As many of you know, Evolution Kids Emporium had the unique opportunity to not only attend the ENK Children’s Club Show in New York City a month ago, but we were also able to interview a few remarkable talented designers. Today we are ending our series with one last (but certainly not least!) designer interview.
Please meet the amazing children’s fashion designer Jason Gibaud! In our post this week he shares not only what inspires him to design, but stories about his wife and family.
Jimmy: Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from?
Jason: I’m originally from Melbourne, Victoria. My wife Michelle is from Toowoomba, Queensland. We met at Interior Design school at university in Brisbane. Pretty soon, we decided that Interior Design wasn’t for us and we were accepted into Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Arts. This is the same college that most of Australia’s familiar movie stars attended. I studied Costume Design while Michelle specialized in Set Design.
After we graduated, we worked all over the world in film and theatre on projects such as Moulin Rouge, Hook and the Star Wars. After we had our girls, we decided to settle down in one place – beautiful Mullumbimby in the coastal hinterland of northern New South Wales, Australia. This where we began Paper Wings about ten years ago. Now days, though we still have our operations base in Australia, the success of our label means that we are present in many countries, especially in the US. Out three girls, Michelle and I now live near our studio and workshop in Ho Chi Mingh City, Vietnam.
Jimmy: How would you define your city’s fashion?
Jason: Well…we’ve been a long time in Vietnam now, so I’d answer that by saying that Ho Chi Mingh City has a very dynamic, eclectic emerging scene in all the creative arts. There’s a big population of 18-25 year olds who embrace forward of trend concepts similarly to the Japanese, but who fuse traditional Vietnamese aesthetics and European influences in very interesting ways. It’s a great city to live in as a designer.
Jimmy: When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
Jason: When we decided to give up the nomadic lives of film and theatre. Hmmmm….seems we’re still almost as much on the move though!
Jimmy: How long have you worked as a designer?
Jason: Twenty-five years in one discipline or another, Ouch! That hurts when you say it out loud. I assure you that we remain suitably young at heart and immature on the inside!
Jimmy: What does fashion mean to you?
Jason: Avoiding adult concepts of ‘understatement’ or ‘chic’ is important to us. Kid’s clothing should not be shrunken down adult wear in our opinion. Children’s fashion is about making fun garments and outfits for kids that are comfortable, robust and which look and feel great in motion. We love the challenge of making clothing that is both ‘special’ and functional as day to day wear.
Jimmy: What are some of your accomplishments as a designer?
Jason: Our major accomplishment has been to translate our original concept of ‘Celebrating Childhood’ into worldwide collections that have delighted children and enhanced their sense of fun and self-esteem. It’s always about the kids. Accolades and industry acknowledgement is very nice, but there nothing more rewarding than having a little girl put on a Paper Wings skirt or dress and ‘hoola’ it into motion!
Jimmy: Do you consider yourself an artist?
Jason: Ha! I suppose I am an artist in terms of the creating our prints, palettes, shapes and silhouettes. But an ‘artiste’ I am not. You can’t take yourself too seriously in children’s fashion or you’re missing the point. There’s no delicate geniuses around here!
Jimmy: What matters to you most as a fashion designer?
Jason: I love the idea of children participating in their own sense of style. We create collections that are very carefully developed so that almost every top will work with almost every bottom. Each piece has its appeal as a special separate, but kids can also have fun with huge multitude of contrasts, matches and shape combinations when it comes to outfits. There are also many ties and rouches, so they can wear their tops, skirts and dresses in several lengths and looks.
In the end, we are not a ‘graphic design business’, printing creatively onto a limited number of standardized shapes. Every Paper Wings collection has dozens of unique patterns, shapes and blocks. It’s highly technical, but the trick is to make the cleverness in the build look pretty and effortless when it’s being worn.
Jimmy: What do you like best about designing clothes?
Jason: During our range development we deliberately set out to make memorable ‘favorites’. That’s why we have such generous sizing and fits. The fabrics we use will last many years, so we love the concept of a child wearing their Paper Wings favorites for ages. The knack is to be subtle with our signature aesthetics so that each seasonal collection can work the last – and the one before that. This season’s skirt can go with a top from the previous summer. The development of signature is a test of skill and a great pleasure to pursue.
