Elle L Interviews Elephantasia Lead Designer René Garza
Music artist, Elle L joins the Fashion For Conservation (FFC) for 2018 to curate special content online and for Fashion Week. We look forward to Elle's future projects and collaborations with FFC as a London Ambassador. This week we shine a spotlight on Elephantasia lead designer René Garza, interviewed by Elle L.
ELLE L x
René GARZA in Conversation.
The stars aligned last London Fashion Week when I had the incredible opportunity to meet and sit next to lead designer René Garza on Front Row for Elephantasia — a breathtaking and ethically-inspired fashion show created by Fashion For Conservation.
In life there can be a butterfly effect where a chance meeting can lead to greatness. This was definitely one of those moments. I instantly gravitated towards René’s personality and his artistic nature. The beauty of social media meant that we were able to stay in touch when he returned to America. I also connected with Ava Holmes co-founder and director of Fashion For Conservation, which lead to the birth of this concept of a ‘conversation’ between artists about conservation.
I myself as a music artist find real inspiration in nature. My debut project, Cocoon uses the metaphor of metamorphosis to allude to themes of breaking out and free. Working alongside FFC resonated. I feel the time is now to start speaking up about conscious art, how nature can play a role in creativity and the importance of sustainable art for the future of fashion and other creative industries.
René was naturally the perfect ‘first’ for this project as our meeting was so organic and a vital part of this project coming to life. We’ve been keeping the conversation on conservation alive here:
E L: René, it's a pleasure to be able to speak more about your work and the inspirational FFC show Elephantasia.
R G: It's great we can make this happen.
E L: Do you remember the first moment you chose to be a designer? Was it what you always wanted to do?
R G: I was always into art and photography growing up. I liked fashion in terms of caring about what I wore and went through many different phases of styles - from preppy to goth. But I had never considered being a designer. It’s actually a funny story. I had a friend and he wanted to be a fashion designer. His wife entered him into a competition and she also entered me without letting me know until the last minute, so I had to make something! I went to the fabric shop and brought cheapest material I could find and made this chartreuse coloured piece. It had two slits going above the waist and chains for straps.
E L: Sounds like a sexy number!
R G: (giggles) Yes! Although my Mum helped me make it. It was very ’put together’ rather than properly constructed. I entered it. Of course it didn’t win but it was the starting point. We went to dinner with another designer we met and decided to put on a fashion show. We had over a thousand people show up for our first fashion show.
E L: Wow. When was this?
R G: It was in the 90s.
E L: You don’t look old enough! Was it one of those epiphany moments? Like ‘‘This is what I’m supposed to do’’?
R G: (giggles) I had no intention of being a designer. It all happened very quickly. I had no knowledge. It just took off that way. I think anything visual resonates - design is design, so if you’re artistic it correlates to other areas and if you have an affinity to something it becomes it's own thing.
E L: I agree, with a bit of experience. I would describe myself as a 360 artist because I model, write, direct and of course make music and they all contribute to make up who I am.
R G: Exactly, we can do more than one thing. I think people sometimes stop themselves from achieving their full potential.
E L: I think it’s contributing towards a bigger movement where we are able to do more and technology allows us. We don’t have to physically cut tape in a studio anymore for example. There’s obviously beautiful qualities to real mediums too but it's great that we can evolve like this as creatives.
R G: Yes, technology is playing a huge role in how creatives work.
E L: I have been told to stick to one thing before because it’s ‘safer’ but it’s not in my nature. I'm still very new but I like to embrace it. My feeling is more and more artists are going in this direction of expressing themselves in different ways.
R G: I think the beautiful thing is that art should scare you. It's hugely inspiring as an artist to do things that scare you. If you feel comfortable that’s when the art gets stagnated. If you’re too confident or it’s too easy, you won't give it your all.
E L: What would you say are your main inspirations & influences?
