Landing in San Francisco from Iran in 2001, a young designer set foot on a brave new path in America.
“Before I could adjust to the language, my interaction to everything around me was purely visual.” said Gia the designer behind, San Francisco based Gelareh Designs.
“I already loved art and sculpture, and [I] had fluency for assembling elements together. It wasn’t long when I realized I could use fashion as the perfect expression of my art.”
Like any student who didn’t hail from the bloodline of a Beckham or a Zoe, Gia was quick to realize the necessity for resourcefulness. There was a vision, but at the end of the day, there was little to realize that vision. Working with a simple hemp rope, the designer compromised with the material, coaxing it into custom couture worthy of a second glance from editors.
“[The material] only cost me $10, though it took me 100 hours of work, and was featured in magazines while I was still a student. When you don’t have a lot, it pushes you to be more daring and opens up your creativity to the impossible.”
Following the adage, “What will be, will be,” Gia leaves the possibilities of her collections to the fabrics and happenings around her, as well as to the women who request custom made pieces. Designing for every season is a novel and organic process for Gia, time after time.
“[Design] can sneak up on me or hit suddenly. It can enhance what I’m already working on or propel me in directions I may not have even envisioned.”
Designing the trinity: ready to wear, haute couture costumes, and custom wedding gowns lends Gia the creative leeway to pursue a concept, taking it express past commercial cliches. The Gelareh woman, she offers, has a vision for herself; she’s a heroine in a tale. Gia both acknowledges and anticipates this preexisting vision for what her day, the climax of her story, should look like.
The bride, she says, “becomes my muse and the dress becomes the pinnacle of my interpretation of her yearning. I need to understand who she is.”
There exists a crucial difference, however, between designing for a singular client and an entire collection.
Collections require an implicit understanding of modern women’s needs, which change from season to season. The stories may develop from a single client or from a larger audience, but her willingness to invest in storytelling remains the same.
When entering the website, Gelareh Designs’ debut Autumn/Winter collection appears otherworldly, reflexively counter-cultural in its calling for women to embrace their forms. There is the “Avant Coat”, which elicits a kind of Snow White in post-Garden of Eden interpretation. The lady has rejected the idyllic cottage among the paternal Dwarfs and embraced the ether world of the Dark Forest. There’s the “Stagger Coat”: this woman is defined by her post-apocalyptic surroundings. Consider this past summer’s Matt Damon box office flick, “Elysium”. Her former home has been degraded by invasions, global warming, disease, famine, and political ambitions. She is an every woman for herself, much like the designer.
“You see in my collections a celebration of freedom, a release from judgments, testaments of truth, or reflections of nature’s evolution. I often depict liberation from the ordinary and the shackles of convention. I’ve also explored glimpses of the future as filtered through the past. These are the concepts that interest me and inform my work and become the paint I use on the canvas of fashion.”
For more Gelareh Designs.
Jewelry is Dirty Hands Jewelry by Enrique Muthuan.
Photographer: Alanna Gilbert
Model: Aga Artych of Adam Models
Stylist: Carlos Basora