Jimmy: What do you dislike about designing clothes?
Jason: Well, there’s very little that glamorous in the world of creating high-end clothing! It is actually very demanding, cyclic work that requires long hours and unstinting commitment to the smallest of details. Talent is a pre-requisite, but the hard work isn’t for everyone. I have my bad days, but if I didn’t passionately love designing children’s clothes – even on the bad days – I’d be crazy to put myself through it. It’s truly a labor of love.
Jimmy: Where do you get your inspiration?
Jason: I’m immensely interested in folk art and crafts, and the use of traditional techniques and fabrics. The technical structure of Victorian era silhouettes, especially when they’re put in motion, is fascinating. I also love the poignant whimsy of vintage storybooks. They’re fun and pretty, yet always seem to capture a sense of mystery or adventure that children adore.
Jimmy: How would you define your personal style?
Jason: I would say my style is what you’d expect of a ‘mad-scientist’ creative designer who is frantically busy and living in the tropics. Make of that what you will! Guess you’ll have to pay me a visit to judge for yourself. Michelle – though she may kill me for saying it – is the closest thing to typifying what you’d imagine an ‘upscaled’ Paper Wings child would look like when they’re grown up. Kind of free flowing and a bit zany, but never completely haphazard. Stylish, fun and unique. Phew…I think I got out of that one.
Jimmy: How would you define the style your line exemplifies?
Jason: Celebrating Childhood.
Jimmy: What are some of your fashion goals?
Jason: We want to continue to refine our boys collections. We like to hit themes which are fun and cheeky rather than ‘tough’ or ‘aggressive’. It’s a challenge, but we’re finding it very rewarding. We’ll be doing accessories soon. And look out for a women’s collection!
Jimmy: What are your favorite colors to work with and why?
Jason: A quick look at any of our collections will tell you that I like many, many colors. However, our enduring signature is our red and white stripe.
Jimmy: What are your favorite fabrics to work with and why?
Jason: Again, I wouldn’t single out any particular fabric. As a costume designer I’m stimulated by the intricacies and demands of a variety of woven weights, which dictate drop and movement. But with my children’s hat on, the gorgeous certified organic cotton jersey we’ve found community farmed in southern India is hard to beat. I’d tell you where but I’d have to…well you know the rest. The hand feel and durability are supreme, while the ethical farming practices add to the joy of working with it.
Jimmy: What are your favorite patterns [prints] to work with and why?
Jason: Vintage storybook…as above
Jimmy: What was your favorite outfit as a child?
Jason: Aussie boys from my era generally ran around in surf trunks or football jerseys. I did secretly dream of looking more unique though!
Jimmy: What’s your favorite piece from your current line?
Jason: Racer-back Jersey Maxi Dress with Hi-Lo ties. A truly beautiful dress for special occasions (or every day) which can be tortured in the playground then easily washed and dried.
Jimmy: In your opinion, what is the biggest faux paux in children’s fashion?
Jason: Shrunken down adult wear. As well as being a bit creepy, any design element that causes kids to keep making adjustments or ‘fixing’ their clothes is a big no- no. An adult in a delicate fitted dress with string shoulder straps is hardly going be throwing herself headfirst down a slide or spinning around on the spot until she falls over. The trick is to make a children’s style look pretty and whimsical while keeping it comfortable and easy to wear.
Jimmy: Do you have kids of your own? What do they love to wear?
Jason: We have three girls, all of whom have developed very distinct tastes and personal preferences. None of them could be easily pigeon holed…they’re very unique dressers. We’ve certainly learned a lot from the over the years as Paper Wings test pilots!
Jimmy: Why do you like working with EKE (or want to work with EKE)?
Jason: What is not to like about the super fabulous Jimmy Brown???!!! Jimmy has an extremely discerning eye for color, shape and fabrics. He also has a wonderful passion for presenting his clients with special collections that probably won’t be seen 20 times in every playground. We love catching up with Jimmy in the US – he never fails to find a Paper Wings outfit combination that we hadn’t thought of!
It’s fun and a privilege to work with such a like-minded person. EKE and its clients are genuine favorites of ours.
A big THANK YOU Jason and all the designers who were generous with their time and helped bring these interviews to our blog. And thank you to all our readers as well, we hope you enjoyed this series.