I wanted to meet Kevin Geddes for personal reasons. Personal in the sense that Kevin, like me, is a pattern-cutter turned designer and owner of his namesake label. He is a rare, creative, frank person who took a long and at times painful journey from law, business studies and accounting at A levels, to a BTEC in fashion, before achieving his goal of entry to the BA Womenswear course at Central Saint Martins, followed by a swift exit, before returning to his native Birmingham when the BA course didn’t quite live up to the hype. It’s been a convoluted, interesting, inspiring and honest journey.
Kevin is bold. Immediately I get the sense he is telling me his story. The real one. Not the image-conscious one covered in a veneer of glossy hindsight bias. Kevin tells me straight – “I don’t think the story behind the clothes has to be important”. He doesn’t feel the need to make anything up – verbally or sartorially. Kevin worked for over a decade in retail, pattern-cutting and as a machinist for a handful of labels, including in Birmingham where he worked for a bridal wear company and developed exceptional sewing and finishing skills, and London where he worked at Richard Nicoll, amongst other fashion labels. He currently works for six different designers as a freelance pattern-cutter whilst running his label. As an ex-pattern cutter and someone who owns a label I can appreciate how difficult this is. Kevin explains it is a blessing and a curse. Freelance pattern-cutting is helpful while his business grows and he appreciates the variety and opportunity to learn something new every day. He enthuses about still learning and always discovering new ways of doing things and new technology.
It’s his inquisitive mind that led him to each decision he has made throughout his career. Kevin left his BA at CSM on day one of the second year. He explains he went to the first day of the second year of his BA, sat in a room with all these people from his first year and thought to himself, “do you know what, I think I’m going to quit today”. It just felt wrong. Kevin says very simply “I’ve always had this thing in me, if I’m not enjoying it, if I don’t like it then I don’t need it in my life”.
It immediately strikes me as a brave move. A CV containing CSM is an insurance policy above all others for graduating designers, as proven by the BOF 2015 University Rankings . Kevin’s response to my comment is that at every point in his life he has done what wanted – what he enjoys. He is motivated by ideas and discovery. His return to education several years later was motivated by the vast opportunities to utilise new equipment for garment construction and textile developments at Coventry University, where he then completed his BA. He saw no point in completing the degree if there wasn’t something exceptional being offered in terms of learning and skill development. He cites the laser cutters, heavy duty industrial equipment such as raincoat sealing and bra moulding machines as the driving force behind his decision to choose Coventry University. He was driven by what he could learn rather than the prestige of attending a particular institution.
After winning the MyWardrobe capsule collection award in his second year at Coventry, he resisted the impetus to launch a label and continued to build his skills and hone his craft. The benefit of his considerable industry experience meant he realised how much he still had to learn. He was no longer naive enough to just jump straight in.
Fast forward six years and Kevin is in his second season having created a collection inspired by Evel Knievel, his childhood hero, and the Battle of the Planets, his favourite childhood show.
Kevin’s process is so quick and natural. He sketches, cuts the pattern, then makes the garment – first in toile form for fitting, then the sample. He is prolific and very much a maker.
It strikes me as an exciting time for a designer like Kevin, and for that matter, me. Being a technical and creative designer means realising ideas fast. It means creating collections with relative ease and it means other business models are possible.
We talk about the potential of selling online and being de-shackled from the seasonal model in the fashion industry, which Kevin admits is restrictive. Wouldn’t it make more sense to produce smaller collections more often? I mention the upcoming ModeForMe platform which is in development, and where I am headed to speak to one of the founders after my meeting with Kevin. We both believe the industry is ripe for such disruption and such technology could empower designers.
All images Kevin Geddes SS16 at Lewis and Leigh PR
Kevin is off to see a client he is freelancing for and his entire collection, which I saw first at London Fashion Week before arranging this interview, is out being shot for various publications. Kevin’s approach is at once inspiring and restrained. He’s looking forward to the next phase of growing his business but is in no rush, which strikes me as probably the perfect balance. After all, every day’s a school day.