Leather, lace, lamé – no textile is off limits for Creatures of the Wind duo Shane Gabier and Chris Peters, the up-and-coming mixologists of the Stateside fashion scene. The Chicago-based pair were runners up in a prestigious CFDA prize that has seen them collaborate on a collection for J.Crew. Their collections are inspired by far-reaching references – sailors’ wives and fairies, anyone? –and are made up of perfectly unexpected pieces that just work. No wonder their star is so quickly on the ascent.
What are your design signatures?
We treat materials, proportion and silhouette all very democratically. There's equal aesthetic value and beauty to be found in lots of different materials, be it a deadstock lame' or a couture, hand-made lace... putting these materials next to each other can create an entirely new context, and we really find this sort of mix interesting.
Can you explain the name of the brand?
The name comes from the lyrics of the song 'Wild is the Wind', originally performed by Johnny Mathis. We first knew the Nina Simone version, then the Cat Power version. We didn't want to use our names, and we wanted something that was emotionally evocative; the phrase conjures very different images for everyone, and we like that it isn't singular in it's associations.
How did you both meet?
Shane: We met at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; we both went to school there, and I am now a professor. We met while I was teaching and Chris was in his final year.
Who is the Creatures of the Wind girl?
There's a really wide range of women who wear the clothes; we have customers who are more mature, conservative women who put it together in a very ladylike way, but the clothes also appeal to much younger girls with really crazy style, who wear it in a super punky, personal way. It's important to us that the collection can be taken out of our larger narrative and become part of someone's personal story. Anyone with a strong sense of self can easily wear the clothes.
What can we expect from the Creatures of the Wind label in the next 3-5 years?
We're starting to work toward developing bags, and in general, we just want the collection to keep growing. We'd really like to expand the knits, add sunglasses, other accessories, that sort of thing. We've got specific stores in mind that we'd love work with, and our goal for the next few years is just to grow the company organically, make careful decisions about stores and press, and keep enjoying what we do.
Can you explain the idea behind your AW12 collection?
The fall collection is entitled ‘The Secret Commonwealth’, after the book of the same name, written by Reverend Robert Kirk in 1691. The book is Kirk’s account of his extensive research of fairies, and included personal accounts of people who claimed to have encountered them. Kirk believed that the gateway to the land of fairies was through a specific tree on a hilltop; as the legend goes, this tree is said to now contain Kirk’s imprisoned spirit, after the fairies took his life in retribution for revealing the details of their world.
The point wasn't to make a direct link from the story to the clothes; it's more about representing the feeling, or atmosphere, that the story evokes; so what we wanted to capture was the feeling of being trapped between two worlds.
You’ve worked on collaborations with J.Crew and Tabitha Simmons. Is there another brand that would be a dream collaboration for you?
We actually have a really great one coming up in a while, but it's under wraps... we're always really open to collaborations; it's so interesting to see how different points of view, or different ways of working can produce a totally new end product.
Where do you look for inspiration?
The collection always begins with some sort of abstract concept, from which we look for some sort of tangible representation. We look at all sorts of subcultures, subversive youth cultures, folklore... music is a big inspiration, always important in the development of every collection.
What’s your favourite piece you’ve designed to date?
Shane: One of my favorite pieces is a shirt from this fall's collection; it's a button down shirt with a plaid cotton flannel body, with white crackled leather sleeves, and a yoke overlay of hand-made lace that's been painted with silver leaf. It's a simple piece, but I think it's such a lovely combinations of colors, materials, and textures.
Chris: There was a black taffeta and black cotton bobbinette skirt from Spring 11 that I love more than any other piece. It was covered in hand-made bows with little beads applied to the front, and the edges of the bows were burnt and curled a little bit.
What’s next for Creatures of the Wind?
We are focused on Spring 2013 right now, and we are already developing ideas, colors, fabrics, for Fall 2013. Every season brings something new...