The Sub-Couture label designer tells Stephen Spear why skipping college and knocking on doors gave him the perfect education
What was the inspiration behind your new Sub-Couture brand?
I had an idea for a brand that would appeal to 25- to 45-year-old women. I felt there was a gap in the market for something with a handwriting, something that would nod to trends but have its own personality and always have a touch of glamour. At the same time, the guys at Signature Brands had the same idea, so it was a great coincidence.
You worked at brand house Signature Brands before setting up your own label, didn’t you?
Yes. I worked with Paul Costelloe - he is such a lovely man and I have huge respect for him. He is still turning out a collection every season. That’s amazing.
And you also had a career as a musician?
I was the drummer in a band called 7th Heaven. We were signed to Parlophone Records and got to number 43 in the UK charts. But it was at the time that [Irish singer] Feargal Sharkey went solo and he took two of our singers. Then I got a place at Central Saint Martins College and fashion took over.
What was the scene like then?
In the 1980s it was amazing. It was before Hoxton [in London’s East End] became trendy and if you went to Hackney you’d get mugged, so the scene was all around the college. We hung out at the Mud Club with people like Boy George and George Michael. During the fashion weeks we would all go and just do anything to get tickets. In Paris I found out the address of Jean Paul Gaultier’s studio and just knocked on the door and asked for tickets. He was in and I got one.
So you made a habit of visiting designers?
Well, I wanted to sample the studio life so I went to [Turkish designer] Rifat Ozbek’s studio off London’s South Molton Street because one of my lecturers was there, and I begged for any sort of job, not for money but just to be involved. I was still studying, but I used to skip college quite a lot to go there and work instead. I was learning so much. It was only me and Rifat and it was during a time that he was probably the number one designer - he was doing all the [tribal-inspired] Moroccan stuff and designing for Princess Diana.
What did you learn in that time?
The same as I learned working with John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood - that the only barrier is you. It was
very different back then. It was before [trends website] WGSN and the internet. Designers had to go with their own feelings. You had to wait four months for [fashion magazine] Collezioni to come out and then you’d see how everyone stacked up.
Was it more creative then?
It is more homogenised now. Everybody has this colour or that detail. It’s different now as there is so much commercial pressure on buyers to get all those tricks in their collections. Back in the 1980s the buyers shot more from the hip. It’s not that they didn’t have pressure, but there was more of a feeling of a buyer having the courage to go for something.
- Who is your favourite fashion designer? At the moment it is Alexander McQueen (pictured) but I also like Bolongaro Trevor. I loved the original All Saints too.
- What is your most cherished piece of clothing? Probably the 12 pirate shirts I have from my time at Vivienne Westwood, or my Jean Paul Gaultier power dressing blue suit.
- Who do you think is the most stylish celebrity? Only Keira Knightley could get away with wearing a Chloé cropped suit on the red carpet at the Berlin International Film Festival while everyone else wore gowns.
- Where is your favourite place to shop? I love SoHo (pictured) in New York, even if it’s a little commercial now. There’s Brooklyn too - it has the little boutiques and the vibe.
Nicolas Georgiou is designer of womenswear brand Sub-Couture