The CultureMap interview
Food, flowers & fashion: Andrew Gn reveals his passions and how he's become ared carpet fave
Paris fashion designer Andrew Gn's most recent Houston visit included a whirlwind appearance at the Passion for Fashion luncheon, a trunk show at Tootsies and frequent visits to the local culinary scene for fried chicken, barbecue and Mexican food.
"I'm in America. I'm in Houston, so I'm not going to go for some fois gras or anything," he said, with a hearty laugh.
Gn was also so tickled with his "Houston We Have A Problem" suite at the Hotel ZaZa, which features a life-sized replica of an astronaut in a space suit, that he snapped several photos to show the folks back home.
We used to have this idea about a Texan woman with big hair, a Dolly Parton or whatever, a very clichéd image about it. But when you look at women like Becca Thrash, Lynn Wyatt and Cynthia Petrello, they are all very international, well-traveled women and all so chic.
When it comes to fashion, though, the designer known for his couture-like attention to detail is all business. In between telephone bids for some precious antiques to add to his collection — "I'm a closet interior decorator," he says —he talked about his passions and what it's like to suddenly be in demand on the red carpet.
CultureMap: With a worldwide clientele, what is the main difference between your international customers and your American customers?
Andrew Gn: It's a big collection, so we cater to quite a lot of people. Obviously Middle East clients go for the long evening gowns and the longer tunics because of the religious factor. In America and Europe and Asia it's pretty much the same. When we have a best-selling dress or coat, it normally does well in every single country.
CM: Is there a difference between your American and Texan customer?
AG: I don't think so. We used to have this idea about a Texan woman with big hair, a Dolly Parton or whatever, a very clichéd image about it. But when you look at women like Becca Thrash, Lynn Wyatt and Cynthia Petrello, they are all very international, well-traveled women and all so chic.
CM: How do you create a collection? Do you look for the fabric first or come up with an idea?
AG: It's an egg and chicken situation. Sometimes it's the clothing first and then it comes with the textile. Or sometimes it comes from the textile and goes with the designing. We have all the fabrics specially designed for us, woven for us, embroidered for us, printed for us. So it's all very exclusive.
For winter, I was looking at some of the early photography by Lewis Carroll and I started with that. I sort of got into that whole Victorian romantic, but I wanted to do it darker, sexier, sparer and more modern.
CM: Who is your customer?
AG: I do not have a specific woman in my mind. I have always been told that I dress the grandmother, the mother and the granddaughter. I'm not an ageist nor a sexist nor a sizeist. I cater to all women. I think I manage to make women of different ages and different sizes and different nationalities look very good. It's a challenge, but somehow it's integrated into my own way of designing. It's a blessing to be able to design for all these different women.
A half hour after the Golden Globes, they started tweeting and we sold 14 dresses the next day, made to measure. And that dress is not cheap. It's $13,000 to $14,000. It's fully beaded.
CM: Your fall/winter collection has been described as darker and sexier. How would you describe it?
AG: This season it's true that sex is very much in your face because the way we styled the collection with fishnet stockings and a darker atmosphere. The skirts were shorter, it's all the combinations of the darker and mysterious as well. Looking mysterious is the way of being sexy.
But it doesn't mean all my past collections were not sexy. A year ago Eva Mendes wore one of our gowns to a very important event. It had long sleeves and a jewel neckline; she shows no skin except for her hands and her face. But because of the way it's being draped, it accentuates her curves. It's being sexy without showing. At some point, I always believe without showing, you show a lot.
CM: We've seen photos lately of Eva Longoria, Rachel McAdams and other starlets in your designs. Are more celebrities wearing Andrew Gn?
AG: Quite a lot more. It was never our intention to dress celebrities because we thought that we never have enough time or enough sample to dress them. But the stylists have been coming to us very often and we could not really say no. It is quite nice to have all of the bloggers and the magazines covering. For example, Laura Dern was in a beautiful emerald beaded gown at the Golden Globes. We've dressed Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lopez. We are making quite a few outfits for Emma Stone for the Spiderman 4 premieres.
CM: How good is that for your business?
AG: It's very good. A half hour after the Golden Globes, they started tweeting and we sold 14 dresses the next day, made to measure. And that dress is not cheap. It's $13,000 to $14,000. It's fully beaded. There's a lot of time and energy in dressing celebrities but we decided to do that because it's great publicity for us.
CM: What's on your agenda next?
AG: We are planning quite a few shop openings, first in the Middle East, in Riyadh and Beirut. Next will be China. We have a quite a big business now in China. And not just in Beijing and Shanghai.
AG: I think eventually I will do home. People always think that I'm actually a closet interior decorator. I do that very well for myself and I love it.
I'm a collector, too. I collect 17th- and 18th-century ceramics and 19th-century textiles. It's very eclectic. It always helps me to design because my home is almost like a library. I go into a room and pick something. For example, the four walls in my room are all covered with embroideries. It's like living in a museum, with lots of books. It's full of information and beauties. I can't imagine myself not living in beauty.
CM: And you have a passion for flowers?
AG: Basically I take every Friday off and have the florist deliver all my fresh flowers of the season and I spend a couple of hours arranging flowers. I find it therapeutic. It's very relaxing. I can't imagine myself living without flowers. I'm also a closet florist. It makes me very happy. Even sometimes in your room if you just have a small bouquet it makes me happy. It's live and it's nature that comes into your room.