While Pierre Kaczmarek was packing up the last of Afterhomework, the brand he founded while still a teenager and which has been put on hold for the time being, he was already thinking about his follow-up act.
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“Even in the final seasons, my next project was part of the plans, because I didn’t want to wake up one day and just be the designer who’d done Afterhomework as a kid,” he said.
To match with his own maturing aesthetic, he wanted to create a brand that had that same in-the-moment way of approaching clothes, but with a more tailored slant. That’s when he found Georges Wendell, once a tailoring shop in the Sentier garment district of Paris.
In Kaczmarek’s eyes, it represented a way of doing fashion that resonated with him. “It’s the anti-start-up state of mind, the opposite of a digital label. I’m really interested in the technical knowledge that exists in the garment districts and how they always seemed to be tapped into what would work trend-wise,” he said, describing the style he went for as old school without being old-fashioned.
Everything was set for a 2020 launch, with a teaser capsule with e-tailer Ssense dropping last July, but the pandemic scuppered his launch plans.
The first official outing for Georges Wendell, which he is showing digitally on Tuesday, draws on the summers Kaczmarek spent in Paris working, allowing himself only day-trips as escape.
“I thought back to how my father would dress as the summer months arrived, the Friday-wear that would replace the suits he wore during the week,” he said, checking off revisited polo shirts, summer-weight jackets and handsome denim options.
In the mix will be women’s styles, too. “I thought it would be great to show Madame Wendell, Georges’ wife, because he’s a bit of a shady character, always with a beautiful woman at his side,” he said, listing pretty tops, “the perfect summer dress” and pink tones as the season’s direction for her.
For the season’s digital presentation, which will be followed up by a physical showroom and a traveling showcase to Asian markets, Kaczmarek said he wanted to express the sense of confident freedom that characterizes his alter ego.
“It’s about finding that breath of fresh air, in all senses.” — Lily Templeton
Jan-Jan Van Essche
For Antwerp-based Jan-Jan Van Essche, his first participation in the spring 2022 Paris schedule feels at once like a fresh start and an acknowledgement for the brand he launched in 2010.
Titled “Cycle,” this collection is van Essche’s 13th offering and was named to represent the continuous nature of his work. “It’s about closing the loop this year. I felt we completed a turn and I wanted something fresh, but [new collections are] never new stories. It’s always a natural evolution of the same ideas,” he said.
From the start, the primary source of inspiration of this 2003 graduate of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts came from folk culture and traditional garments around the world.
Not for their intricate surface designs but for their shapes, however. “I love the embroideries, embellishments and crafts associated with traditional clothing, but for me, such elements are very personal and deeply cultural. I cannot do it better,” he said.
Instead, he was drawn to the similarities he saw in traditional African clothing, Japanese kimono and medieval Belgian garments. “The square shape used to build them up binds us all through time and space. That’s what intrigues me still to this day,” he said, adding that it also drove a genderless approach to his work.
“What you call dresses in one place can have the same shape as traditional men’s wear in another,” he said.
The natural fibers he favors and a sustainable-by-nature approach to design also stemmed from there. “Most of these traditions go with handwoven materials, and it has to do with respect for work on the material. When you know the weaver, you don’t just cut a big circle and throw half of their work away,” he added.
New this season will be a denim offering using natural indigo dye. “I would love for everything to be naturally dyed,” he said, citing loss of artisanal knowledge as one of the obstacles to his goal.
At first, Van Essche presented a single annual collection, coinciding with spring collections, noting that in his view, the changing of seasons is materialized mostly by how many layers he needs, rather than different categories. He soon added a second showing of “Projects” focusing on his textile research.
Word of mouth and a biannual showroom in Paris have garnered him loyal stockists such as Dover Street Market Ginza in London, H.Lorenzo, Joyce in Hong Kong and Stijl in Belgium.
His digital presentation will feature a continuous-shot film by Belgian filmmaker Ramy Moharam Fouad capturing a stylized moment in the life of his friends and muses, going about their daily lives in his wares. — L.T.
Sewing was always a part of his family — his grandmother was a seamstress — but Onye Anuna, founder of the Afro-contemporary label Gravalot, was not drawn to it in his youth.
Growing up in London, where his parents migrated to from Nigeria when he was five — Anuna was interested in car design, and drew cars constantly throughout primary school.
“I’d always, always, always draw — that was my thing,” he recalled.
At university, he studied automotive design and mechanical engineering, but soon realized he wanted more freedom than a job at a big company would offer.
