“Minimalism” can be a misnomer for the work of Paula Gerbase, NEWGEN catwalk sponsorship winner and the designer behind 1205. This word fails to bring across the sheer quality of 1205’s fabrics and tailoring. Paula prefers the motto of “purity, restraint and substance” to describe her latest collection, and it’s clear how her five years of experience on Savile Row have defined her sharp, urban look, especially the “Englishness” of her fabric choices and monochrome colour palette.
Her background with menswear label Kilgour definitely seems to have influenced 1205’s current aesthetic, which in the past has been described as ‘androgynous’. While it is true that much of her ethos is focused on unisex clothing, her collection is all about making the wearer feel comfortable, which is reflected in the utilitarian approach to her designs. Boilersuits, cape-like coats, pleated trousers and polo neck dresses all have a looseness that is balanced out with fine cuts and complemented with avant-garde shoes.
That isn’t to say femininity is explicitly denied in her collection – purple leather and crimson velvet jackets along with various V-necklines suggest otherwise – but instead is treated under the philosophy that clothes should be a reflection of the wearer. “I think it’s just important to feel like yourself, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I think you just need to be comfortable – empowerment is not going to come from the clothing, and if it does, it’s fake. If you feel a strong person, then you are, and if you’re not, then putting on a jacket is not going to help.”
This point is emphasised by the fact that colours are mostly restricted to an urban and workmanlike palette of blacks, whites, greys and navies (Paula half-humourously said that if she were to choose another colour it would be “dark navy”). 1205’s collection might not suit everyone’s tastes, but respects people who desire a certain thoughtfulness in the functionality of their clothing.
The subtlety of each design indicates who exactly the kind of person who would want to wear 1205’s clothes – that is, people who don’t want to stand out. By no means does this contradict 1205’s professionalism; in fact, it is Paula’s eye to detail that enables such a subtlety to manifest itself in her work. But as Paula describes, her garments are made for those who don’t feel the “necessity to be a walking advertisement board”.
As for inspiration, Paula refers to literature as something important to her life. More precisely, Paula describes the writing of Annemarie Schwarzenbach, a Swiss travel author prolific in the 1930s, as influential to her work. Though it might be quite easy to connect the androgynous beauty of Schwarzenbach to 1205’s designs, it’s her “poetic but very honest way of writing” and the genuine “vulnerability” in her work that is a better explanation for this creative connection.
What Paula has managed to achieve with 1205‘s latest collection is this kind of vulnerability against an urban background. There’s a dark, serious humour underlying these pieces, and one that only comes from understanding how fabrics and clothing work. Perhaps this disposition is a result of Paula’s own views on her involvement in the fashion industry: “I don’t work in ‘fashion’ as far as I’m concerned, I make clothes. I think there’s so much distraction with what fashion is supposed to be about – there’s just so much noise.”
Such a comment from a designer showcasing their collection in London Fashion Week might come across ostentatious, but you only need to feel the crisp cottons and smooth textures of 1205’s garments to appreciate what Paula truly means. Comfort and functionality are at the heart of her work, and we look forward to where she takes 1205 next.