Chris Gelinas on Covetable Conformity
Having worked with some of the industry’s biggest names, including Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, Balenciaga and Theyskens’ Theory before launching his label CG for S/S 2014, Chris Gelinas’s design star is on the rise. Born and raised in “a tiny town” in Canada, Gelinas has been busy perfecting the looks and styling for his forthcoming MADE Fashion Week showcase, but took a few minutes to chat with Milk Made about his small town upbringing, his inspirations for Spring 15 and working with Olivier Theyskens.
How did you find your way into fashion?
I studied business originally and then did an internship at Marc Jacobs in production. I had been cold calling all these companies from a little town in Canada with no design background or experience – I just knew I wanted to be in fashion in New York. Luckily, Marc Jacobs emailed me back and I spent that summer working on the spring 2006 collection. From that point on, despite having no experience, it was like the floodgates were opened and I knew I couldn’t really do anything else.
Since then you’ve worked with some incredible designers and brands and before you started your label, you were first assistant to Olivier Theyskens at Theyskens Theory– what was working with him like?
Olivier is incredible – he’s such a craftsman and I learned so much from Theory, it’s an amazing company. What I loved most about my time there was watching Olivier work with his hands. He’s such an artist. He would literally drape every piece and I really think I learned the idea to take something two dimensional and bring it to life in a form from him. That’s what he’s a master of. I was so fortunate to have three years working with him.
Tell us about some of your early influences.
I have a lot of influences from my childhood. My grandmother on my father’s side was a seamstress and unknowingly, I think I was absorbing all of these lessons and skills from watching her. My grandfather was a furniture maker, so I spent most of my childhood when they were watching me playing in their workrooms and imagining what all those tools could do. My appreciation for craft came from watching them toil over their projects for so many years.
Can you give us a little insight into your spring 15 collection – what’s the theme?
It’s funny, almost immediately after fall, I started to get a sense that everything was beginning to feel the same – not necessarily just in fashion, but in general. Information travels so fast and everything is visible on social media that naturally, things get homogenized. I had this feeling of uniformity and therefore a uniform, so I started building off the idea of the conformity of uniforms but also the comfort uniform dressing brings. This collection evolved from the ideas of everything being the same and then how this girl kind of begins to discover her identity again. It was about taking these work wear colors like beige and blue and then infusing them with energy and movement. It’s been a fun evolution from something that felt monotonous and cookie cutter to giving it life and individuality.
How did you bring the idea to life? Where did the inspiration stem from?
I am such a sponge and always absorbing inspiration, but before I started this season, I was having breakfast at my sister’s place in Toronto and next door’s roof was being retiled. There’s a roofing fabric that they lay underneath the shingles – this random, industrial paper –and it had the most beautiful pattern and design on it. I climbed from her back door and crawled through this construction site to rip off a scrap of it, and it became the jumping off point for three of my prints. I find these random inspirations all over and there’s such a layer of references in my work. I think people would go cross eyed if they saw my mood board.
What do you have in store for the future of CG?
I think for me the main goal is to keep making things I really believe in. It’s funny, being a designer, because I have a problem with bringing more stuff into the world when there’s already so much stuff, so in doing this, it was really about going back to something special. Each piece has to feel crafted and unique and be covetable, so I want to grow and sustain ourselves in that way.
Chris Gelinas will debut his new collection at MADE Fashion Week on Friday, September 5th
Chris Gelinas photographed exclusively for Milk Made by Andrew Boyle