What is your first memory of designing?
I have very clear memories of sitting on the kitchen floor of my Oma’s (maternal grandmother) house with a big pickle jar filled with coloured wooden beads and thin leather cording. I would sit there contently putting the beads on the strings in different patterns, only to take them off again and try new patterns. I must have been three or four years old, but I was happy to just sit there quietly with those beads while the adults chatted over coffee.
What got you interested in designing clothing?
I actually fell in love with fabrics long before I started designing clothing. I had always done creative projects; either with beads or paper or ceramics. Coming from a creative family, art and creative expression was always encouraged. When I started to travel, I noticed how differently young children are dressed in countries like Spain, Portugal, France. No sweatpants or leggings (without a proper skirt overtop). I started making children’s clothing in a European style using fun prints and more attention to detail than what was available in the local Canadian stores. Etsy.com was just starting to take off, so I sold online and offered options to clients such as pattern choice or fabric type. Basically, I was allowing the client to become involved (to an extent) in the design process. But then I found I needed more skills, so I went back to school for my degree and started gravitating towards adult clothing. Now I do both.
What does the name de volk & gosche mean? And why do you spell in in all lower-case lettering?
When choosing a name, I wanted to honour two very strong female role models in my family. Volk is the maiden name of my maternal grandmother, Gosche is the maiden name of my paternal grandmother. Volk means “people” and Gosche means “cheeky, or left of center”. So together it loosely means “for people who are cheeky and left of center”. I decided to use all lower-case lettering to imply that not everything need be so serious. And I just liked the esthetic with the font style I chose for my graphics.
The name de volk & gosche appears European. Is this a nod to the historically high-end design houses, and is this where you get your influences?
I definitely have a soft spot for Europe. Whenever I travel, it’s London and Paris and Rome and Vienna that call me. Maybe because those are such culturally rich cities; architecturally, historically and artistically. But I also enjoy smaller places like Cordoba, Treiste and San Gimignano. One of my favourites is Jafre, a village near Girona, Spain with a population of only 394 and several UNESCO sites that is absolutely beautiful. I’ve also spent the greater part of two weeks in a hammock in Alba, Italy with my sketchbook while enjoying some great wines and local charcuterie.
So you’re influenced by your travels?
Yes, but I think one can’t help but be influenced by their travels. Seeing different aspects of new cultures and environments always makes me think, “How can I include this in my work?”. I think it’s why I can look for hours at historical sites and architecture and be completely content. It’s funny, but travelling always makes me want to get back in my studio to start working on new ideas.
Can you give an example?
In the Prague Castle there is this main hall, Vladislav Hall. It’s an amazing architectural feat in that it’s 16 meters long with no central support beams. The entire hall is one complex stone vaulting system with this beautiful petal design; intricate but at the same time, clean and simple lines. All out of carved stone. And yet it was built in the early 1500’s. So I absorb all this and think about ways to build structure or volumn into a garment with clean lines and the least amount of disruption.
And you’re European as well?
Yes..and no. I mean, I was born in The Netherlands, my mother is Dutch-Canadian and my father is from American-German ancestry. But I came to Canada when I was less than a year old, so I’ve pretty much lived here all my life. I’d say I’m Canadian with some European tendencies.
You mentioned coming from a creative family?
Yes, my mother is a violinist who knits and has been sewing since she was a teenager. Her father (my Opa) was a painter…gardener…glass shop owner. He designed several homes and built or installed everything but the plumbing and electrical. My Oma (the one with the jar of beads) also taught me hand embroidery at a very young age. She used to knit a lot of my sweaters and jackets when I was little. I still have several handmade note cards from her with watercolour illustrations, and a cookbook with her little drawings in the margins. My father and my mother are out in the garden every chance they can get, and there is always something either in bloom or being harvested for the table. We are all very creative in the kitchen as well.
What do you feel your brand represents?
It’s funny; when I was in school there was a project where I was asked to give a sort of mission statement about what esthetic my graduation collection represents and what my targeted clientele would be. I wrote, “Architectural Elements presenting Softness in Structure through Design Details evoking Travel Memories in Beautiful, Timeless Clothing.” And though it’s a mouthful, I still think it covers everything I want to achieve with my garments.
I wanted people to feel a change when they put on my garments. By this I mean…think about how you feel when you put on your favourite dress or suit. You stand taller, you carry your head higher; these garments change your perspective by making you feel more powerful, more beautiful, more desirable, more whatever you want or need to feel.
Some of my favourite feedback comes from models when they are trying on my garments, because models get to try on all kinds of different clothes from different designers. So they know. When a model exclaims, “OMG ! I LOVE, LOVE LOVE this dress…I feel like a princess!!”, then I know I’m doing what I’ve set out to do. I want to make beautiful clothing that makes people feel beautiful, whatever beautiful means to them. Strength, softness, loved, warm, comfort. Because there are so many different variations on what makes a person feel beautiful.
There is a big movement to be more ethical and environmentally conscious in the fashion design industry. Is this something you strive for?
Absolutely. I try to use as little synthetic fibres or materials as possible, but sometimes this is hard to achieve especially when it comes to things like zippers or corseting stays. I try to repurpose a lot of fabrics, I take apart muslins or test garments and re-use the fabric in something new. And everything is cut-to-order and made to measure. I don’t mass produce any design, or even do small runs of a design. I don’t want my brand to be part of the massive amounts of textiles that get deposited in our landfills each year.
So this means that you make each garment after it’s been ordered?
That’s right. I don’t want to make 20 in each size only to sell some sizes and not others. That to me is a waste of resources, time and money. And it means I can offer more personalized fashion choices.
Why is personalized fashion important to you?
Fashion is what we choose to express to the outside world. It’s a kind of armour. But you can on have the most power suits of power suits and people will notice if it doesn’t fit right. They see the gap in your armour. And let’s be honest. Not everyone looks great in everything. People have different length torsos, they have a longer neck or shorter legs. By creating a personalized pattern with a client’s own measurements, I helps ensure their garment is going to fit them perfectly. It also creates more value for the client.
When a client comes to me and says they need a dress for an event, the first thing I ask is how they envision themselves arriving at the event. Are they wearing a long dress or a short one or even something else like a pantsuit? Is it lace or sequins or with ruffles? What colour is it? Because when someone tells me they don’t really know what they want, the truth is to DO know what they DON’T want. No sleeves. Definitely no ruffles. And then we work together with sketches and fabric swatches to put together their perfect garment. This is my guarantee to my clients; I will never re-make a personalized garment for an additional client. They become like works of art; no two ever the same.