Otherworldly and irreverent label Creatures of the Wind have us captivated. Designers Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters reflect on their childhoods, inspirations and favourite music with Indigo Clarke.
LULA: Hello Shane and Christopher, are you both living and working in Chicago at the moment?
Shane: Yes, we both live and work in Chicago. I grew up in Michigan, and came to Chicago to go to school at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, Chris grew up in New Jersey, and came to Chicago for the same reason. We met while I was teaching and Chris was still a student. As he was finishing his last year, he was helping me with my work, which was a small capsule collection under my own name. We worked really well together from the start and had a good time, and the decision to develop a collection together was a really natural transition. We launched our collection for AW08.
LULA: Where did your name come from? There has to be a story behind it…
Shane: I always thought it was a really beautiful phrase; it's a lyric from the song, "Wild is The Wind", by Johnny Mathis. I knew the Nina Simone version first, and really love the Cat Power cover as well. Chris doesn't really care about the song at all, but instead has abstract sci-fi associations attached to the name. It's funny, because this sort of sums up our work together; I am much more sentimental, and Chris is more focused on fantasy. I think you can really clearly see both sides of this in the collection.
Christopher: Yeah, I wasn’t really a fan of the song at all, but liked the visual connotations.
LULA: You are both involved in pursuits outside of fashion… can you tell me about your other interests?
Shane: I'm a professor in the fashion department at SAIC, and Chris is a studio assistant to the artist and designer Nick Cave. We both work three days a week, but aside from this, we are in our studio all the time.
LULA: Your designs have quite conceptual underpinnings, what was the inspiration behind your most recent collection (SS10)?
Shane: We started from the idea of transition; a girl turning into an adult, and the restlessness and awkwardness that ensues during this time. Wanting to be seen as mature, but still not totally confident. There's a feeling of fragility, and a bit of posturing – subtle hints of teen rebellion. There are some subtle and also some more overt references to this in the details, colours and fabrics.
Christopher: Spring was really about how one defines oneself at that emotional point between childhood and adulthood – there are a lot of questions about identity. These ideas came through in the unequal proportions in the collection – some ballooned and oversized shapes were paired with fitted and structured lines.
LULA: Is your AW10 collection going to follow on this theme?
Shane: Yes, we've been working on AW10 for a couple of months already and it’s really a continuation on the SS10 theme. While we are continuing with the same kind of ideas, we are approaching AW10 from a different perspective; this time it's more about trying to hold on to memories, and preserving youth.
Christopher: It’s really a response to growing up, and not wanting to let go – trying to recapture youth. Some of the pieces have the sense of being a bit hardened, fossilised, whereas SS10 had a lot of flesh tones and soft fabrics to reference vulnerability.
LULA: Speaking of growing up, what were you like as children – naughty or nice?
Shane: I was nice and quiet, soft-spoken and gentle. I had a little sister I used to play with all the time – I would dress her up and do photo-shoots with her (laughs), I’d dress her up as, ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ and basically Madonna in all her incarnations. Where I grew up was a small farm-town, and there wasn’t really art offered there, so all my creative endeavors were of my own volition. I was really in my own little world.
Chris: I was both. And really loud. I was a weird child – I blew up my fair share of mail-boxes, but at the same time my mum was my best friend. My mother worked in antiques and was always interested in old, interesting objects and things – she was also a textile designer in the 70s. I am the middle child, and the only blonde one, so that sort of set me apart, although I have always been really close to all my family.
LULA: What was your favourite way to spend time growing up – did you have an interest in fashion?
Shane: I spent a lot of time on my grandparent's farm, playing with my sister and cousins in the cornfields and haystacks. When I was at home by myself, I was always drawing plans of fantasy houses and planning villages and cities My other main interests were Star Wars and Little House on the Prairie – I’m sure the clothes were one of the main reasons I was interested in these. Both continue to be stylistic influences…
Chris: I grew up in Ireland until I was seven, and then moved to New Jersey. I wanted to be a farmer and spent a lot of time on farms and out in the woods. I was really into clothes and started modifying and making my own throughout high school.
LULA: As teenagers what music and films were you obsessed with?
Shane: My favourites were The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, OMD. To this day, I love them all just as much as I did then. I would buy Smash Hits magazine every month; that was where I discovered everything that I loved, and of course the 80s pop fashion was really important too. I loved Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles, all John Hughes films, really... They were great fashion influences.
Christopher: I loved Wire, Essential Logic, Cramps, The Fall, The Slits, Buzzcocks... It was all pretty punky music. I had a lot of Anime; Akira, Vampire Hunter D, Demon City Shinjuku… I was into the horror focused stuff. I‘ve loved the movie Legend since I was a little kid. I also played lots and lots of video games. A lot of the things I liked as a teenager are kind of underlying themes that I bring to the collection when I design.
LULA: With such eclectic influences, how would you describe the spirit of Creatures of the Wind?
Shane: Each season starts from a specific emotion or atmosphere; this is what ties it all together, in our minds, at least. It evokes a darker atmosphere, without being too direct, and there's always a reference to spirituality or otherworldliness. Craft is one of the central elements in each collection – it's definitely something that people notice and respond to when they see our clothing. We use macrame', hand-work and hand-knitting. It's important to us to see evidence of the human hand, but to still have a sophisticated application of these processes.
LULA: If you hadn’t fallen into fashion, what would you be doing today?
Shane: I would definitely be doing furniture design or interior architecture! I hope someday that I can get back to that. I love late 60s organic architecture – early Scandinavian folk interiors. I think my love of architecture and design in general is why I want to reference craft in our designs – to show proof of the hand behind the clothing. Chris would be probably be doing environmental work somewhere warm… He's tired of being cold.
LULA: Are you looking forward to having a little spare time? What will you be doing over the holidays?
Shane: There is never enough spare time, but we are looking forward to riding our bikes to the lake and around. For holidays, we still don't know what we’re doing exactly! Chris will be with his family in New Jersey; I may be there with him, or could be in the South visiting my family, or maybe in Michigan...
LULA: What exciting plans are on the cards for 2010, and any resolutions in mind?
Shane: We have some collaborations in mind that would get us out of our studio, and might allow us some really exciting travel next summer, possibly to New Mexico and Arizona. We want to always be working, but we are thinking about new ways to work that will enrich the collection and also get us outside!
Christopher: Every season we do collaborations with artists, musicians and other creative people. There is no real fashion scene here in Chicago, so it is nice to work with creatives that have different skill sets to enrich our collections and create a sense of a community.