A little interview I did with designer Gabriella Marina Gonzales ahead of the launch of her SS11 Cyclops Apprentice collection last year...
Lady GaGa has been wearing your stuff lately, are you comfortable with that sort of high profile /pop patronage?
Lady GaGa bought a pair of my shoes, which helped to fund this next collection, but I’m not very big on the whole celebrity thing, personally. Ultimately, it can be good because a lot of people are exposed to the pieces that celebrities wear, but the same time I don’t my work to become a throwaway trend. I want people to purchase my stuff because they really like it, not because they’re getting into the current thing…
From what I understand, you’re pretty committed to doing things on your own terms without pandering to the industry. That must be quite a difficult stance to take, especially in the fickle world of fashion?
It’s not easy; because it’s not standard… there are a lot of cheaters, liars and horrible people out there! I try to be honest; I’m just doing my thing.
Do you think that that’s especially true in London, where there’s a certain kind of pressure on designers to play the game?
Yes, and I try to avoid that at all costs! I don’t try to appeal to anyone in particular, I don’t create for an audience… I’m just doing what I feel is right and hope that people are interested.
Would you say you considered yourself to be an artist first and foremost then?
Everything is bespoke and made by hand, and I consider that an art form in itself. Most things now are manufactured and throwaway… for the masses; style has become that whole Primark £1 shirt thing. Every piece that I make is special and one-of-a-kind, and hopefully becomes a keepsake, like a collector’s piece.
So you believe in the value of an individual piece, and what it can represent?
Yeah - every piece will hold a story, and no two pieces are exactly the same. The last lady I made a pair of shoes for insisted that I sign the inside of them… no one else is going to have those exact shoes.
With all that attachment, is it difficult to actually give the clothes away in the end?
It kind of feels like giving birth! I invest so much time into really perfecting something, and noticing the details and imperfections that nobody else would ever notice. Then, when it’s finally ready, in the wrapping paper, it’s like, ‘woah… I’m never going to see this again, I don’t know what’s going to happen to it’.
So, if the incentive isn’t financial how would you define the actual purpose behind your work?
Most of what I do is self-indulgent, in that it’s based around my personal experiences. I use my work as an outlet from myself; it’s necessary, if I don’t keep myself busy, then I start mentally deteriorating!
So there’s a cathartic element to it all, then?
I’m doing something worth my while, rather than spending my evenings roaming the streets with a bottle in my hand! I spend so much time on my own, or with friends, that it’s becoming less and less appealing to be in public. People say that’s detrimental in the fashion industry, because there’s a lot of schmoozing that’s involved – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
I was actually showing your stuff to one of my friends today, and they described it as being ‘ very dark’ – how do you respond to that?!
I’m totally open to other people’s opinions, although there’s been a lot of misconception about my work being ‘bondage’. A piece isn’t ‘bondage’ just because it’s made of leather! I see my work as slapstick, in a way.
How would you describe your creative process?
I’m all over the place! Sometimes, it just appears. When it doesn’t happen, I might see someone walk past and think, ‘there’s something there, in that attitude’, and it triggers something. Creating is stressful, because you’re trying to create something as close to what’s inside your brain as possible – if it doesn’t work, no one will really understand what you’re trying to do.
You’re a bit of a perfectionist, then?
I am, which is difficult when you’re cutting everything by hand! Sometimes the edges just aren’t perfect… but I hope that some of that is made up for with concept.
Okay – finally, I have to ask - I heard Joan of Arc holds a special significance for you; what’s the story with that?
When you're younger, before you get baptised, you have to go to Sunday School. They make you try and choose this patron saint, this person that you want to pray to. So, I was doing research as a kid, because you've got to make these Sunday School grades so they can throw a little bit of water on your head - which is ultimately totally meaningless if you live a life where you're a total asshole! But anyway, I got this interest in Joan of Arc, and I've always kind of had it, because... they say people like movie stars and rock stars have balls for vomiting on stage, but like... they don't risk their lives. She’s just intensely… I can’t even talk about it… she’s incredible!
Did you like the film then?
No. I mean it was a good film but I don’t like it when other people try and put their own take on a character and it’s different to yours. I prefer the vision in my own head.
Photos from the Cyclops apprentice collection
Original article features in SuperSuper Issue 22