FAULT Favourite: designer Gabriella Marina Gonzalez

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FAULT Favourite London-based accessory designer Gabriella Marina Gonzalez’s new collection, ‘Nigredo E’poche’, is every bit as haunting as her last seven. While its name is derived from the French phrase La Belle Époque – a golden era in Europe’s cultural history – her morose artistic ethos bleeds through each meticulously constructed piece.

‘Nigredo,’ which means blackening, can be defined as the first stage of self-awakening. Gonzalez’s unique spelling of ‘E’poche’ combines both the French term ‘Époque’ –meaning ‘era’ – and the ancient Greek term ‘Epoché’ – a philosophical notion that challenges one to suspend judgment of commonly held beliefs through conscious detachment.

In this sense, ‘Nigredo E’poche’ permeates throughout not only Gonzalez’s newest designs, but also her approach towards her work. She openly describes her carefully-crafted leather goods as targeting the ’emotionally dispossessed’. It’s the sort of phrase that one would normally associate with heavy irony but, in Gabriella’s case, it seems to have been meant in earnest. She seems to genuinely lament the plight of consumers – her customers – in an increasingly frivolous and superficial society. It’s a peculiar – but fascinating – standpoint for someone operating in an industry so completely in thrall to celebrity culture.

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It is a finely balanced stand-off: even if Gabriella can’t help but acknowledge, through the words she uses to describe her collections, the precepts of the dark era in which we live, her work stands as the ideal response. Its honesty and raw integrity evokes the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay when she famously declared “Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare./Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace…”

‘Nigredo E’poche’, which features hand-molded leather shin guards, harnesses and bracelets adorned with special-made brass fixtures by product designer Michael Antrobus, turns Gonzalez’s alchemically philosophical musing into a reality.

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In your last interview with FAULT Magazine (FAULT Issue 13), you said that you don’t really follow other designers, or even take notice of celebrities that wear your clothes. In an industry that often idolises fame and celebrity, what barometers do you use to measure your own success?

Gabriella: I’ve never desired to become part of something too far removed from the artistry. I do not feel that belonging to a particular circle measures my success, nor do I want to surround myself with certain types of people in order to confirm it. It’s limiting. I made an active decision very early on not to fall into a lifestyle that created any illusions about what part I really play in this world.

‘The Celebrity’ is a strange phenomenon to me, a modern religion, manifesting idols from projected persona’s. How can one identify with a stranger in pictures without comprehending the journey? I guess because they like the clothes? It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but is it sufficient? I find it unnerving that people don’t want to peek behind the curtain. It’s a distracting frivolity that makes reality a little more bearable. [One should] Actually trace the development of the idea. Try to understand the hard part instead of the part that is suspiciously handed to you.

My reality has never been glamorous, it’s not what I’m in for. By the end of a collection my hands are swollen from weeks of leather working and the last thing I want to do is pretend to not be physically and emotionally exhausted. I use my craft as a means for exploring my (understandably obscure) thought processes. Each collection becomes a sort of personal research project of my mind. If through this I achieve a better understanding of the world and those around me then this is all the success I need.

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What piece from your collection are you the most excited about?

Every piece evokes totally different associations and sets of emotions for me. I have a soft spot for the halo [headpiece] this season because it’s so stylistically different to my usual work.


You partnered with product designer Michael Antrobus for this collection. How did you hook up with him?

I approached Michael about a potential collaboration about seven months ago. We brainstormed for a while. Finally, I decided I wanted to do something with bells to symbolise a temporal map of one’s movements through vibratory frequencies. We spoke and I explained that all the bells I was sourcing were too reminiscent of reindeer and he suggested making the bells for me. The end product is a perfectly functioning bell with a great sound in Michael’s signature simplistic style. There is no pretension in his work, it’s just raw and I find a lot of beauty in that.

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How do you know when a collection you’re designing is complete?

Nothing is ever complete. I have to force myself to be satisfied with however far I have taken a concept. It continues to unfold in my head but I may not explore it again in a collection.


What can we expect from your next collection?

I’ve had a craving to make garments lately. I enjoy taking advantage of the fact that I haven’t limited myself to a specific discipline so I’m playing with the idea of a full on knitwear range. It will continue to be individually handmade, and available from the newly launched online store.

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Words: Carolyn Okomo
Photography: Olivia Richardson
Styling: Arndt Stobba
Hair: Dave Noble
Makeup: Nicola Moores
Model: Billie @ Select
Special thanks: Beyond Retro