Designer Spotlight: Vaughan Geeson

Vaughan Geeson is a new fashion designer on the block and as the NKOTB boys would say (or sing), he has the ‘right stuff‘. Things are on the up and up for this newcomer. After only three seasons his self titled womenswear label is stocked in six stores in New Zealand including a boutique in Japan and next month we will see his latest winter collection walk the runway at iD Dunedin. Designer Direction had a few words with Mr Geeson and he talks to us about his love for design, the journey that has brought him to where he is today and his plans for the future.

When did you first cultivate a love for fashion and design?
I’ve always had a really strong sense of aesthetic, and can remember clothing , rooms and furniture etc really clearly from some of my earliest memories. So I guess I was born with a love for fashion and design! I hadn’t really thought of fashion as a career until quite late in the bit though. At school I had always thought I would try for art school and at the last-minute I thought I would give fashion a go! So I studied fashion at the Otago Polytechnic school of fashion – the rest is history!

Growing up, have any people;family, friends, idols etc inspired you to become a designer? Who were they and what influence did they have on you?
Growing up I wasn’t really inspired by anyone around me, but was always really interested in (and still am) popular culture – music and music video’s, books and films etc. In the late 80’s and early 90’s whenIi was a teenager there were a lot of really big ‘styled’ personalities about – Madonna, Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder etc, who had these really strong looks that were all about the whole package – clothes, music – a look. People with really strong senses of how they presented themselves, and I still get swept up and totally inspired by that sort of thing.

Describe any events, poignant memories in your life that helped to motivate you to get into fashion and design.
Just a love of dressing up really! As mentioned in the last question I’ve always been really interested in how you can use clothes to express an idea, and how you want to present yourself. Much more than simply thinking ‘that’s a nice top’. It’s more ‘that’s a great look, and I understand your point of view’ that motivates me.

What aspects of the fashion and design process do you enjoy the most?
I love the whole process! From that first idea that pops into your head, and working it into wearable clothes, which become a collection, then actual clothes on the rack. How could you not enjoy that?! I’m quite hands on so in the right moment I really enjoy the mundane like cutting out a sample or sewing on a button.

How would you describe your style of fashion design?
High fashion day wear. Clean, colour, texture. For women who have stuff to get on with in life, so need to be able to wear their clothes, not have their clothes wear them!

You currently stock your garments in Japan after only 3 seasons! Why did you choose to stock with an international retailer before first establishing stockists back home in New Zealand?
It wasn’t my intention! Before doing my first range, I had worked for designer Doris de Pont who had been selling into Japan. During fashion week 2008, when I was showing my collection to retailers, one of those stores – Boutique Bb was in town for the shows – I invited them to see the range, and they wrote an order. So the first order I actually received was from Japan, and they’ve been really supportive ever since. So it wasn’t my intention, but a great outcome!

What have been the biggest challenges setting up your fashion business and how have you overcome these?
The biggest challenge was starting when everyone was expecting this massive recession to hit. Trying to convince stores to buy a new and unknown label was tough, but I just stuck at it, and we’re now moving forward and past that.

What are your goals for Vaughan Geeson in the next 3 years?
To really grow my presence as a designer in New Zealand, and build a strong brand, and a string customer base that can identify with that brand. And to do that by focusing on good design and good quality – two things that go hand and hand.

What international and NZ designers do you admire and why?
Karl Lagerfeld for a never-ending flow of ideas. Yves Saint Laurent – the master of colour and texture, still unsurpassed. Jean Paul Gaultier – wit! The dream team, Alexander McQueen, Isabella Blow, and hat maker Phillip Treacy.

In New Zealand, the legendary (unfortunately retired) Doris de Pont. And the pioneers, Marilyn Sainty and Zambesi for proving New Zealanders could do fashion!

What advice can you give budding kiwi designers?
It’s a really hard business, but really worth it! Try and get as much industry experience as possible, it’s the best way to find out where you fit in the industry and where you want to go.

For stockist information please contact the designer Vaughan Geeson on: vaughangeeson@xtra.co.nz

Interview: Melody Wehipeihana
Images: Supplied by Vaughan Geeson. Winter 2010 collection.

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