(Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images North America)
At some point during the course of an education, there comes a time when a student learns all there is to know. Once the lessons have been tackled and the challenges have been completed, however, what exactly is an apprentice to do? Few people are better equipped to answer that question than New York-based menswear designer Marlon Gobel. Having served as Director of Operations at Thom Browne during its early years before moving on to become Assistant Creative Director at Michael Bastian, Gobel knows a thing or two about learning from the best.
It was like taking a master class, says Gobel of his tenure at Thom Browne during a recent visit to his Upper East Side design studio. The great thing about being an apprentice is that you really learn how to do it in the best way from the person who is best at what they do.
The time Gobel spent working for Browne no doubt had a lasting impact on him. It was there, working right alongside the notoriously meticulous menswear designer, that he learned the art of fine tailoring and developed an appreciation for the connection between fashion and art.
I started with Thom Browne very close to the inception of his brand, so the opportunity to learn was tremendous, says Gobel, who acknowledges that his time spent working for Browne helped to mold his outlook on the intricacies of design. I found that changing a few details on something that people take for granted for example, a classic grey suits proportions can change the idea of it forever.
Retaining what he had learned about tailoring from Browne, Gobel went on to sharpen his business acumen while serving at Michael Bastian. It was there that he learned the importance of salability at the retail level a lesson which certainly could not be learned from Brownes $5,000 suits.
You can make beautiful things, admits Gobel, but if they dont get to the consumers hands, it is almost the same as having never made them.
Determined to fulfill his vision of one day starting his own clothing line (a goal he could only dream about while still a student at Londons prestigious Central St. Martins College of Art and Design), Gobel sought out, and attained, the approval of womens wear designer and CFDA President Diane von Furstenburg before branching off on his own. His first collection, which launched in the Fall of 2010, debuted to much fanfare and was immediately picked up by luxury retail behemoth Bergdorf Goodman.
Sourced and produced entirely in New York City (an impressive feat in itself), Marlon Gobels eponymous label is intended to reinvent the way men understand clothing, but not necessarily the way they wear them.
Guys are encouraged to dress as mundanely as possible and be as safe as possible, Gobel says. I think the only reason that happens now is because every major designer has decided to pull back and give guys either a khaki, gray or navy option.
If theres one thing Marlon Gobel is not, thats mundane. For his Spring/Summer 2012 collection, the designer sent models down the runway in shirts that were digitally printed with fruit and vegetables in bold, vivid colors (channeling the theme of several of the Milan shows before they even walked). Whats more, Gobel even convinced Pepsi Co. to sponsor his grocery store themed-show, lining the entrance of his runway with rows and rows of snack food all of which was immediately donated to City Harvest, a non-profit food redistribution organization, at the conclusion of the show.
At a time when designers are torn between producing a full-fledged runway show or hosting simpler presentations, Gobel has absolutely no intention of placing his models atop a plain white box anytime soon. Its the way I tell my story, he says, referring to the runway format which allows his customer to see themselves living the fantasy.
And who would that customer be, exactly?
I think that my guy wants something unique and cool, and he wants to feel special but doesnt want to be the center of attention, said Gobel, who adds, When hes buying my clothes, hes not buying it because he needs another blazer or another pair of pants. You go to Old Navy or Banana Republic for that stuff. Hes buying something he thinks is unique, special and cool.
We couldnt agree more.
Marlon Gobel Spring/Summer 2012 Collection
For more information about the designer, visit: http://www.marlongobel.com