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The Pandemic Pivot: Gabriel De Pino's Transformation from Aspirations to Achievements
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N: Hey Gabriel, so happy to have this interview with you! Your work is so elegant, and I can't wait to dive into it. How have you been feeling lately, and what fun projects have you been working on?

G: Hi, thanks! Recently I've been feeling a mix of anxiety and optimism regarding my brand. Anxiety because the economy is quite low in the fashion industry right now, buyers have less budget for emerging brands like mine, so right now it's a bit difficult to project myself into financial stability... But on the other hand, I'm very excited with some collaborations I just began. There's more and more people wanting to be part of the project, and it feels very nice to have this kind of recognition.

N: Your brand, De Pino, draws inspiration from your childhood memories of playing dress-up and being captivated by the influential women in your life. Could you delve deeper into your personal brand of "femininity"? Has your perception of femininity evolved since those childhood days?

G: When I was a child, I was captivated by the way women dress up, the way they play seduction. I felt they were having a much more fun relationship with fashion than men. Growing up, I realized that, in the end, it's not about being feminine or masculine.

What we call a feminine wardrobe is just a fun wardrobe, and what we call a masculine wardrobe is a serious wardrobe.

So I would say that I do clothes to have fun with rather than feminine clothes. Because I think that wearing a mini dress with high heels is funnier than wearing a suit.

N: It's notable that you often incorporate upcycled materials into your designs, which you personally source. This naturally influences the quantity of your products. How do you plan to strike a balance between maintaining this sustainable practice while also scaling your brand to reach its full potential? Is reconciling these two aspects something you're actively working towards?

G: I do things quite organically, so I think when production will scale up for me, that will mean I'll be able to work with someone whose skill is to find solutions to it. Running a brand requires a lot of different skills, it's a teamwork, so I'm more into connecting with people with different perspectives than finding all the solutions on my own.

But I'm sure there's a solution, and I really want to keep working with deadstock materials, even if that means being inventive with the process and working with constraints. That makes the project challenging and exciting. I also think the idea of full potential is very subjective. Now that everybody speaks about slow fashion, does it have to be linked to a large-scale production?

N: You mentioned taking the leap into starting your own brand during the pandemic, a period that led many creatives to reflect on their aspirations. This is an important conversation, as many individuals feel the need to wait for the "right moment" to pursue their dreams. What would you say to those who believe in this notion of the "right moment"? Do you believe it truly exists?

G: Yes, I do believe in the notion of the right moment. Before COVID, I was trying very hard to start my brand, but nothing of what I was doing was very convincing to me. I really felt frustrated and depressed. I didn't understand why I was working so much with no result.

In fact, I was starting working as a freelance, so even if I had some days off, my mind was focused on this new professional experience. During the first lockdown, the world had a huge break, so for the first time, I felt no pressure to find new jobs, and I experienced doing whatever I wanted with absolutely no financial goal.

I think this mindset is so important to find what you truly want, but it's very rare that all the conditions are brought together.

N: In your designs, you've incorporated more ready-to-wear pieces, such as t-shirts, which naturally enabled you to reach a wider audience. I'm curious about your thoughts on the approach of many young designers who strive to create highly avant-garde fashion, often disregarding commercial viability. Personally, I've always believed that fashion schools should challenge students more to create ready-to-wear, commercially viable versions of their creative vision. A simple t-shirt can hold as much creative "intention" as a gown. What are your insights on this matter?

G: I studied fashion design at La Cambre, and their teaching idea is to first do the most crazy experimental and creative stuff, and then the commercial one will come naturally. And I really believe in it. Once you have created stuff with no limit, you can feel bored, and the way to challenge yourself is to think on how to put the same intention in other things.

I didn't start making t-shirts to grow commercially; I did it because after doing couture gowns, I was thinking about what could be interesting to do. Every kind of garment is full of meaning, and as a designer, I think it's very exciting to explore different things. When I think of an evening gown or a t-shirt, it's like I'm doing a totally different kind of job, and I like this diversity.

N: Looking ahead, where do you envision taking De Pino? In an ideal world, what would success look like for you and your brand?

G: I would love to collaborate with more and more people. I think teamwork is the best thing you can experience as a designer; it elevates you. I'm starting to explore and work with people coming from the art field, and it's very exciting because it's another approach, and it feels refreshing. I think success for me would be to have recognition from other fields. I would love for people to see my brand not only belonging to the fashion scene but to culture in general.

All images courtesy of DE PINO
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