Fashion Director KATARINA DJORIC sits down with NAOMI GUNTHER the founder of the much talked about Paris based menswear maison GUNTHER. Naomi sits down with Katarina in Paris to talk about everything GUNTHER as well as her love for fashion design, collaborations with artists and designers as well as the hardship of delegating at work and starting a brand from ground up.
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Tell me about the beginnings. How and when did you get interested in fashion? – I have always been passionate about fashion and Art in general. After a 4 year BFA in Fashion Design at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, I came back to Paris and it was obvious for me I needed to start my own label. I met the person who is my actual business partner, Gabin Ducourant, whose marketing and business skills combined with my creative side made GUNTHER possible.
So far, what’s one lesson you learned when starting your own business? – “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” With my team, we observe this every day. As difficult it is to admit, you cannot do everything by yourself and you need to learn how to delegate. But when it is your own company you are a lot more demanding and often people can disappoint you. So whenever it’s possible, we try to do things by ourselves and we see these as more challenges we try to take on. Thus, for example, we took care of the casting, the styling and the graphic design of the invitation of our first fashion show. Obviously doing things on our own can be seen as a way to cut the costs but most importantly, it’s a way to be sure things are exactly as we imagine them.
You cannot do everything by yourself and you need to learn how to delegate. But when it is your own company you are a lot more demanding and often people can disappoint you. So whenever it’s possible, we try to do things by ourselves and we see these as more challenges we try to take on.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how did you get past it? – I believe when we launch a brand we face obstacles everyday, because we have to deal with so many things: from every little design detail, to production, to marketing, to communication, to sales… Production is a tough challenge because there are millions of things we don’t necessarily think about but we have to take care of. In order to get past this, you have to surround yourself with a good team that understands your vision, and then give everyone a role so you are not thinking about everything yourself. Also, the fact that we produce everything in Paris is a major advantage because we get to exchange a lot with our ateliers, try things, make adjustments and all that contributes to create a trust-based relationship.
What inspires you? – I’m very inspired by everything that is surrounding me. The biggest part of my inspiration is travelling in general. In all the places I visit I try to capture the vibes, the atmosphere in the streets, the sounds, the lights… I always take some pictures just walking in the streets and I try to use them as parts of my prints and motifs. I like to write also key words in a notebook to remember a feeling, an energy. Music also plays a big part in my inspiration and sets the mood for when I’m designing.
The style I’m aiming at, to combine a French couture, the savoir faire, tailoring sur mesure, hand knitted pieces…with a more urban, modern, and youth aesthetic
Who is the perfect Gunther man? – The GUNTHER pieces represent the meeting of an old know-how and a modern aesthetic. I want the GUNTHER man to feel elegant, stylish, confident but at the same time comfortable and being able to be active and move with the clothes. The GUNTHER man also cares for a slower, more conscious and more unique fashion.
What are the key pieces of your FW20 collection? – The key pieces of the collection would be the huge hand-knitted GUNTHER sweater made of natural wool, the manteau bouclette which is a coat made from two different fabrics, with some super soft cashmere, the long GUNTHER puffer jacket with a unique print designed by hand and our hand-painted unique bags.
The fact that we produce everything in Paris is a major advantage because we get to exchange a lot with our ateliers, try things, make adjustments and all that contributes to create a trust-based relationship.
Collaborations with celebrities, artists, etc. seem to be the new trend. Would you consider doing one? – Of course. In this fall winter 2020 we already made two different collabs with two friends of mine. Johanna Smadja who owns the brand “Merci Gisele” worked on two very unique bag designs, all hand painted with special GUNTHER drawings.
And Deborah Enkaoua who owns the brand “Enkaoua Jewelry” worked on different pieces of jewelry such as souvenir necklaces, chains, GUNTHER charms to add to any jewellery, a ski shoe, a ski cabin, a G snap hook to use as a belt. Collabs are very important to me, I love meeting and sharing my work with other talents and I hope I will continue to do some in the future!
Who would you consider to be the most inspiring person in the fashion industry today and why? – Right now, I’m really loving the energy Kim Jones is bringing to Dior Homme. I like how he is bringing youth into a very classic couture house with new designs, cool accessories and a whole new aesthetic. I also really appreciate his collaborations because, once again I believe it is a big part of a brand to work with other talents. The several collaborations with Yoon from Ambush, with amazing jewellery, and the one with the sculptor Daniel Arsham, are bringing a very cool vibe to Dior Homme.
And also it is really the style I’m aiming at, to combine a French couture, the savoir faire, tailoring sur mesure, hand knitted pieces…with a more urban, modern, and youth aesthetic.
It is very important to me to produce fashionable, stylish pieces, but a garment cannot be perfect if the quality isn’t there. The research of fabric is the most important part of the process.
If you had one fashion statement, what would it be? – My one fashion statement would be quality first. It is very important to me to produce fashionable, stylish pieces, but a garment cannot be perfect if the quality isn’t there. The research of fabric is the most important part of the process. I only work with fine, soft, comfortable, and as much as I can natural materials. Through my different collections I used recycled wool, recycled fabric from plastic bottles, hemp, bamboo yarn, organic cotton.. And I will continue to work like this in all the collections. Quality is what makes a piece last, and I believe nowadays we see a lot of garments with low quality in various brands and I think we all have the responsibility to produce better and smarter without compromising the style.
If you had to sum up Gunther in three words, what would they be? – If I had to sum up Gunther in 3 words it would be : quality, effortless-chic, and craftsmanship.
What’s next for you and your brand? – I think what we want to do now is get the brand out there, show it to as many people as we can, produce more content, and then on a more business side, develop GUNTHER abroad, try to target different markets, expand, participate in showrooms… but above all : stay true to our beliefs.
Keep up with GUNTHER on Instagram @guntherparis_
Get your copy of MMSCENE Issue Thirty-Four in PRINT or DIGITAL $3.90