One thing you can say with certainty about Celia Arias’ designs and her brand, Lady Gonzalez, is that everyone has an opinion on them. After more than ten years of living in London, Arias’ designs are original, audacious, perverse and provocative, but most importantly they are never without humour.
As a visual artist, Arias was invited last year to collaborate and exhibit with performance arts group Mutoid Waste Company at Glastonbury Festival. She has also exhibited alongside high-calibre artists including Alejandro Jodorovsky, Charles Bronson and Iris Schieferstein, among others.
“In London the standards are very high; there’s no room for mediocrity.”
Over the last few months Arias has been very busy with the re-launch of her website, as well as wrapping up the filming of an introductory video for London Fashion Week. The entire production team of this film is Spanish: directed by Celia Arias, it is shot by her brother, Alan Arias, and edited by her friend, Paula Palazón.
“Aesthetic experience can be loaded with meaning.”
Through the Lady Gonzalez brand, Arias is trying to create a project more artistic than previous work, insofar as it has a wider scope and a more profound development of ideas behind it. Digital textile printing has become her hallmark, and it has been echoed in such notable publications as ID online, Vogue Italia Online, Super Super, Issue One and Tank magazine.
However, Arias ably navigates more commercial waters, with her fashion design and directing finding its way into adverts and music videos as well as photo shoots for clients such as MTV Berlin, Burnt, Holiday Inn, Barilla and Toni & Guy, to name but a few.
We squeeze ourselves into her busy schedule to talk to her and ask a few questions about her work.
At Brit Es we believe in a mutual fascination for both English and Spanish culture. As a Spaniard, how has living in London influenced you and your artistic development?
London is, in my opinion, one of the most stimulating cities in the world. It has allowed me to evolve constantly, to learn from and work with people from all over the world. The standards are very high; there’s no room for mediocrity. English culture fascinates me. I find it completely unpredictable, and that makes it immensely curious. I always want to learn more about it. I have just moved to Bristol because I wanted to discover an even more authentic ‘English’ experience. My partner is from England and it always makes us laugh to see that we really are two completely opposite cultures which attract. I fervently believe that we have much to learn from each other, and for that, integration is key. If we don’t integrate, we miss out on a lot of things.
Where does the inspiration for your creations come from?
I like to call my style “urban folk”. I take inspiration from my experiences of urban life and from the stimulating people around me. I also love folklore, things which we inherit from the past and which transport us to other realities.
When did you decide to become a fashion designer?
My relationship with fashion is quite unusual, volatile: it’s a love-hate thing. I find it very interesting to express myself through what I wear because it’s a very direct way to project your personality and connect with others. When I was a teenager in Madrid, my friends and I used to make our own clothes to go out to ‘Party Monster’ (it was a very DIY approach, with tape and safety pins). When I got to London, in about 2003, I immersed myself in the fashion world as a stylist and I combined that with working as an apprentice for a theatre costume designer. After a few years I felt like I needed to dig a bit deeper, because the fashion industry is frivolous and superficial. However much I adore beauty, I knew that there’s more to life than that. So I decided to study art and I did my diploma in Textile Design at Goldsmiths University in London, where I experimented and explored new ideas. It was only quite recently, last September, that I decided to unite my two passions, art and fashion, to create Lady Gonzalez. For me, my label is a platform that encompasses more than the products which I sell.
Did being a fashion designer help you to see that there was a gap in the commercial design world that wasn’t yet filled?
Fashion design has definitely been a formative aspect of my career and I have brought a knowledge of fashion history and trends to my work, which has enabled me to give my brand its own unique identity.
Your portfolio contains everything from the very commercial to the very alternative. How do you reconcile both aspects of your personality when it comes to creating?
As I said before, fashion struck me as an empty container. Over the years and as a result of my own research, I have come to the conclusion that aesthetic experience can be loaded with meaning and I think we are living through an age where people want to connect with things in a more real and tangible way. That is why I opt for a more personal approach when selling my products. I suppose that’s where the adjective ‘alternative’ comes into play.
The prints that you use on your dolls are very striking. What criteria do you use to choose images?
Image research is part of my creative process. I spend hours sourcing and copying images with no copyright that I can use in my creations. I also photograph my friends pulling funny faces – we have such a laugh.
Do you ever think about the type of people who are going to wear your items?
The truth is that many of the people I know are very colourful and experimental when it comes to clothing. So normally I think about what designs I myself would like to find and offer to the people in my circle. A lot of the time I make tester designs which I then publish on social networking sites and I observe the reactions.
Do you believe that there is space for what you do at Fashion Week?
I think so, yes, especially in London which is one of the most avant-garde Fashion Weeks. The next step I want to take is to produce clothes and not just accessories, so it would be interesting for me to have the opportunity to present at the Fashion Week in the future.
And one last question… Who would you like to see wear your designs?
It would be a pleasure if musicians, who have an innate appreciation for art and the risqué, like Bjork, CocoRosie or M.I.A, wanted to want to wear Lady Gonzalez.