The Beauty in 1205’s Fabric

Published October 23, 2014

When you attend one of Paula Gerbase’s shows for her label 1205, you’ll receive the usual inspiration notes, with the addition of small fabric swatches. For Spring/Summer 2015, these included “high twist wool grid,” “technical featherweight silk,” “pleated polyester,” and “waterproof techno plume.” Though the collection palette ranged from stark, simple white to denim and sea green leather, these particular samples were subtle variances on muted navy blues. Each one, however, had a distinct texture, from ridged, waxy pleats to tight smocking. “I’ve done it since the third season,” says Gerbase of the swatches. “At a show, you’re disconnected from what you’re seeing because you can’t touch it, and clothing’s all about touch.”

This is certainly true for Gerbase’s 1205 creations. Born in Brazil and based in London, the designer begins each new collection with a set of yarns, from which she constructs her fabrics. “My happiest time in the season is when I’m working with the mills, when it starts to become clear in my mind what feeling I want the fabrics to have, what movements I want them to make, and how I want the hands to feel,” she explains. “The fabric dictates the shape. You can’t choose a fabric and do a sketch and then try to marry them.”

1205’s closing Spring 2015 look—a to-the-knee dress made from the window-pane wool check, covered with a longer pleated polyester tunic slit up the side—is a good example of Gerbase’s meticulous attention to detail. “The pleated polyester has a life of it’s own. You normally associate pleats with drape, but this has zero drape,” she comments. “When your knee comes into it, it has a tendency to make these really sculptural forms.”

Accompanying each Spring/Summer look is a pair of flat, futuristic sandals, designed in collaboration with Vivo, whose London studio is next to 1205’s. “I wanted something that was very technical, that was very functional, but had lightness and transparency to them,” says Gerbase. “There’s something quite primitive, which felt right for this season in particular.” Some of looks are also decorated with gold tobac fasteners made by a German artist. They are ornaments, but they are more than just ornamental. “I wanted them to have a function of sorts,” Gerbase adds.

Gerbase was not, she assures us, fashionable growing up. “Was anyone? I was always very particular, but I was interested in books and galleries; making origami, drawing, and playing with clay,” she recalls. Before starting 1205, the designer studied at Central Saint Martins and spent half a decade working in menswear on Savile Row: “I had worked with very beautiful men’s formal wear—that beautiful shoulder, that nipped-in waist, that elongated silhouette, those beautiful horn buttons, the turn of the lapel.” She left in 2010, and traded in the rich fabrics of English suiting for what she calls the “the poor yarns—the poor cousins of the cashmeres, the wools, the mohairs, the silks.”

“I really wanted to take what I had learnt and apply it to a different kind of garment and volume, while still keeping that respect for the process of fabric making, construction, and detail: how you set a shoulder and the turn of the sleeve.”

The name 1205 comes from a desire for anonymity: “It was never about me. It was always about things that interested me that I loved like fabric, a proportion, a movement.”

THE 1205 SPRING/SUMMER 2015 COLLECTION IS CURRENTLY ON DISPLAY IN THE FORM OF A SPECIAL INSTALLATION AT DOVER STREET MARKET, NEW YORK. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE DSM NY WEBSITE.