R G: My main inspiration for design usually comes from Gothic or historical references. Art plays an important role in making a collection. My collections are made from up cycled clothing or end of bolt fabrics, so that really dictates most of what I can do. I get a general theme for the collection and go with what can be done with the materials I have at hand. I’m also inspired by darkness and the colour black. I’m drawn to the mysterious. I’m minimal in my designs. Getting a little bit bolder with colour for Fashion For Conservation.
E L: How did the collaboration with FFC come about?
R G: My collaboration with FFC started when a dear of mine Leza Raley-Labrador put Ava Holmes and I in touch. We had a general conversation about her efforts and projects and I told her about my work with the non-profit design house Magpies & Peacocks. I really had no plans to show a collection with FFC for their Elephantasia event, but for a few days after I was seeing elephants all day everyday. I saw that as a sign. When I called her back she said there was two days left to submit designs. They accepted my designs and ended up opening and closing the London Fashion Week show at Fashion Scout.
E L: In what ways does nature specifically inspire your creations?
R G: The Collection showing in February is inspired by flowers. The theme is Rainforest, so I wanted something not so obvious and more about nature. There are layers and volume to the clothes that resemble flowers (at least I see flowers)! l Even when the collection's thematic inspiration is not nature inspired, the fact that they are up cycled, and most have little to zero waste, make them by default inspired by nature.
E L : I'm excited to see it. The zero waste element, alongside conscious consumption with how I source what I eat and wear is a huge thing for me right now! I find it shocking how much waste one person can make on a daily basis and it’s worrying that fast fashion is such a growing trend. My friend has this cool brand called NeverFade in Soho and he has a studio with artists in residence downstairs.
RG: Ah, that’s cool.
E L: Yes, I’ll have to take you when you’re in London. You can take in a garment and the artist will recreate the piece for you and put bespoke artwork on it. You have something totally unique and it breathes new life into what you’re wearing. Of course you pay for it but it reworks and reframes your style.
RG: Yes, Magpies and Peackocks have a very similar heart with regards to the up-cycling element and I think it’s so important. A huge amount of fabrics and clothing end up in landfill. People don’t always think to recycle. 85% of textiles end up in landfill, that is 12.5 Million tons per year in the US alone.
E L: What role does sustainability and conservation play in your work? Are there challenges? Can these challenges be a source of creativity?
R G: I use pieces of up cycled fabrics from interior design outlets for example. Otherwise they would go to landfill so I often have a starting point governed by what’s available which is both the challenge but also the positive because it gives me a starting point and focus. I like to challenge myself to use the fabrics as they are so the piece is often tailored around that. It does mean that most of creations are bespoke so it means mass production is a challenge, but is there anything more beautiful than something handcrafted and made specifically for you?
E L: I couldn't agree more. Your closing runway piece for Elephantasia was breathtaking and made from up-cycled material too. I'm aware this piece was inspired by the Elephant - could you tell us how you came up with the vision for this & what was the process involved in creating it?
R G: Thank you, the Finale piece was a re-interpretation of an art installation I created that covered an entire building's facade. I was watching a video of a herd of elephants and the ears moving in the wind reminded me of my art technique. So I took that concept and created a dress. I envision each section as an ear of an elephant and what if they listened and understood what is being done to them and this planet.
Pictured: Rene's Garza's closing piece for runway show Elephantasia, featured in Vogue.
E L: Have you ever had to make a sacrifice to create the art you want?
R G: I think everyone does. In terms of location I was living in New York and leading a very comfortable lifestyle, working with celebrities as a stylist. Now I’m living in Texas and I have taken huge financial sacrifices to follow my heart. You’ll keep getting certain difficulties until you learn that lesson in life, I think.
E L : But the risk is worth the reward right? I can relate. I think it’s heading for
bigger ceilings. The heart wins.
R G: I hope so! I am enjoying working with so many people making a positive impact on our planet. That has lead to some pretty great experiences.
You can see René Garza’s Rainforest inspired solo runway show on February
18th at Freemasons Hall, as part of Fashion Scout for London Fashion Week.
Join us: Cocktails for Conservation. Tickets available here.