20 Questions with Designer Chris Gelinas

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Waves were quickly made when New York City womenswear designer Chris Gelinas debuted his CG collection in 2013. That same year, he won the MADE for Peroni Young Designer Award. In 2014, he placed as a finalist in LVMH’s first Young Fashion Designers prize, ranking amongst such talents as Shayne Oliver of HOOD BY HAIR and Simone Rocha. Gelinas’s work appeared to arrive whole and fully formed, a loud new voice — one the world would be wise to listen to.

The designer’s flawless entrance was the result of an intelligent plotting of points. Gelinas graduated from Parsons School of Design before going on to work for such reputable houses as Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, and Balenciaga. Finally, with some experience under his belt, it was time to embark on a journey of his own. Of this time, Gelinas once stated:  “I want to start a conversation, not just be part of one.”

The clothes Gelinas continues to make today are articulate innovations on craft. Construction is king. Technology drives his shapes. Some collections hint to old Dior, others have have an appeal reminiscent of Stella McCartney or Acne Studios. It’s an intelligent femininity Gelinas pushes forward, the pieces as wearable as they are unique. Below, we caught up with Gelinas to talk enduring admiration, ancient machines, and the black satin cocktail dress that started it all.

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Place of origin:

Canada.

Place of residence:

New York.

First job you ever had:

McDonalds! A far cry from fashion.

Piece of clothing from childhood you wore the most:

A cape from my Superman Halloween costume. I refused to take it off, according to my mum.

First piece of clothing you made and thought, ‘Hey, that ain’t bad!’

I taught myself how to sew on my great grandmother’s 60-pound cast iron Singer. The wiring was so old it was a miracle I didn’t burn the house down but it sewed beautifully. I can still remember a black satin cocktail dress I made for my sister that she loved. It was my first real piece.

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Person you most admired at age 10:

My dad. When you’re a kid, your parents seem like mythical superheroes.

Person you most admire today:

My dad. We started my company together and now, as an adult, I realize he actually is a superhero.

Favorite street in New York City:

Commerce Street in my neighborhood. It is so tiny and tree-lined — you can actually hear yourself think, a rare thing in New York.

Noteworthy subway story:

I once saw one of my favorite singers walking through that underpass at Port Authority. At first, I thought no way, but then I heard her speak and I knew it was her.

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Beverage of choice, pre-10 a.m., where and what:

Oslo Coffee on West 10th. Black coffee, almost always iced.

Beverage of choice, post-8 p.m, where and what:

Vodka martini at Le Singe Vert, my favorite watering hole.

Three things you always pack when traveling:

Le Labo Rose shampoo, my headphones, and a book.

Thing you’re most likely to forget:

What time my flight departs.

Friend you would bring with you everywhere if you could:

My pup Finny. I try and take him on all my trips. It makes traveling still feel like home.

Last stamp in your passport:

Portugal.

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What’s on the cutting room floor right at this moment:

Vintage lace I found in Paris a couple of years ago and am finally using for a client.

Biggest lesson you’ve learned while working in the fashion industry:

It takes a village. I am so lucky to work with incredibly talented and passionate people to bring my ideas to life.

If you have to pick glamour or practicality, you pick:

Practicality.

Last film/book/piece of art that inspired you and why:

I’ve always been a big fan of Mark Bradford, and seeing his pieces this summer at the Whitney was so inspiring. The immense scale contrasted with the minute details are kind of mind-blowing. The way he layers and then scrapes away to reveal texture and color makes me wonder how much more beauty is still hidden underneath.

Your personal secret for living a good life:

Be passionate about something. It will bring you so much purpose even on the longest days.

Photos by Atisha Paulson for SIXTY Hotels

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, specializing in music, fashion, the arts, and culture, both high and low. Her work has been featured in V Magazine, CR, Office, and TIME. She is the Managing Editor of Alpha SIXTY.

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