Giles Talks Ungaro!

22 July 2011

We interrupted most of Giles’ sketching for his Ungaro collection with our incessant questions about his work at the French fashion house…
Giles Daily: “So what are you doing?” [we ask, interrupting what Giles is doing…] GILES: “We’re working on Spring 2012. We’re about three quarters of the way through that – we have to get everything pretty much sorted by the end of July, because everything shuts then [for most of August], so we’ve had a really intense May and June getting everything ready.”
GD: “Do you find it difficult to switch between the two labels; Giles and Ungaro?”
GILES “I’m very lucky in the respect that the teams that I have both here and in Paris are very very specific; the difference in working is that the people in Paris have got very much more of a Parisian sensibility, so it’s a little bit more feminine, in that the prints are a bit more Ungaro-esque I suppose.”

Ungaro A/W '11

GD: “What makes a print ‘Ungaro-esque’?”
GILES: “The way that we’re wanting to push them is so that they’re all very very bright and very very very recognizable as a strong, strong print. And I like the idea of them being a little more abstract in their work [at Ungaro]. Whereas for ours [at Giles] we can do things that are a little bit more subversive and playful; and I think that’s what people like from Giles. There’s a lot more softer tailoring at Ungaro, a lot more of that kind of feminine detail, whereas I think a lot of our pieces [for Giles] are a lot more structured, and a little bit harder. We try to balance the two [labels]”.
GD: “Do you find it easy to switch between the two collections?”
GILES “Yeah. I mean, there’s always going to be some kind of crossover, but we’re very conscious to make sure there’s not too much of a crossover. But they’re still designed and creatively directed by me. So it’s something that’s going to be recognizable, I hope. But the team in Paris, they have a very French hand, that gives it its distinct look”.
GD: “What was it like when you got the job at Ungaro?”
GILES: “Quick, quick. I got the phone call to meet the owner Mr Abdullah - obviously I was aware of the history that had gone on there, as much as everybody else - I didn’t really imagine at the start of that year that I would be doing that job, but I sat and thought about it a lot and it was one of those things that if I hadn’t taken on, I would have really regretted when I was older. And it’s a challenge, and it’s a work in progress. I think we’ve managed to cleanse the palate and past for people and now it’s all about developing what the new identity is for it. Because I think everybody’s got an idea of what they think it was, and what they think it could be, but the majority of that is based upon when Mr Ungaro sold the company back in 1992, which is actually twenty years ago. And I suppose the job that I’ve got in hand is to make a relevant interesting collection that is very Ungaro but is relevant for the modern woman customer now. That’s pretty much the big job in hand”.

Ungaro A/W '11

GD: “When we heard you’d got Ungaro, we all thought it was a perfect match”
GILES: “[Ungaro] has had various designers through in its five year history before I started, one of which [was] Lindsay Lohan which y’know is...beyond unusual. But I just kind of felt that as a house and [with the] heritage that it has, it would be a real shame if that was the defining moment - out of the forty-odd year career of an amazing French house - was just put down to those five years; there’s such a lot more to it than that. [But] I think Ungaro has got such good faith behind it as a label, as well, considering its history.”

GD: “Have you had fun digging around in the archives?”
GILES: “For Fashion’s Night Out in September I’ve got all of the late Sixties archive of jewellery pieces so we’re going to have an exhibition of those in the store, which is just incredible, and they’ve just been sat in a box – they have the most amazing archive which is all in a warehouse outside Paris, and these pieces, they’re museum pieces. There are pictures from people like Richard Avedon, Jeanloup Sieff; photographers who’ve taken pictures of people like Jean Shrimpton – you can’t not get involved in all of that!”
GD: “Any favourites?”
GILES: “My favourites fluctuate from the sublime to the fantastically ridiculous – there are amazing wedding dresses, there are sheath dresses that look like they’re made out of absolutely nothing; that are really beautifully put-together, incredible embroideries, some things that we almost fell on the floor laughing at. The archive is obviously very important, but I don’t want to reference it just literally; I think it’s really important that you pick all the theory; behind the construction; the softness, or the play of drape, and then just interpret that rather than just saying ‘oh we’ll have that and just make it like that’. Cos then you just end up with pieces that look like they’ve come from an archive. And I think all the fashion customers and editors and watchers are far too savvy to have that put in front of them; they want to see something new, which is what I want to do as well”.

Ungaro S/S '11

GD: “So who is your Ungaro customer?”
GILES: “She’s a woman who likes feminine clothes, is pretty much [located] the world over. She likes a Parisian-ness to the look and feel of the clothes, and likes colour, likes print. But as regards a specific [woman]; it can be many across the world.
GD: “You seem to have a broad range of muses rather than one specific person or type..”
GILES “I find it a bit creepy this obsession with one woman, because to me it’s just really unrealistic. Out of all of our friends, your friends, how many different types of women are there? And for me, it’s not about not being focused on a type of woman; there are all different women in the world. There’s so many different personalities and body shapes and people to dress in this world that to narrow yourself just down to one, for me just seems unrealistic, and very odd”.
GD: “Can you give us a clue about the collection you’re working on for Ungaro S/S’12?”
GILES: “We’ve been doing quite a lot of space exploration, but nothing specifically to do with going to the moon…”


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