“I wanted the capital to leverage the vision I wanted to see, so I didn’t want to go into a company and start designing, well, here’s a Mercedes car, here’s a BMW car — I wanted my own expression, and I think with fashion I could express myself in my own way without having to leverage on somebody else’s capital,” he explained.
Tracksuits and trainers were the uniform in South London, but he wasn’t inspired by streetwear, noted the designer, who said he always felt a bit different.
“Something didn’t quite resonate with me,” he said.
Anuna founded his label in 2014, along with childhood friend Prince Comrie, who handles the production side of the business, with the idea of focusing on empowerment through local production, with an economic and environmentally sustainable bent.
“I think the garments weren’t even the primary focus, they were almost an expression of — something bigger,” he added.
“Local production became a big part of what we wanted to do,” said Anuna, who also drew on experience building software to build an open-source platform to help small labels manage product and supplier databases.
“What we had here was kind of this chasm between really chic, cool Parisian brands, American streetwear culture and British culture,” observed the designer, who injects subtle workwear references into sharp tailoring with richly textured materials. When it comes to the brand’s aesthetic, the designer cites Alexander McQueen as a label he admires, and describes his design language as focusing on one or two elements. If a garment is about the fabric itself, he’ll simplify the tailoring; when he doesn’t go crazy on textiles, the tailoring speaks for itself, in Anuna’s description.
“You really want to make sure the eye is drawn to one or two details,” he said.
The last collection “Beware of Natives,” which features a white suit sprinkled with tufts of threads, made through a special perforation technique and styled with cowrie shells in a video presentation, was entirely produced in Nigeria. The accompanying film presentation was also produced in the country and features local models — including a dancer who performs.
The upcoming collection was made in London, and shipped to Paris for the fashion week presentation. Other countries could be added in the future, he suggested, ticking off places like Ghana, South Africa or Uganda — the idea is to draw on a local story with an eye to an international market. The brand has been successful in Japan, for example. — Mimosa Spencer
Toronto native Joey Gollish started his career as a software engineer, but felt unfulfilled, even when the business he cofounded began to pick up.
The business and philosophy graduate, who said he has always engaged in creative activities like poetry, painting, writing and making clothing, embraced his creative side and began building his clothing label in 2017, selling T-shirts and hosting parties. It now sells high-end hoodies, satin bomber jackets, printed T-shirts, loose button-up shirts in cupro fabrics, washed jeans and lounge pants — elevated classics meant to take someone easily from a party to dinner, the designer said.
He found he could express himself with fashion.
“When you’re creative, you have a taste level that a lot of times you’re not able to achieve, and clothing was one of the mediums where I was able to see what I wanted and get as close as I could to achieving it,” he said.
“I always wanted to be a musician but I suck at making music,” he laughed.
Recalling an interest in skateboarding and snowboarding when many of his peers were into sports like hockey, Gollish said he always wanted to do his own thing. His father recently reminded him that at age five or six, he tried to start a clothing brand.
Shy as a kid, with clothing always serving an important means of self expression, the notion of “Mr. Saturday” represents “the person I wanted to be,” he said.
“The reason that I focus so much on night life is that I think for a lot of people, going out is when you wear whatever you want to wear, and be whoever you want to be, and act however you want to act — in a way, it’s the truest version of yourself,” he said, also pointing out the role of nightclubs as the start of cultural movements and as safe-havens for marginalized communities.
He learned the trade by working with a local pattern-maker, and got an early boost through trunk shows with retailer Jonathan and Olivia, whose cofounder Nic Jones encouraged him to take his fall 2019 collection to a showroom in Paris. That move further lifted the label, which is now sold in retailers around the world including Ssense, The Room at Hudson’s Bay, Hirshleifers, and, a recent addition during the pandemic lockdowns, Selfridges.
During the lockdowns, the brand was active launching charity capsule collections for Hxouse, a creative incubator in Toronto, backed by by The Weeknd and La Mar Taylor.
An interest in things that didn’t look “so manufactured and new,” led to his ongoing focus on washed processes and finishings employed to “make something feel like, not just a like product, but really like a piece of the history we’re trying to tell,” explained the designer, who works with Charlie Giannetti’s factory in Los Angeles.
For its upcoming collection, the label worked with Peter J. Walsh, a photographer of nightlife in the ’90s at Hacienda, a club linked to the rave scene in Manchester, England.
Being on the Paris calendar “feels the big leagues,” he remarked. — M.S.
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