The Amazing Geoffrey B. Small Story: 1976-2011
Often copied yet rarely credited, Geoffrey B. Small is a pioneer in avant-garde design and making clothes by hand. Since 1993, he has shown more collections in Paris than any American designer, and his concepts continue to lead the designer industry at the highest level. He began his career in 1976 working as a blue jeans salesclerk for the Gap Stores in Boston. From 1979-1980, after working for 3 years selling jeans for the Gap Stores and starting a small business with an old Singer sewing machine in his parents attic making clothes for friends, he was judged a winner from over 34,000 competitors by Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, Geoffrey Beene and Elsa Klensch in the largest fashion design competitions in North America.
From 1984-1987, he created a national phenomenon in the industry and sold almost one million dollars worth of a single white shirt he designed ("the Ultimate Shirt"), from his house in Newton Massachussetts through the pages of American Vogue magazine.
By 1991, Small had become Bostons leading bespoke made-to-measure designer moving to Newbury Street, designing clothes for the Governor of Massachussetts, singer Bonnie Raitt, popular recording artists New Kids on the Block, and organizing the citys largest designer industrial events.
In October 1992, Geoffrey B. Small brought his first collection to Paris in a suitcase, and in 1993, showed his 2nd collection at the original Paris sur Mode salon on the banks of the Seine alongside Maurizio Altieri of Carpe Diem and Roberto Cavalli. In Paris, legendary YSL chairman and Chambre Syndicale president Pierre Berge hailed Small in the pages of Women's Wear Daily as one of the few American designers with "true talent". Soon after, along with Martin Margiela and Lamine Kouyate of Xuly Bet, he pioneered the use of recycled design in fashion. Radical at the time, within less than a decade, recycled designer fashion would go on to become a major business in the industry.
In 1994, Geoffrey B. Small became only the third American designer in history to be officially recognized and listed on the official calendar of the Chambre Syndicale, Frances legendary governing body of fashion. His controversial first runway show collection entitled "Typical American", stunned the fashion system and garnered no less than 10 pages in Collezioni magazine alone and orders from famous retailers such as Barneys NY, Los Angeles' legendary Charles Gallay, Maria Luisa in Paris, and RosyMaendler and Albert Eickhoff in Germany. The concept of an alternative, relatively unknown non-commercial American designer showing in Paris would presage the appearance of many more US designers in the years to come including Jeremy Scott, Steven Slowik, Marc Jacobs, Rick Owens, Micheal Kors and Tom Ford.
In 1996, Small introduced the worlds first recycled menswear collection in Paris which went on to become very successful in Japan, the most competitive designer market in the world. Working in collaboration with the country's master retailers of the time including Midwest, Revolution, Galf, Memphis, Basement, Lift and Isetan, Small's recycled clothing was sold in over 40 cities, prompting an editor of a leading magazine in 1997 to say he had become the number one designer for young men in Japan. At the same time, his women's collections counted Winona Ryder, Halle Berry, Tori Spelling and Mariah Carey as celebrity clients.
During this period, Geoffrey B. Small and his staff pioneered over thirty major recycle design technique innovations later adopted by, and credited to, many others among them Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Comme des Garcons, Dolce & Gabbana, Paul Smith, Dirk Bikkembergs, Helmut Lang, Miguel Adrover, E2, Angelo, and the Great China Wall.
1. the use of inserts,
2. the 2-piece recycle twinset
3. themed recycle collections based upon a particular concept or garment type
4. inside out,
5. metamorphosisizing garment types (changing the original use of the garment into a different type or use)
7. tape bands
12. electronic components (applying solid state computer components into recycled clothing designs)
13. graffiti tagging
14. painted leather
15. painted jeans
17. the pinch seam
18. inside pinch seam
19. inside exposed overlock seam
20. laser and silkscreen prints on pants, jackets, button-down shirts, leather and knitwear
21. chiffon over jersey
23. label outside
24. intarsia stitching
25. convertibles (2-in-1 or 3-in-1 garments that can be changed into bags, backpacks or alternative garments)
26. slashed knitwear
27. antique patches
28. ergonomic cutting and stitching
30. denim and khaki
31. refitting menswear into womenswear
32. customizing repairs
33. developing the world's most comprehensive standards and methods for production of recycled clothing.
