GCDS: A fashionable immigrant story in reverse
Few new brands are quite so out there in Milan these days as GCDS, a reverse immigrant story, that staged what it termed an “electronic bonanza,” to round off Thursday night’s action in Milan Fashion Week.
GCDS is the brainchild of two brothers - Giuliano and Giordano Calza - who were born in Naples, but founded their fashion house in Milan. However, their first steps into la mode began not in Italy but in Shanghai, when they were running five restaurants and thirsting for another moment to begin in their lives.
That unexpected path is reflected in the designs of GCDS; whose name stands for God Can't Destroy Streetwear. And to many, the Almighty has certainly ripped up many conventional habits this year in the pandemic, like typical notions about staging fashion collections, as designers worldwide have scrambled to reinvent shows and presentations post-lockdown. Few more so than Giuliano Calza, who hired LA engineering firm Emblematic Group to mash up wacky characters, Day-Glo kitsch and various video dreams for GCDS’s latest presentation.
Transforming a show into a virtual, unexplored planet, with the help of the Los Angeles, California-based engineering firm Emblematic Group and their REACH.Love platform, pulling together a one-off team of creative hacker and artist Thomas Webb, and director Jeron Braxton, who lensed The Weeknd’s “In Your Eyes” video.
In Milan, the brothers will unveil the concept Thursday night at 8 p.m. to their design and PR team in the garden of their Porta Venezia office. In LA, there will be a simultaneously live display.
So we caught up with designer Giuliano Calza, who studied political science in Naples, and his CEO brother Giordano, who has a bachelor’s in economics from Bocconi business school in Milan, on a Zoom call. Giuliano, attired in a skull print sweatshirt, and Giordano, in a denim shirt, giving their take on what’s next for fashion and GCDS.
FashionNetwork.com: Why did you decide to create a digital arcade?
Giuliano Calza: I was working in my house looking out the windows and thinking how can I escape this prison. I wanted something to cheer up people and create something that excited them, so I decided to take everyone out of this world. I thought, ‘That’s a pleasant place and that's exactly what I find.’ 3D-generated and designed so that the clothes will flow and looked exactly like in reality. Everyone wants to be part of the audience at a fashion show and this year we can sit them wherever we want, anywhere, even near celebrities. It’s a democratic choice. But the project was extremely exhausting. But I am really excited to create like this Blade Runner kind of feeling. In this world, you can change the weather and atmosphere around; or people can enjoy games and even go backstage. We will have lots of games – new version of Pacman and pinball and everything you had on your first computer.
FNW: Why did you pick the tagline - God Can't Destroy Streetwear?
Giuliano: It was a teenage decision. I started this project aged just 20. I am always cheerful and up for some fun and I that felt fashion needed that. I felt, ‘why does everyone have to wear black?’ Let’s do it in pink and green. I always had an idea that clothing is a camouflage that reflects our mood.
FNW: Define the DNA of GCDS?
Giuliano: It’s a quirky playful style made in Italy. Streetwear that is produced in the best factories of Italy, with excellent knitwear and sartorial cuts. It’s beauty that is modern and manga.
FNW: Would you call yourself a skateboarder label?
Giuliano: No, because today the kind items we create are hand-made and highly artisanal and we have coats from the same factory used by Gucci and Dolce. We are between streetwear and fashion.
FNW: You once did a show in New York? Why did you come back to Italy?
Giuliano: Yes, we did once for Spring-Summer 2017. In fact, New York Fashion Week invited me as Italian Most Loved and they paid everything, and we did a hit show on a pier. But New York is three times as expensive as Milano! So, not again.
FNW: What sort of year are you having, Giordano?
Giordano: We just opened in London but only stayed open for three weeks. And we opened a fifth store in Asia in Shanghai. This year we didn’t fire anyone due to Covid. We haven’t done that. Every kid is still working for us.
FNW: What is your annual turnover?
Giordano: 20 million euros, about 80% wholesale. In 2020, it will probably be the same as last year, maybe plus 5%.
FNW: How many sales points do you have?
Giuliano: We have seven stores of our own, and then about 370 sales points, not many department stores – my brother doesn’t like them. Essentially boutiques. We see it as entry-level luxury.
Giordano: Our online sales have more or less doubled this year. But we had to close our showroom in Paris, and no one can come to the showroom in Milan, so everything is done by Zoom. But right now, we don’t have many negative signs. Our budget is at least the same as last year thanks to e-commerce. Plus, we are going to open a store in Rome, on Via del Babuino. Our own direct store. We got the landlord to accept a percentage of sales. So, No Key Money! Landlords like our brand because you cannot define clearly what our brand is. We can sell pasta or water or anything!
Giuliano: We directly produce beauty. I chose each item, and everything is fun. Like our lipstick named Marijuana, that works and sells a lot. But beauty needs a large investment, so we go slowly.
FNW: What is your biggest market?
Giordano: China is our second market after Italy, including stores in Shanghai, Beijing and since a week in Hong Kong.
Giuliano: I used to live in Shanghai. I opened an Italian restaurant, and at some point, we had five, but I found it all very stressful managing food and people. Lots of screaming, so we wanted a change. Anyway, I was kicked out as I didn’t have a visa so, strangely, going there feels like going back home. You see I made my first hoodies in China and took them back to sell in Milan. So ours is a real immigrant story!
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