Wardrobe Wisdom: Kévin Germanier talks upcycling and Shanghai Tang
With an internship at Louis Vuitton and a capsule collection for Shanghai Tang under his belt, Central St Martins student Kévin Germainier has got his fashion career off to a flying start.
In 2014, then in his first year studying fashion design, Swiss-born Kévin entered The EcoChic Design Award, a prestigious competition for emerging designers run by Hong Kong based environmental NGO Redress. Kévin’s creative approach to upcycling impressed the judging panel which included co-founder of Fashion Revolution Orsola de Castro and Creative Consigliere of Shanghai Tang Raffaele Borriello. The prize was to design a capsule collection for the luxury brand Shanghai Tang using surplus textiles from their high end collections.
Following his win Kévin spent six months working at Shanghai Tang, collaborating with Raffaele Borriello and his team to create the brand’s first upcycled line. The resulting collection is sophisticated, sleek and versatile. We caught up with Kévin to find our more about his inspiration and inventive approach to turning textile ‘trash’ into luxury treasure.
What are your top wardrobe and care tips?
Respect each and every piece of clothing in your wardrobe. If you show respect to clothes, they will last forever.
Can you tell us about a treasured garment or accessory of yours? What is the story behind it?
I would say that my personal style is quite simple, so I don’t have any piece of clothing or an accessory that I particularly treasure. It is all vintage basics. I would like people to focus on my design and work rather than my personal clothes.
When did you first become interested in creating collections from surplus textiles or other ‘waste’ materials?
I was already upcycling regularly when I was a student because I did not have enough money to buy metres and metres of calico. Instead, I used my parents' old bed sheets and other materials I gathered from elsewhere.
Where did you find the inspiration for your Shanghai Tang collection?
I took inspiration from the history of Shanghai Tang, and the mood boards of their Autumn/Winter collections that were being designed at the same time. As this upcycled line is a capsule collection, and Shanghai Tang has a strong brand story, we wanted to make sure that it complemented the other collections on sale, but with a bit of my design style in there too. It's sleek, neat, clean and sharp – very Swiss influences! I started by looking at key items that were popular with customers and designed new versions with twist. I hope and think that it is a clever collection too, appealing to the Shanghai Tang audience with the ability to be styled in many ways, adding to its sustainability.
Raffaele Borriello has said that ‘the collaboration was as much of a learning experience for the team at Shanghai Tang’ as it was for you. What was it like working with such an iconic brand and what do you think they learnt from you?
Working in a professional environment really taught me how to pull a real collection together for retail, and not just the one-off pieces I’ve previously made as a student. My experience changed the way I look at design. I have learned that it’s not just about designing beautiful clothes, it’s so important to understand the market and your customers; to know what they want rather than designing only what you want to! I have really enjoyed adapting to these ‘real life’ restrictions - a great challenge!
Working as part of a team, and across the business rather than individually has also been really satisfying. There are so many strong voices in a business like Shanghai Tang, from marketing, sourcing, senior team; all with different objectives and all have been great to learn from.
On the other hand, I think it was a learning experience for the team at Shanghai Tang too. I was able to share with them my approach to sustainability in design and they considered how this would affect the entire supply chain from sourcing and producing, to marketing a sustainable collection.
Do you have a 'go to' place for repairs or alterations or do you take care of them yourself?
I take care of repairs and alterations myself. That is the beauty of being a designer!
Are there any clothing or shoe shops that you always make a beeline for in the UK, Hong Kong or elsewhere?
I have a rule for myself, that is to never shop in the same shop twice. You need to be audacious.
What one main piece of advice would you give to someone who wants a more ethical wardrobe?
I would recommend they invest in good quality basics. These items are classic, timeless and can stand the test of time.
Who or what is your wardrobe inspiration?
Clean and sleek are my keywords.
And finally, what's next for you?
I have just completed a six month internship at Louis Vuitton in Paris. I am now finishing my final year at Central St Martins in London.