Inside Leisure Center Vancouver’s slick and intricately decorated showroom, a lively crowd gathered for the introduction of a line from one of the world’s most imitated but often least recognized fashion designers. Geoffrey B Small may not be a household name on the West Coast, but his international reputation for creating what he calls the “best in the world when it comes to advanced high-end clothing” precedes him.
Small is known for showing more collections in Paris than any other American designer. His journey has led him across the world from producing a massively successful shirt design in his home of Newton, Mass., to moving his company to Cavarzere, Italy to be closer to the world’s greatest producers of clothing. However, one thing has remained constant throughout this journey: his commitment to quality.
Small is in Vancouver to introduce his 2020 collection, which includes the Super 210 Arcadia, a suit fabric made of almost unbelievably fine yarns (210 per every millimetre to be exact), which are rare to find in the industry. “It is an extraordinary, different category,” says Small, who has visited Vancouver twice from Italy to introduce his collections.
The fabric is sourced from the oldest woollen mill still in operation worldwide, in Piacenza, Italy. Leisure Center will be the first North American retailer to carry it. This is a notable distinction for the store, even more so when considering that Small’s brand only works with 20 retailers worldwide. “We like to think that we work with the best retailers in the world when it comes to advanced and high-end clothing,” he says. “Mason and MuYun are spearheading a very important movement in the North American market.”
The Super 210 Arcadia complements Leisure Center’s other offerings for the brand, which include eclectic pieces like intricately printed silk shirts, a tailored French-style work jacket and a three-piece leisure set that drapes over the body with a waist-cinching belt.
These offerings show Small’s influences and history as a designer, a career that began after a massively successful design for a white shirt led him to take his first collection to Paris in 1992. After developing his brand by creating handmade recycled clothing in Boston, he moved to the Veneto region of Italy to produce his designs. He continued to experiment with Napoleonic, Medieval and other avant-garde designs, all handmade, and giving respect to the principles of ecologically sustainable design.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Small’s design is his commitment to fabrics that are as handmade as possible. He refers to his collection recently shown at Paris Fashion Week as “Technically the highest handmade component percentage in the industry.” He eschews the use of autonomous machines and has voiced his ambition to develop a stand-alone, 100% handmade collection. The skilled workers who are able to provide these materials are especially important to his vision, and he is working to distance the brand from the image of low-cost labour that is so typical of global fashion brands. “These are serious jobs in a serious economy,” he says, “there is a customer that is able and willing to pay the necessary price to support that kind of skilled work.”
This commitment to quality places certain limitations on Small’s brand. Demand often outpaces supply as certain pieces are released in runs of only dozens of pieces and the number of skilled craftspeople able to produce at a high quality is decreasing year over year. However, as he continues to promote the rejuvenation of these skills, he admits that his brand will remain relatively small, as he has no ambition to be like the juggernauts of global high fashion. He defines their “brand” of luxury as a sort of old-fashioned variety, representing “the creation and service at a high level of human excellence.”
“There are very few retailers pursuing the pathway”, he concludes. Small promises a different way of viewing where luxury clothes come from, and surely this earns him the recognition of being a true pioneer of sustainable, quality design.
- Helen Siwak is the founder of EcoLuxLuv Marketing & Communications Inc and publisher of Folio.YVR Luxury Lifestyle Magazine and digital women's lifestyle magazine EcoLuxLifestyle.co. She is a prolific content creator, consultant, and marketing and media strategist within the ecoluxury lifestyle niche. Post-pandemic, she has worked with many small to mid-sized plant-based/vegan brands to build their digital foundations and strategize content creation and business development. Helen is the west coast correspondent to Canada’s top-read industry magazine Retail-Insider, holds a vast freelance portfolio, and consults with many of the world’s luxury heritage brands. Always seeking new opportunities and challenges, you can email her at email@example.com.
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