Monday, 20 October 2014

Designer on the Rise: Max Gengos

Don't let Project Runway fool you: breaking into the fashion scene as an emerging designer isn't as easy as competing in a televised reality show, where excelling in several cut-throat challenges merits a place at New York Fashion Week. It takes a very special person with extreme perseverance, a thoughtful vision, and a certain level of sartorial brilliance to command the industry's attention. Enter Max Gengos, 24. With a remarkable design stint at Calvin Klein, Gengos's eponymous line proves that he is all of those things. Not only do his structured crop tops and "infinity" hemmed dresses scream "wear me right now," he truly considers the customer first and foremost. After all, there's nothing that makes a fashionista's heart beat faster than thoughtful lining, impeccable craftsmanship, and innovative designs. And lucky for us, Gengos's spring line, "Artic Spring," did not disappoint.

Already smitten with this designer? The Trendologist had some one-on-one time with Gengos to pick his brain about his spring collection and what's to come!

The Trendologist: Congratulations on the incredible Spring 2015 collection! It's absolutely major. What was your inspiration?

Max Gengos:  Thank you! My inspiration for this collection was the concept “Arctic Spring.” When I began designing this season, I was drawn to the shapes and color palette found in the arctic: the undulating white snow banks, the bright blues of melting glaciers, the soft greys of the arctic sky, and the deep navy of the cold sea.

TT: How does what we saw in your spring collection reflect who you are as a designer?

MG: The spring collection is a step forward, reinforcing my vocabulary as a designer. Though all of the styles are somewhat futuristic and minimal, everything is also very feminine. I incorporated many signature design elements in the line: my futuristic form-flattering “incision” wrapping dart seams, the feminine touch of silk organza tipping, and extended linings dipping below skirt hems which reference petticoats of fashion past. My aesthetic is inspired by the marriage of futurism with the golden age of couture. The balance between silhouette, details, and the luxurious fabrics that I use reflects the fusion of those elements.

TT:  Let's talk about those luxurious fabrics -- you use everything from silk crepe, to lightweight tweed, to organza! How do you go about choosing fabrics?

MG: The fabrics are so wonderful to the touch, which is paramount to my design process. I want each piece to feel special and to do so I made an effort to take everything to the next level from a fabric standpoint. When I shop in boutiques, I run my hands through the clothes hanging on the rack and then react to the fabrics [that] interest me. I want my clients to be surprised by how special the fabrics are to the touch.

TT: You are committed to “responsible luxury.” Could you explain to Trendologist readers what that means?

MG: My brand is built upon a foundation of “responsible luxury.” Just as high-end designers dictate the trends each season, so too should they set the precedent for accountability and responsibility in manufacturing [as well as] sourcing practices. I believe that it is important to know that what you wear was made by individuals who are treated with respect, given fair wages, and working in well-maintained facilities. Each step of my production process is closely scrutinized to ensure that I only work with the most responsible vendors. I source my fabrics from the finest mills in France, Italy, and the United States. I [also] do all of my garment production in high end facilities right in New York City, where I can oversee each step of the production process as my line is built.

TT: What is your overall design process like? 

MG: I start my design process with an inspiration reference at first. I’m usually drawn to nature, space, and science, so that is the jumping-off point for me. From there, I put pencil to paper and just start sketching. It becomes a sort of subconscious process—the designs just flow out and I always end up with a ton of overdevelopment that I edit down. I will [then] match sketches with the fabrics I have selected from my mills. [After that], I get to the more technical side with measurements, interior finishing, and specifying all of the finer details to my production team before they make the garments. After that point, I fit everything myself- and that is really where I can make sure my clothes maintain the same finesse as my sketches. It is of the utmost importance to me that my hand physically goes into everything I create, down to every last detail.

TT: Who is the “Max Gengos” girl? 

MG: The Max Gengos woman is confident, intelligent, and sexy. The clothes this season are very feminine and flattering, as many [pieces feature] fuller skirts and nipped-in waists, but the styling of the pieces are definitively sleek and sharp. My customer confidently owns her femininity, and I strive to highlight the body underneath the clothes when I design. I want to make pieces that people can feel beautiful, smart, and secure in. I don’t believe in putting everything on display at once; it's more sexy to highlight one part of the body and keep everyone guessing at the rest.

TT:  I know playing favorites is nearly impossible, but what is one piece from your spring collection that Trendologist readers MUST have in their closets?

MG:  This is always a tough question! I will say that my Navi crop top, which I did in two amazing qualities from a mill I work with in Italy-- a navy cotton/nylon shimmer lightweight tweed, and an ice blue “techno-quilted” cotton/nylon--surprised me. I did not expect that style to stand out as much as it does. I think it’s because there are so many ways to style the crop top, that you could really have fun with it.

TT: What can we expect from you for Fall 2015?

MG: For fall, I will be pushing the silhouettes a bit more forward, and adding some very special fabric qualities from the mills I work with in Europe. I’m going to be exploring texture and negative space and executing everything in a darker, moodier color palette.

TT: Where do you see your line in five years?

MG: I would love to see my brand expand across many product categories in the future. Women’s Ready-To-Wear is still going to be the center of my line, but I would love to see the Max Gengos aesthetic translated into shoes, accessories, fragrance, and home.

TT: What advice do you have for aspiring designers who want to launch their own line?

MG: If you know that you want your own line, I suggest starting to hone in on your craft as early as you can. Get the appropriate training, internships, and experience before you make the leap out on your own. Launching your own line does not just involve being a great designer, there are so many other pieces—you have to approach it as a business, and handle everything as such. At the end of the day, designing is just a small part of what goes into having your own line. Like a meticulously constructed garment, all of the parts need to be given the same attention to detail in order to create something truly great.

Completely obsessed with Max Gengos?  Don't blame you. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram for some very chic updates.

All photos courtesy of Max Gengos.

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