On a Monday morning several days following the presentation of his Autumn/Winter ‘16 collection at Paris Fashion Week, Andrew Gn is jovial. We meet early at his showroom in Le Marais, before the buyers arrive, to talk about the inspiration behind the collection and the man behind the brand.
Inspired by a picture of the Tsar Nicholas II and his family, Andrew's runway looks at Palais de Tokyo were polished, opulent and red - an ode to imperial Russia. “I saw two photographs, one of the Tsar with his family, and one of his two daughters in really smart regimental uniforms and I thought it was very interesting, the feminine meeting the masculine right from the start of the 20th century.”
He then spent time researching 20th century design methods and worked with lace, cords, tacking, tassels, fur trim and braiding. The concept of having a uniform also played a big part. “Uniforms are a trend this season and we all thought the same way, that it was a moment to do that. You want to protect yourself, you want to gear up, to have your armour”, he explains.
For a design house that has a staunchly feminine aesthetic; this imperial Russian influence was perhaps a creative way to play around with the masculine and feminine without crossing over into androgynous territory. Like many classicists, Andrew asserts he's not a feminist, at least of the conflictive, radical variety. "I just think that we should all be equal anyway, without fighting about it.”
Femininity and the concept of perfection is always a driving force, and Andrew's perfectly princess-like looks are a firm red-carpet favourite. Andrew’s creations have been worn by a range of distinguished women including Hillary Clinton, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, Camilla Belle, and even a teenaged Hailee Steinfeld. “My favourite red carpet moment, without a doubt, is Elizabeth Moss”, says Andrew.
I tell Andrew that I loved the laws-of-physics-defying boots that accompanied the runway looks. “They were actually also military boots and then we just made them super sexy by stretching them and making them really really pointy, with really tiny heels. We were playing at the beginning, with a squarish thicker heel, that’s the other trend now, but I thought, you know f*** it, I’m just going to make it a really sexy, really pointy stiletto.”
"I thought, you know, f*** it, I’m just going to make it a really sexy, really pointy stiletto.”
Originally from Singapore, Andrew opened his house in Paris in 1996 after spending one year as an assistant to Emanuel Ungaro, but not before honing his skills at the other three fashion capitals - starting with London’s Central Saint Martins in the late 80s/early 90s. “London taught me how to be free. It was a very important step in creativity. [In London] they teach you how to find yourself and I think having your own signature, your own voice is so important. Only you yourself know what you are good at, so London gave me that and gave me a sense of freedom.”
He then spent a year doing an exchange program with Parsons in NYC. “The Americans have a special way of teaching you how to put your feet on the ground and say ‘it’s business’. That’s what I learned from New York. And I was obsessed with Bergdorf Goodman. I looked at what they call the ‘temple of luxury’, Bergdorf Goodman, and it was very inspiring for me as a young person.”
“The Americans have a special way of teaching you how to put your feet on the ground and say ‘it’s business’. That’s what I learned from New York."
In Milan, Andrew attended Domus Academy, visiting factories and manufacturers, learning about leather goods, textiles, and the industry itself.
Andrew then settled in Paris, something he had already decided on as a young boy. “I saw Paris when I was eleven and I could never forget how beautiful it was the first time I saw it. And I said to myself, ‘one day I want to live here’. [The memory] still gives me goosebumps.”
He lives in the 9th arrondissement, and confesses that as an avid collector, is primarily to be near Drouot and the city’s other auction houses.
As we examine the details on the military-inspired jackets from the collection, Andrew ponders symbolism. “Although I don’t want to over-analyze too much, there must be a reason why we all use red or why we want to use army green. It just felt right and I think things like that when they feel, you never ask yourself any questions you just go ahead and do it. I always trust my own instincts and I think that’s really important.”
As I said goodbye to Andrew, Bergdorf Goodman’s Senior Vice President, Linda Fargo, arrived.
Andrew’s Paris: The 9th Arrondissement
La Musée de Gustave Moreau –“A visually inspiring museum that was Moreau’s own home, and is still decorated in the style of the early 20th Century.” 4 Rue de la Rochefoucauld
Pétrelle “There are only ten tables inside, the chef works on his own, there is a waiter and someone who washes the dishes. It’s decorated like an apartment.” 34 Rue Petrelle
Librairie du Passage (Passage Jouffroy) “They have the best selection of art books and vintage books – I collect them.” 10 boulevard Montmartre, 9th, metro Richelieu-Drouot
Florist: Debeaulieu - “I like unusual flowers in a sort of mid-century, modern arrangement. Debeaulieu’s are fabulously colourful. I always have fresh flowers in my home.” 30 Rue Henry Monnier
To see the entire Autumn/Winter '16 collection, visit the Andrew Gn site here.