Building a fashion brand amidst a pandemic; a Zoomer’s reflection on the past year.
LETTER from the EDITOR
Invite me to your next party. I’m likely to bring an obscure bottle of alcohol and poke the bear, no not the hostess, The Bear. While not exactly a snob, I’ve been to too many parties where small talk and alcohol budget have reigned supreme. Life lessons from my Father… My Son, life is too short to be wasted on cheap booze. Bring your own libation of choice and you’ll never be disappointed with the evening. Alas, I digress. Once I’ve settled in with beverage in hand and enjoyed your delightful abode, I will promptly hijack your party for twenty odd minutes, thirty if I’m lucky. Hijack you say? Yes, conversationally held hostage a la verbal point. As much as I’m hungry for the delights of the in-house chef, I’m also hungry for intellectual conversation and conquest.
To those who frequent my company with regularity will note, small talk is abridged and depths are tested, and to newcomers, a level of arrogance is detected, as I suppose you might be surmising in this bit of prose previous. At my last engagement the charming hostess posited that “Fine Art is Dead” as she set down the tray of charcuterie. My first time at one of her parties and the bear had been poked. There was no going back. This would be the rollercoaster for the next twenty minutes.
Absolutes. Who has time for such obtuse thinking? However the game was afoot, and delightful conversation was to be had. My takeaway was thus dear readers… regardless of how you view/define fine Art, through technique/technological innovation, or centuries old craft development, (A conversation around which we could have for weeks)… we who create strive to do so because we can, we must, for self expression, otherwise what’s the point?
No one strives to make dull Art. In some form or fashion, regardless of where one is in the process, the idea of Art being Fine is inherent in the makeup to art making. And then again, when one stumbles upon the story of a Dutch/Spanish visionary fashion designer making one-off, one of a kind custom high fashion luxury pieces amidst a pandemic, one can’t help but think… perhaps her work is wearable Fine Art?
A Year Later…
Building a fashion brand amidst a pandemic; a Zoomer’s reflection on the past year.
with Aitana Giebels van Bekestein
“Go to school, graduate, get a job, work your way up, and maybe one day you’ll start your own business”… these seemed like the most logical and viable steps to take through life. Up until 2020, everything was going to plan; I had good job offers lined up for once I graduated from Parsons School of Design. I felt confident I was on the right path, to one day, having gained enough experience and some courage, to potentially start my own brand.
Mid-March of 2020, in a blink of an eye, I was back at home with my family in Spain inadequately completing my Fashion Design courses online. Soon after, my graduation thesis showcase was cancelled, my job offers deferred and my whole future became a big blank, unsettling canvas. I realized that the only thing I had was a whole lot of free time, which consequently, became the beginning of a new plan and let’s be honest, nobody was looking for a fashion designer in the midst of a pandemic. Many small, local fabric stores had been struggling due to the pandemic and were on the verge of default. I needed something to do, a purpose, and so, unknowingly Official GvB’s journey began.
Stunning, high quality fabrics I found, had little yardage left on the roll and would have gone to waste; the local stores were happy as this provided them with some welcomed revenues. This triggered the idea of allowing the amount of fabric I had determine what garment/s I could create out of them. I hadn’t figured out yet what I was going to do with my creations, but at the very least, I could wear them myself, add them to my portfolio and most importantly, I’d have something to do and could encourage myself to keep being creative.
That following month flew by. I had set up a little studio with my sewing machine and would spend the whole day, every day there. I was happily exhausted with no extra time to poison myself overthinking. However, it got to a point where I had made piles of unique, one of one matching sets, jackets and tops and was running out of space to store them.
At this point my family encouraged me to post them on social media, to see if any of my friends wanted to buy them. There were/are so many aspects of social media that make me anxious. I love and admire the work people share, but for some reason when it comes to my work, the thought of posting makes me feel overwhelmed. Albeit, I had nothing to lose and I was the only one holding myself back.
It’s from that point onwards, that my whole outlook on ‘how I should be building my future’ changed. There isn’t a right way to do things, you just have to keep going. I am a recent graduate in my early 20’s, in a current world where information, advice and the ability to reach out to anyone around the globe in a matter of seconds is at my fingertips. A couple of months ago, I was worried about when I’d be able to get a job whereas today, I face the uneasiness of how I’m going to keep growing, survive as one out of millions of emerging brands, and whether the risk of starting something on my own is worth taking.
Consistency and patience are two key factors I have learnt to value much more than I ever have before. Consistently researching, making, posting and brainstorming have kept my sales steady. Patiently saving up money, strategising and learning to really think through and research my ideas, and plans for the future without rushing into things, and letting my excitement get the best of me, have allowed room for crucial development and more thorough, effective planning. Believing in oneself is something else that I am persistently learning how to do better. I have the most amazing, supportive family and friends, which are definitely a huge part of why I’m doing what I’m doing but, at the end of the day it has to come from within.
