubator competition sounded interesting and that it would give me the freedom to explore what I wanted to do. So I created a mini capsule collection that was really sales-focused, and then I ended up getting into the final and winning! I’d still got a year to go before I finished my degree after that though, and I didn’t feel like I’d built up enough of my own work to keep it going. It was a weird situation because I think they would have preferred me to just launch from that and then I would have had the support from them, I guess. That would have been really great, but I didn’t feel ready, so…
So when it came to the production of your capsule collection, that’s what made you want to get more experience in the industry?
Yeah. I’d been working with other people as well, but I hadn’t really thought that using one fabric might be cheaper and more economical than another and stuff. So that side of it was really quite intense for me. Especially on top of everything else I was doing, like holding down a job and trying to finish my work for university. I mean, now I’m able to juggle everything, but it took some getting used to.
How do you feel about the relationship between commercialism and creativity?
I think that the work I’m doing is really commercial, but I am interested in building up a brand rather than just designing what I want. So I don’t have a problem with commercialism at all. At the end of the day I make clothes and I want people to wear my clothes. That is the one thing that’s really important to me. So I look at it from the viewpoint that I’d rather make clothes that people will wear. You know, functioning garments for everyday wear.
Tell us about your first standalone collection for Spring/Summer 2014…
It was the first one I launched, but I actually did a smaller one before that. I created a little capsule collection for winter to get feedback from people within the industry before I launched in the summer. I started from scratch for that, so I didn’t have any block.
So how did your first collection develop from that then?
So I basically used the smaller collection to build a block and then I developed it from there. I wasn’t really comfortable with it looking back. I mean, I like it, but I would have loved it to be something else. I think I listened to more people than I wanted to. I took too much on board from other people about how they thought I should do it, or what route I should go down. But now I’ve learnt from that to stay true to myself and to do what I want to do.
And what’s next in the pipeline for you?
The next collection! So I’m going to get back into the studio, and I’ve been planning it for a while, so I’ve got a clearer picture in my head of what I want now. It’s going to move on slightly from what I did with the last collection. At the moment I’m obsessed with this one comic called Death Sentence, so I’m going to reference that, and then there’s this artist that I saw who draws on Post-it notes that I’m really into as well. They’re quite gothic, dark illustrations and I really like them.
How would you like to show that?
I’d like to take my next collection to Paris and do a trade show, and just build from that.
Do you think you’ll continue to focus solely on womenswear?
I’m not averse to going into menswear, but I think at the moment I’d like to do one thing and do it well.
Words: Samantha Southern