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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
GEOFFREY B. SMALL limited Edition
"What makes a GBS a GBS"
THE STORY OF A MASTERPIECE
(Above and below) Paris men's supermodel Stephane Olivier in Geoffrey B. Small's legendary and controversial Autumn/Winter 2006 collection show "An Ode to Toussaint Louverture." In January 2004 the designer introduced 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 for his new movement, and within a year, Napoleon-influenced style was all over the industry with names such as John Galliano, Chanel, Gaultier, Balenciaga, Dior Homme, Comme des Garcons, Dolce & Gabbana, Undercover, and Yohji Yammamoto all showing Napoleonic-period influenced looks and collections-- culminating in two special design commissions from Louis Vuitton Japan, and the photographing of the â€œToussaint Louvertureâ€� collection personally by Karl Lagerfeld in Paris for the September 2006 issue of Numero Homme magazine.
While Lagerfeld shot the collection for Numero with only white models, Small's Paris show was actually dominated by black models. Inspired by the heroic founder of the nation of Haiti, the entire production of "Toussaint Louverture" was sold out worldwide, and demonstrated just after the race riots in Paris, that Geoffrey B. Small's napoleonic style was applicable to people of all colors and beliefs. It is one of the over 60 cutting-edge collections that the designer has presented in Paris since 1993, and is now considered by insiders to be a classic masterpiece of fashion and sartorial art.
A limited number of reproduction pieces from " Toussaint Louverture " are available on a strictly made to order basis through the designer's private client services website and archives. The private client service and websites are not available for public viewing. Photo credits: Guido Barbagelata.