PARIS — In his short fashion life, Kévin Germanier has managed to carve out a niche for a glittering, digitalized, hyperfeminine take on sustainable fashion. Next up, for spring 2019, the wunderkind Swiss designer is stepping out with a footwear capsule designed in collaboration with Christian Louboutin.
Germanier at his presentation today will show eight pairs of shoes, including colored stilettos with caviar beading and high boots, made from leather leftovers or reworked stock provided by Louboutin.
The hook-up is bound to intensify the buzz around the rising talent, fresh from presenting a capsule for Matchesfashion.com at London Fashion Week.
Despite only one official collection under his belt, Björk and Lady Gaga have already commissioned show costumes from Germanier, aged 26, who developed his magpie penchant for sparkle and resourceful instincts while studying fashion at London’s Central Saint Martins.
“I feel super blessed. I didn’t assume that people would be ready for this. It was — and still is — the time of Vetements, and things like fast fashion, and then I arrive with the most glamorous collection made from trash,” quipped Germanier during an interview with WWD here in the run-up to his presentation.
Attending the school proved an awakening for the designer, who had been raised to be the perfect straight-A student, “the guy who never failed.” Germanier sought funding and scrimped and saved to pay the CSM tuition fees, driven by a feeling that something was missing from his life. The young designer completed a year at the Haute École d’art et de design Genève, known as HEAD, in Geneva, but for him CSM represented the “holy grail.”
“I was doing good. I had the best grades, but it was missing that sparkle. I was so scared of making mistakes, and I wanted to just let it all out. Saint Martins did the job,” said Germanier, adding with a laugh that upon arriving at the school he was greeted with the appraisal: “You’re so constipated.”
It took him a while to loosen up.
During his first and second years, everything he produced was black and tailored “and finally, I made these rules for myself: no more black, no huge volumes and everything has to be sparkly because I was so scared of sparkle,” said the designer, clad in a black Germanier T-shirt, black pants and black polished shoes, “to add a touch of shine.”
During his studies, he honed another key characteristic for his future brand: sustainability, although to begin with the approach was hooked more on the economical designer’s aversion to splashing out cash on new materials than saving the planet. As a young student visiting the cloth shops on London’s Berwick Street or in Shepherd’s Bush, he would balk at the price of calico.
“I was just petrified. I felt almost guilty buying things. At the time, I never thought of myself as sustainable. I just thought I was a constipated Swiss man who isn’t able to spend money,” said the designer, who instead used leftover fabric donations from his flatmate, and even his bed sheets for fashion designs. During summer vacation in his second year at CSM, the workaholic entered and won the EcoChic Design Award (now the Redress Design Award), presenting looks crafted from Swiss Army blankets belonging to his dad.
The prize included a six-month trip to Hong Kong to create a sustainable capsule for Shanghai Tang, then part of Compagnie Financière Richemont. A trip to an industrial zone there led him to discover the key ingredient for his exuberant, heavily beaded creations when he came across a local manufacturer, Xiao Lang, pouring faulty glass beads into pits.
After some negotiations with the help of a local translator, Germanier came home with 90 tons of the stuff. He then spent two years perfecting a formula based on vinegar, glue and silicon — “literally cooking” — for applying the beads in supple anatomical placements on tulle bases to create the collection of dresses that caught Björk’s eye.
(Germanier gets goosebumps recalling personally fitting a custom dress on the singer backstage at the We Love Green festival in Paris in June. The Icelandic artist also wore one of his beaded gowns for a photo session with Santiago Felipe for her latest album, “Utopia.”)
The young designer, who as a student at CSM won a six-month internship at Louis Vuitton, too, was also a finalist for the 2018 ANDAM Creative Label Prize.
Percolating in his creative consciousness are references as diverse as Swiss couturier Robert Piguet and Japanese manga hero Sailor Moon, “part of the digital muse crew.”
“I love glamour, and there are all these couture aspects that I really respect. But we live in 2018. We have to find a way to modernize it, make it more digital. This is why it’s all so colorful, quite virtual — I love a virtual woman,” said Germanier, who as a teenager liked to lose himself in video games as a “way of escaping reality,” coming from an ultra-conservative village in Switzerland.
The waste-not-want-not approach has stuck, with the designer determined to smash the taboos around using and supplying waste. “People will say, ‘I’ll give you this, but don’t say I gave it to you.’ And while I understand that they’re maybe afraid of getting into trouble or whatever, I believe that in the future, it will be more like: ‘Look, we gave this to him and he made that out of it.’ I just want people to be proud of it,” said Germanier, who aims to prove that sustainability can be “exciting, glamorous, feminine,” and a part of the luxury universe.
CSM uncorked his creativity, but Germanier is also focused on developing viable commercial collections that remain sustainable but can be scaled up. Creating the capsule for Matchesfashion.com, a collection of one-off pieces including skirt suits, sculptural tops and denim covered in multicolor beads, proved an invaluable exercise in flexing his commercial potential.
Knitwear will be a key focus for spring 2019, including a cropped draped sweater in bubblegum pink, glittery thread made from PET bottles and trailing ribbons.
Germanier likes to create magic out of waste. “It comes from what I have at hand: If I only have pink beads, the collection is going to be pink,” he said. “I love to draw inspiration from it, especially things that people find ugly. I like to say: ‘Well, look where it is now.’”