The future of menswear
“It’s about creating something larger than the clothes themselves“
35-year-old American designer Justin Gall has left the United States to set up his eponymous brand in Rome. The designer, who had already made a name for himself at the digital Milan Fashion Week in July 2020, just presented his first physical show on the official schedule for Fall-Winter 2022. Already described as a prince of outerwear and military-inspired apparel, Justin Gall finds art in everything around him and uses his deep emotions to deliver a contemporary menswear wardrobe with a touch of futurism. From Rome to Paris, Say Who met one of the top talents of tomorrow’s fashion.
You are American, but you decided to settle in Rome to create your collections. What made you move here and why?
This is the simplest of all questions. Love made me move to Rome! Chiara and I had been dating, going back and forth between Rome and New York for some time before one of us had to make a move. I was in a position where nothing was holding me back, so we took the plunge and never looked back. Making collections specifically in Italy was never part of a definitive plan.
When was Gall born and what defines your particular approach to design?
Gall was officially born in 2014 with our first collection ‘Absterrestrial’ for Spring/Summer 2015. My approach is always a bit spontaneous within a few different starting points. Sometimes it’s directly pencil to paper – design, design, design. Starting to bring life to the ideas I’ve been storing over time. Sometimes it’s stacking or scattering multiple fabrics, staring at them for days on end. Other times it’s experimenting with paint and dye techniques on old samples – ripping them apart, combining elements I didn’t have time for the previous season, or just wearing them to make sure fit and dexterity is on point – trying to find stress points that could be problematic. It’s really a back and forth process within these areas, with an added pressure of time lurking in the background from start to finish. In this capsule of time, I’m trying to create pieces and collections that are forward driven and true to my core, while staying within the challenging confines of wearability.
You have an interesting artistic background spanning graphic design and art. How do these two worlds manage to find a creative outlet in fashion?
For me, these modes of expression are somewhat instinctual; forever being intertwined within the collections. They’re worlds which seem as one to me. One not being able to exist or represent the true nature of my nucleus without the other. It generates something more challenging, more personal, more custom and characteristic rather than only relying on fabrics and forms alone. The combination of creating abstracts, experimenting with dye processes and hand-painting garments myself, I hope creates a depth that bleeds heart and soul into my designs.
Gall seems like an introspective project, but at the same time a unanimous story. What is the message behind the creation of your collections and in particular of your Fall/Winter 2022 collection?
I’d say the eternal message in my mind and collections is the will to keep pushing forward and resist the temptation of giving up when things seem difficult. It’s survival at the root of everything; and I feel this way because what’s the alternative? I’ve been tested time and time again throughout my life, I have gone through hell and back on multiple occasions (as many people have),I have been very alone for much of my life journey and I have always fought hard to do what I do, which might have something to with this embedded feeling. Naturally I think this is unintentionally transmitted into some sort of feeling ingrained within the brand – something larger than the clothes themselves.
As for the current Fall/Winter 2022 collection: I’ve entitled it ‘MURK’ as to label the feeling I have during the times we’re currently living. There are so many grey areas most are afraid to confront, so much divide, inconsistent guidelines, questions unable to be answered, and the future is hard to envision. Maybe life has always been a bit ‘MURKY’, but today it’s in your face shoving anxiety and doubt down your esophagus.
How does art influence your creative process?
Generally, to me, art is constantly moving parts and perceptions, which inevitably somehow, influences creation. I see certain textures and stain mixtures within concrete buildings or grounds, the way the edge of a shadowed building creates a perfectly imbalanced shape in contrast with the sunlight and its background, the vibrations your body and mind feel when listening to the perfect soundscape accompanied by lyrics you relate to. These to me are a couple examples of art within their own forms, which can either inspire or motivate to create extra layers of creation, which could be viewed also as art or not. Maybe we’re all just compressed layers upon layers of art?
Who or what are your sources of inspiration when designing your collections?
Number one is our growing family. My wife and constant side fighter Chiara and our newborn baby girl Rei. Without them nothing would be worth anything, or everything would be worth nothing. Other than that, inspiration will always be proving doubters wrong and overcoming the inevitable hard times.
Your Fall/Winter 2022 collection moves between warm colors up to deep black and has many different textures. Why this chromatic and tactile choice?
I’m usually drawn to immersion within a couple different colours each season, rather than using several colors sparingly in each and every collection. This way I’m able to examine, explore and use multiple hues of each dedicated color — supplying the customer and myself with a thorough spectrum and understanding of the color itself. For Fall/Winter 2022 you’ll find hues of green: ranging from seaweed to olive. Brown: ranging from sand to camel. And finally black: the hueless outlier and base of all collections. Black renders ultimate isolation and contrast. Black is the beginning and the end. A form of simplicity and expression that says “I don’t give a fuck, I don’t need color to make me feel something”. I’m okay with blending with the shadows that most others are frightened of.
If you had to describe Gall in three words, which would you choose?
Anti-nostalgic, mutative, independent.