Over the last year, multidisciplinary designer GEO has been making a conscious effort to separate himself from digital design and move into producing physical products. It’s led to his namesake merchandise line, GEO.
“I feel like I’m done with the digital art for now, for clients at least. I’m bored of the same old processes,” he says, which is a hefty statement considering he cut his teeth as a digital designer at DONDA, Kanye West’s design company. “That’s how I made my name, and now it’s time to change up. I’m not working on anyone else’s agenda right now, and that’s the beauty of it. It feels like I’m challenging myself again. The album artwork and all of that was starting to feel easy by nature, and that’s boring. I need to learn to move forward,” GEO tells Amuse.
As a freelance designer, communicating someone else’s message is often the task at hand. You can stick your own flavour on it and put to work the skills that you’ve been hired to flex, but a large part of it is a collaboration between yourself and your client. Working on his own merch range, GEO found it to be a breath of fresh air. “There’s no time constraints, there’s no clashing of opinions – it’s so much smoother,” he says.
The merchandise currently runs parallel with GEO’s design house of the same name. “Next year I’ll probably break them apart a little further, but the merch will still be handled by us as a design house.” GEO goes on to reference Virgil Abloh’s Pyrex Vision, the short-lived streetwear project that preceded the now multifaceted fashion brand, Off-White – in the same spirit, the long-term goal for GEO is to translate the merchandise into his own fashion line, renaming the project and stepping into that world when he feels he’s ready.
Citing Parisian fashion house Céline as another inspiration—he describes himself as a “student” of the brand—GEO is looking to high-end influences to propel his vision further.
Before getting ahead of himself, GEO recognises he still has a lot to learn before he jumps into the fashion lane. In tackling a merch line and stepping back from digital design, he’s consciously taking things back to the drawing board, or rather the cutting table. “I’ve always been very hands-on, so even though it’s all new to me I don’t mind cutting and sewing shit myself. It’s a learning curve, and I want to learn,” says GEO.
It’s well known that nothing (of value) is born out of comfort. In GEO’s case, it would have been too easy to sit in the digital world and ride the coattails of his client list. “I’ve chucked myself in the deep end now. So I either learn to swim, or I drown,” he says. “It’s trial and error. I’ve just gotta figure it out.”
These days, it’s within anyone’s grasp to lay the foundations of a career with a stream of fire Instagram posts or a carefully curated Tumblr feed. Building interest in your work is relatively easy. The real challenge? Getting out from behind that screen.
For GEO that means successfully translating an existing skill-set into a new territory. “A lot of people can make the cut and sew garment now, but when it comes down to the print graphics – I feel like they’ve become neglected,” GEO says. “This collection was heavily branded because I wanted people to know exactly what and who it is. It’s a starting point.”
Aside from the heavy text placements, the ‘Blue Marble’ graphic print is a view of Earth from the ‘Geostationary Earth Orbit’ or G.E.O, for short. “The brand direction isn’t limited to the theme of outer space, but that is an initial inspiration. It’s about looking at the space that I can create in, rather than taking space as a literal theme across the product,” he says.
So far, the merch project seems to be resonating as planned – selling relatively effortlessly online, as well as picking up noteworthy physical stockists in Tokyo’s Harajuku district, GR8 and United Arrows’ Monkey Time. Things have come full circle, with Japanese artists such Nigo and Murakami being two of GEO’s biggest inspirations.
The city also fed into the collection’s subliminal direction. “In the context of graphic language, everything out there is so clear an concise. There’s information on everything and anything that you need to know – from how to turn on a light, or flush a toilet. Even down to colours, this was all on the initial moodboards for the collection. I took inspiration from a lot of things out there.” And with Harajuku being the genesis of streetwear itself, it speaks volumes that the collection range was so well received there.
GEO’s merch project is a test drive, a way of learning the trade and preparing himself for the future. You could call it thinking out loud – the merch is really just a means to an end. “If it continues to work out, that’s perfect. It allows me to create more, advance, and look into areas that I currently don’t have skills in. This was all just an experiment. It’s just me sharing my perspective,” GEO says. “I’m looking to drop Collection Two early next year and then we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Collection Two drops March 2017. You can catch a restock of Collection One on 28 November.