VICTORIA GEANEY

CONCEPTUAL WOMENSWEAR DESIGNER

Interview with Nouvelle Mode

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1) What makes you so passionate about design?

I love being creative and have always loved writing and drawing - even holding my own art exhibitions on the walls of my room as a child. I think that my passion for design stems from my love of art and for creating things. I principally love ideas and value the concept and narrative of my work above all else. That is why I classify myself as a conceptual designer, which to me means that the overall idea of the work is of more importance than the final outcome. The work I produce may not always be wearable or even possible but the idea and innovation is what I find interesting and is what I am passionate about.

For example, currently I am working on a few projects but one of them is in tandem with a research Synthetic Biologist at Imperial College. This work will culminate in a purely conceptual collection of 2-D print design work exploring the idea of fluorescent bacteria and its theoretical application on garments as a biological, glowing print. Obviously there are laws that disallow bacteria to be used in this way in reality but as an idea – that fabric could be living and emitting light – it is very interesting!

2) What and who provides you with the most inspiration when you create new pieces or are thinking of new ideas? How do you keep a creative buzz?

I think that as a creative, the opposite is true. I constantly have ideas flying around my head and have to try and discipline myself to work and finish one idea or line of research without being distracted by something else, however I think that is true of most designers and artists. I am inspired by artists such as Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois, visits to art galleries and the Wellcome Collection, Hunterian and Science Museums, writers such as Sylvia Plath and Oscar Wilde and designers as diverse as Yohji Yamamoto, Simone Rocha, Iris Van Herpen and Nancy Tilbury at Studio XO. My own practice is inspired by multidisciplinary practice and research across fashion, art, science and technology and is motivated by environmental concerns. On a cultural level, I think that this could be described as a green era, as well as being increasingly being seen as a new epoch which some term Post-postmodernism. The cultural context is interesting to research but I like to find inspiration away from it so as not to become a product of the cultural dominant.

3) Do you have any advice for young designers?

I would really encourage other young designers to get as much experience, whether through interning or apprenticeships as possible, never to compromise their own design vision and to never give up on your dreams as you will get there eventually!

4) Are there any keys traits a designer must have to be successful? (for example, many people say a model has to be disciplined and a salesmen has to be confident etc.)

I think that you have firstly got to be artistic and have got to have a unique viewpoint or something you really want to say within your work. Secondly, you must be equally good with the business side of fashion. You must be able to see the overall picture of the business, and be a great multi-tasker as you must be able to take your ideas from initial designs to manufacturing, then press and ultimately a highly skilled salesperson to sell yourself, the brand and the garments. As the designer of your own company, everything begins and ends with you so you must be organised, a great negotiator and an excellent manager. Skills such as pattern making, computer skills for technical flats and drawing skills are also essential.

5) Are you planning any future collections at the moment (Or if not what would you dream collection be like?)

Yes, I am currently working on 3 different collections, one being the fluorescent bacteria collection I mentioned earlier. I am producing a slow fashion eco-friendly range of printed womenswear garments for retail, am at design stage for a wearable technology collection based on the theme of Neo-Dark Romanticism which will market within the next year or so. I like to be busy!

6) How long can it take for a design to go from Sketch to finished product?

I think that depends on the fashion cycle that the designer is following. For example within high fashion there are pre-collections, main collections, cruise etc. so that is around 6 or more collections a year which means that the time from design to market is quite fast. The high street works to an even faster cycle, with a continuous stream of new designs for consumers. As my work is more art based, and therefore tends to be one-off production made by myself, I am able to work quite slowly so from the design stage to final outcome can be a couple of months. Slow-fashion is a movement in itself which is recognized as more sustainable and eco-friendly as the amount of waste and consumption is a lot lower.

7) Have you had any major hiccups through the design process (i.e. samples not coming in on time, or fabrics being the wrong colour etc.) and how did you counteract this?

Just after graduating, the online retailer ASOS chose my cape as part of the ASOS Cape Project.  I organised the short-run production of the capes, which were then sold online at Asos.com and photographed for Nylon magazine. There were a few complications during the production though, including the initial problem of how to turn the bespoke catwalk cape into a mass manufactured piece. Another issue occurred with the buttons, as the machine at the factory wasn’t used to working with shell so there was a lot of breakages. Luckily, I had purchased a higher amount of buttons than required so these glitches were very easily rectified to produce the final pieces.