Alumni Q+A: Carlos Garciavelez MAUD ’12
Carlos Garciavelez is a designer, architect, and urbanist born in Mexico City. His research and design departs from a trans-scalar approach that spans from fashion and interior furnishings to urban landscapes and open territories. Earlier this year, his career evolved when he decided to launch the menswear brand GARCIAVELEZ, which recently unveiled its Spring/Summer 2016 collection at the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men’s (NYFWM), a standalone showcase for American men’s fashion.
When he’s not busy designing clothes, Garciavelez commutes weekly during the academic year from his home in New York City to Cambridge, where he is a Design Critic in Urban Planning and Design at the GSD, allowing him to work in both the professional and academic design settings. Before establishing his own practice, he worked for a number of highly regarded design studios, including Gabellini Shepard Associates in New York City and the Alexander McQueen fashion house in London. Garciavelez, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), received a Master of Architecture in Urban Design with distinction from the GSD in 2012.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Mexico City; immerged in a design environment. My father, uncles, and grandfather are architects—my father graduated from the GSD himself. Since I was very young I was exposed to art and design across scales. I got to travel with my family around the world with a focus on architecture and design through my father’s work, which pared with my undergraduate experience at RISD, molded the design interest I follow today.
You launched your menswear brand GARCIAVELEZ earlier this year. What inspired you to start your own label?
I have always been interested in design across scales, fashion being one of them. The relationship of design to the body has always fascinated me. During my time at RISD I took classes around the subject that gave me specific tools and later at the GSD, I kept pursuing the ideas of design across scales in relationship to the immediacy of the body. I did an internship at Alexander McQueen in London while I was a student at the GSD, which was the life changing experience that gave me the real drive to start this venture.
Why did you decide to make the transition from architect to fashion designer?
It’s not necessarily a transition, it’s a parallel project. I feel both things feed off of each other in a very interesting way, scales are limitless and blurred in design. Today, by working both in the fashion industry while also serving as a design critic at the GSD, I can easily shift across these scales, finding rich moments of cross-pollination among them.
You showed during the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men’s, which recently took place from July 13-16. Tell us about your collection.
Yes, I am very excited about this! The men’s fashion market is growing exponentially and the decision from the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) to set up a men’s fashion week has been amazing to see, hopefully becoming the beginning of a seasonal setup. I was extremely honored to be part of this amazing selection of designers, and to be one of the designers to kick start the week as part of the first day of NYFWM, and even more thankful for the amazing reaction, having an amazing review from the New York Times, highlighted as part of the six designers you need to know.
For Spring/Summer 2016 collection, GARCIAVELEZ continues the journey of the cultural nomad, exploring our relationship with light and applying its effects and its possible distortions, configurations, and applications onto the body. This season I wanted to experiment with how to suspend the temporal quality of light within the garment. The challenge for me was to capture a finite quality of an incandescent source and how that relates to the human body. The concept emerged from four core ideas: reflecting, concealing, diffusing, and capturing the ephemeral qualities of light. The result is a collection of athletically tailored menswear meant to perform with the wearer throughout his day.
Do you have a philosophy of design?
I guess it would be the idea of design across scales and the importance of trans-scalar thinking. Design inspiration and research might work at one set of scales while the actual intervention, in this case clothing, happens at a much smaller one.
In 2012, you were the recipient of the Druker Traveling Fellowship, which awards students the opportunity to carry out comprehensive research-based travel throughout the world. What impact did this prize have on your studies and your work?
It has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had, I am incredibly thankful to the GSD and to Ron Druker for his generosity. It opened many other doors that I didn’t even think where related. The research culminated in a book, Form and Pedagogy: The Design of the University City in Latin America (ARD 2014), published in both English and Spanish in order to make it accessible to a wider audience. It has been a complete pleasure being able to talk about the book to colleagues and students, and also to share the incredible history of how modernism flourished in Latin-America through the enterprise of the university campus.
The impact of the Fellowship and the book was life changing. It fed my research and intellectual hunger and opened my eyes to conceive the idea behind the clothing line; the Cultural Nomad, the concept of the designer, researcher, traveler in constant search of inspiration through life’s travels—the brand examines the global citizen, who returns home to infuse a wanderlust spirit into his daily life in the city.
What is the most significant thing you learned while you were a student at the GSD?
I learned how important it is for one to develop a critical point of view in order to meaningfully absorb the myriad of information the contemporary world puts in front of us. The greatest lesson learned was the ability to transform information into knowledge across multiple scales of the built environment.
Was there anyone at the School that had great influence on you?
I feel the GSD influenced me on so many levels. I would have to say the interdisciplinary way of working, pushed and championed by Dean Mohsen Mostafavi as an umbrella, was reinforced by three people in particular—Giuliana Bruno, Felipe Correa, and Rahul Mehrotra. Giuliana helped me understand the relationships across disciplines in the most poetic sense, through the ideas of fashion, film, and architecture intertwined with ideas of senses and the ephemeral to make a coherent result in relationship to the intimacy of the body. Felipe Correa helped me understand how important it is for an architect to effectively navigate across extreme scales, from the ideas of urban landscapes and open territories, and how to bring these ideas back to the scale of the body. It’s also worth noting the support I received by Rahul Mehrotra during my time at the GSD and even post-graduation. Today, the day-to-day interaction with colleagues and students at GSD has defined part of how I conceptualize design.
Any favorite memories of the GSD?
I guess the GSD is still very fresh as I commute from NYC to teach there weekly. As a student I guess it will always be the amazing creative environment and social conversations, and the late, late, late, late nights at the trays.
As a recent graduate, what advice do you for GSD students?
My advice to students is to listen to your intuition and design desire as much as you listen to your brain. If you feel passionate about an idea, push it to its limits! The GSD is an incredible environment to make strong ideas become a reality.