Understanding that even though I am lucky enough to have a great support group, they also have their own lives to deal with. I’m learning to not seek for someone to lean onto every step of the way and to just appreciate the satisfaction of acknowledging that they are there. I’m also learning to keep a healthy balance between the pressure I put on myself and learning to celebrate the smallest of accomplishments, learning to stay true to my ideas, while taking criticism into consideration and most importantly learning about myself.
GvB stands for Giebels van Bekestein, my Dutch surname, which has a long, meaningful history to me. My Spanish and British upbringing have always played a big role in my designs, which allow me to emphasize the idea of heritage not being about just one culture or nationality. My brand’s designs are a result of my passion for combining classic and modern styles. By fusing classicism and futurism, it conceptually aims to embrace the past as well as its evolution. I aim to fuse sophisticated, classic elements with modern twists.
Official GvB currently offers 1/1, unique, handmade sets, garments and bags made out of high quality, durable fabrics and will not be reproduced. The exclusivity of owning a piece that nobody else has, nor can get, is also to encourage our customers to appreciate the products they purchase and love them forever. The brands progress on finding sustainable solutions and materials is constantly advancing and developing.
I am at the beginning of a long journey with yet a lot to learn. So, to any Zoomers thinking of or starting a business right now the advice, I’d give myself back in March 2020 is to trust the process, never stop believing in yourself, celebrate what you’ve accomplished, trust your instincts and keep bringing yourself back up when you feel down and remember that the world is truly your oyster.
Follow my journey @officialgvb or shop through our website www.officialgvb.com
A child of the 90’s the half Spanish, quarter English and quarter Dutch designer Aitana Giebels van Bekestein started sewing at the age of seven and has never looked back. Fluent in English, Spanish, French, Catalan and Mandarin, Aitana completed her BFA with honors at Parsons School of Design in NYC in 2020, majoring in Fashion Design, with a minor in Chinese Mandarin. Her work with brands such as Mulberry, Lisa King London, L.K. Bennett and From the Road have been hailed as visionary.
Failure IS an Option.
with Nate Patten
Before you even read what I have to say, I’d be thrilled if this article got critically panned. No, really. If another publication reviewed this article, and called it “flat out wrong, inane, misguided, and slower than Nomadland,” I’d be thrilled. Because that means I would have maybe failed—and that’s not a bad thing. If there are any young kids reading this, the word “fail” is a word we used to have in school and it meant “to be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal.” You might not have heard the word used, especially if you’re in the Fairfax, Virginia school district where a friend of mine teaches. She told me that her public school has told the teachers they are not allowed to give F’s to the students. You read that correctly. No matter what the idiot kid turns in on the test, you cannot fail them. He could submit a US History quiz answering only in Roman numerals and emojis and still get a D. He could pass. This mentality can and will be the end of true understanding as we know it.
The idea is not entirely new. Millennials have been jokingly-or not jokingly-derided as the “participation trophy generation” for years. I’m not here to be the arbiter on whether or not that is true (it totally is), especially since technically I am at the old end of the millennial age range, despite the fact that I far prefer to claim membership of Generation X—don’t you dare think I’m not taking credit for Friendster. But what’s more important—and terrifying—is that we are raising a generation of kids who are told two things: no matter what they do they cannot fail and that failing itself is bad. In recent years, New York City schools have seen a huge increase in the number of high school graduates. Are the kids getting smarter? Watching “Chrisley Knows Best” for five minutes will give you the answer, but the districts are being encouraged to pass kids through to graduation under any circumstances. “Madison, you missed 100 days of school. No problem! Graduation here you come!!” A part of this could be the residual effects of the truly catastrophic early 2000s education policies “No Child Left Behind” and “Every Student Succeeds” which, like their ironic names indicate, gave the completely delusional message to students that success is inevitable. The intent was to bring the struggling students up to the level of the more proficient but, not surprisingly, these plans had the opposite effect. But particularly since Covid came about, schools are lowering the bar further and further and not allowing students to receive F’s. Side note: all this really does is make the lowest grade a D which essentially just makes that the failing grade. I’d explain this in more detail but it’s something out of a Monty Python sketch or “This is Spinal Tap.” It must be asked though: are schools themselves afraid of failure too? They often lose their funding if their kids fail. Principals run the risk of being replaced by someone younger and more woke if the district underperforms. Teachers get relegated to the “bad” classes if test scores are low. There are alternative reasons schools are not failing kids, and they are selfish ones at that. We are releasing a bunch of kids into adulthood with the notion that there is no possibility of failure and we are setting them up to be helpless.
Adult life is about recognizing and mitigating the risk of failure in your day to day existence. The only way to learn how to do this is through experience. It’s probably a good idea to learn as soon as you can that failure most definitely is an option. But the biggest disservice we do for students who are not allowed to fail is that we also don’t allow them to succeed. Failure is not merely an obstacle to overcome in order to succeed; it is a requirement for success. When taking away the notion that it’s impossible to fail, you also take away the agency of the student to do something great. So, if you’re still reading this, go fail as hard as you possibly can. You’ll thank me later. After all, I am the generation that discovered Friendster. – NP