JCR: Tell us about your new line, Serum versus Venum (SVSV).
DG: It’s a carefully constructed modern interpretation of a luxury brand. It will have products from fashion to home to even original content-culture, stories, artwork, that kind of thing. The cultivation of culture is really important. No brand I’ve ever worked with has executed “culture,” they are just interested in emptying warehouses. This brand is structured around discourse.
JCR: How is SVSV different from all the marketing, branding, interior, and product design projects you’ve worked on?
DG: I wanted to create a brand where value was driven by quality, function and form… not just image.
I’ve never done anything where every minutia at the molecular level is being sweated over. It took me a month to find the purest gold thread in the world.
JCR: What do you think this attention to detail means in the fashion landscape?
DG: I think it was this reaction to sitting back realizing that all of the people in my generation, Gen X and down, will challenge everything — technology, epistemology — where we’re getting our knowledge from, we’ll rewrite every rule, politics, religion but we won’t touch luxury. It’s sort of beyond holy, a thing that is literally untouched and unchanged. We started there and then really investigated where the powerhouse brands came from.
JCR: What do you think about the marriage of sportswear and luxury in the fashion space?
DG: Going back to SVSV, it’s a reaction to these high luxury brands. You can’t deny Hermes is extremely high quality in almost everything they’ve done, but innovative? I wouldn’t say they are innovative, but high quality definitely. Then you take a look at the really hot brands like a Bathing Ape, or a lot of the Japanese brands or Nike White Label — they’re more innovative but they’re brand driven, you can’t argue that that stuff is even remotely high quality. So there had to be something in between the super high quality, building it and crafting it.
One of the truths of the luxury industry that we found was that most of these powerhouse brands like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, even Creed, and a lot of the china and flatware companies, is that they were craft brands first-like Hermes made saddles for royalty. They started with one thing better than everything else in that category. So we had to define what a modern utility was. In an overcrowded, spoon-fed, consumptive landscape… what is utility?
JCR: What are some brands you admire in this space right now?
DG: The companies I am relating to right now are Final Home, CP Company (which goes into traditional sportswear), Sun Island, Y3, Mandarina Duck for a few things, and my favorite right now is Maharishi. I was just in Milan and saw their factory store — it’s ridiculous. Maharishi has unbelievably high price points — they are playing the brand game so well. I just got the Maharishi Camo book, and I’m a massive fan of books, I’ve got 10,000 of them. And I do not have one book even in the realm of being in the ballpark of how amazing this one is. It’s two volumes, 900 pages on the entire history of camo up until tomorrow. They are debuting stuff in the book that won’t be out for six months. And I think you can only buy it at Nom de Guerre or Union in New York City.
But anyway, those very innovative brands like Final Home were what we were inspired by. I love Issey Miyake. I love Yohji Yamamoto for Y3, Puma Mihara. These are all the stuff I was buying. And it wasn’t because it was at a high price point or it was really exclusive, it was just because there was so much detail and thought put into each piece, I didn’t even care if the shoes were ugly.
Of course Miharas feel like I am wearing butter. But it’s the thought that went into it, the effort that went into it. It’s just phenomenal. It’s like a fine movement on a watch that you’ll pay $380,000 for. I was paying $400 for these shoes because the engineering that went into them was more complex than I could ever come out with. So we thought, in this big streetwear category, I don’t get the industry that well, so we thought let’s ignore all the rules and build a brand from scratch.
JCR: Do you think that’s better for your designs?
DG: People are surprised when I thought Comme des Garcons was a French company. I didn’t know it was like a 30-year-old Japanese company. But it’s all so mysterious to me because I literally design everything from architecture to products to a million identities, to TV commercials but never fashion. And when you really take a look at it there’s almost no innovation in fashion. When you can count the most innovative fashion brands on one hand! I am kind of into Alexander McQueen right now too, just because it amazes me that hand craftsmanship. You should pay $6,500 for a handcrafted leather jacket and you shouldn’t wear it, you should hang it on the wall.
I’m gravitating towards stuff that pushes limits. I look at BAPE stuff, and I own it, I’ll wear it but there’s just nothing there that justifies the cost. You take some bulls**t stock jacket and make ten of them and just because you silkscreen your logo on them doesn’t make it exclusive. I think that consumers, with all this information, will eventually start to pick up on the fact that they’re getting duped. So I want to position SVSV as the brand that they turn to once they’re sick of being duped.
JCR: Tell me more about SVSV’s product offering.
DG: The first product in SVSV is going to be 100 percent vicuna scarves with SVSV and then original skull patterns embroidered on them and they’re going to be hand numbered and placed inside a hand-blown glass sphere. And they’re going to be quite expensive, but they’ll be sealed so that there’s this whole process that you’re buying this item that if you want what’s inside, you have to destroy half of it. The beautiful orb you have to destroy is to get what’s inside, or maybe you don’t ever open it. Maybe it just sits on the shelf. We’re developing ceramic vessels as well where literally the packaging takes more time than 99.9 percent of the entire fashion industry puts into their most complex couture line, I’m putting into something that has nothing to do with the actual article. We are also going to do customized programs for people-where they will be able to have each item in our entire line customized just for them.
JCR: And when will we see them in the market?
DG: First quarter 2005 we’ll have a few key pieces out.
JCR: Your vision on selling?
DG: I walk around Bergdorfs and see all these bulls**t scarves which are basically just a buyer going out of their way to find semi-exotic material and then a bunch of uptown broads being too dumb to realize they’re allowing somebody to have a 10,000 percent markup.
We have to pay attention to the fact that even in luxury there is a mass market mentality — I mean, look at ladies who buy a Kelly bag on the Upper East Side because their friends do. Being a sheep is not luxury.
I want someone who’s just sick of it all, who is smart and who, here’s the weird part, doesn’t have to be rich. I can’t reinvent something like this and go against these giants and literally just say “I’m going to put some $2,200 scarves out with gold embroidery on them and make limited editions and come out with high end materials.” We’re going to produce original artwork and other things and just give them away. I am going to screw with the industry.
I want LVMH to pay very close attention. Once I f**k with the whole idea of price point, and that gets worked out, sure there will be items that are outlandishly expensive, they border on fine art but at the same time they’ll be items that are free.
JCR: So you think the idea of price point as it relates to luxury is not the sole determinate?
DG: No, I threw it out. It has nothing to do with what we’re doing. I mean obviously we run a business, so if you’re collecting vicuna hair we need to sell product. By the way, we’re going to make vicuna combat shawls, too!
This interview was conducted by Meghan Cleary
Photos: David Gensler
The Royal magazine
Trainers from Jason Bass at JB Classics
First look at SVSV identity
Maharishi Camo book