In 1999, the landscape of fashion was quickly changing, heavily influenced by the new growing dominance of large corporate global brands who were investing hundreds of millions of dollars into advertising, publicity, and aggressively pushing independent creative designers out of the marketplace and or buying their companies outright. At the same time, a new economic crisis in Japan triggered a radical change in the designer market and numerous designers who were formerly independent including Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, John Richmond, Vivienne Westwood, Costume National, Helmut Lang, Hussein Chayalan, Alexander McQueen began to form licenses and partnerships with larger industrial companies primarily in Italy in an effort to survive the new environment. After showing more collections in Paris than any other American-based designer, and producing and distributing over 30,000 handmade recycle pieces from his own independent company in Boston, Small entered into a licensing agreement to produce, finance and distribute his designs in with a manufacturer in the Veneto region of Italy, the world's powerhouse of fashion production and finance.
The agreement worked poorly and after a year and a half, shortly after the events of 11 September 2001, he restarted his own independent firm again, this time in Italy, making special clothes by hand in his apartment in Cavarzere in strictly limited edition series for a select group of leading research shops in the world.
With a maximum of five hundred pieces per season made for the world, the concept was successful and enabled Small to survive the ongoing world political and economic crises, and continue to be able to produce and develop a dedicated pure research collection of some of the industry's most advanced and personal clothing designs.
Continously copied yet rarely credited, in September 2003 Small founded the Association Internationale des Createurs Independants (AICI) to serve the needs of select independent designers at the international level, and launched the first AREA show in Paris. In January 2004 at the 2nd edition of Area, he introdued a radical new collection of Napoleonic-era inspired clothing entitled 'Brumaire revisited" as a historical warning against pre-emptive wars in the name of freedom. In 2005, he was voted the winner of MTV Germany's Designerama menswear award. By the beginning of 2006, Napoleon-influenced style was all over the industry, and names such as John Galliano, Chanel, Gaultier, Balenciaga, Dior Homme, Comme des Garcons, Dolce & Gabbana, Undercover, and Yohji Yammamoto were all showing Napoleonic-period influenced looks and collections. During this period, Geoffrey B. Small received two special design commissions from Louis Vuitton Japan's "Celux" project for special luxury sport polo shirts and jogging jackets, and his signature deluxe recycled vintage leather bags. His "Toussaint Louverture" collection was also photographed by Karl Lagerfeld in Paris for the September 2006 issue of Numero Homme magazine.
In October 2006, Small set out to introduce a totally new direction for the industry again with his first medieval collection entitled "Back to the future". The first in a series of collections with a special message warning about the world's current social and economic trends.
In January 2007, his controversial "Classe Dirigeant" show was banned by the Paris fashion establishment, yet went on to become a landmark fashion presentation for its radical designs and its unique and timely social and political message about a new global feudalism. In March 2007, his "Heroes of Another Gender" examined women in power during dark times in the middle ages and the 21st century. And in July and October 2007, his "Schola" collections for spring/summer 2008 contained a secret warning message on the growing dangers of illiteracy to the middle class in western industrialized nations. Small's powerful medieval-inspired collections and their messages have now influenced a growing sphere in fashion, as medieval looks increasingly appeared in other designer's collections and brands.
A world leader in ecological sustainable design
With over 17 years of recycle design leadership at the world level, in 2007 Geoffrey B. Small was also the first designer at the Paris design level to introduce designs specifically addressing global warming and climate change. In January 2008, he presented his "Do Something" collection initiative prompting individuals to begin to take personal action to resolve the world's challenging problems. And since 2009 the designer has led a new worldwide antinuclear movement in fashion. In Paris June 2010, he presented "Logomania revisited" the first international designer collection to come out openly against nuclear power- dedicated to the people of Italy and around the world facing the threat of the new global nuclear rennaissance. He was also asked to write the foreword page of the industry's first design book on sustainable fashion design "Eco-Fashion" by Sass Brown. In 2011, his continuous commitment and activist role in the Italian anti-nuclear movement and his special Art installation during the opening week of the 54th Biennale d'Arte di Venezia_International Art Exhibition helped to play a key role in the historic Italian National Referendum Campaign that stopped nuclear power in Italy in June of 2011, and continues to help support leading non-profit environmental organizations including France's Reseau de Sortire du Nucleaire, the world's largest anti-nuclear federation. Forecasting the impending world economic crisis years ahead of his time, he has also been steadily pushing the envelope of "hyper-quality," a new bespoke hand-tailored concept using the worlds best Italian noble luxury fabrics and components and a vast array of hand detailing and treatments that span over 30 years of hand made clothes-building experience. Combined with a social, political and environmental message, the designer is now creating one of the most sustainable, personal, and environmentally-sound luxury wardrobe concepts in the world--that offers very cool and personal style as well as long-lasting value for money.
Proof once again for those that really know, that after 30 years, Geoffrey B. Small continues to be a pioneer in fashion.