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Gabriel Baradee: a profile in fashion

For designer Gabriel Baradee, “fashion” means many things. His unique vision and multifaceted approach has garnered him recognition and reward since the 2009 launch of his line, Shakkei. Influenced by architecture and Japanese culture, he approaches fashion with methodical creativity and an ethical commitment to environmental sustainability. He treats fashion as a handicraft, but also a form of entertainment. Infusing technical skill and research with uplifting and innovative design, Baradee appeals to both commercial and critical audiences.

Gabriel Baradee

Gabriel Baradee

Baradee, who currently splits his time between Vienna and Berlin, did not begin his education intending to become a fashion designer. Instead, he says, “the right thing found me.”  Originally studying Japanese Science at the University of Vienna and Freie Universität Berlin, he was led to fashion by a lifelong interest in entertainment — especially traditional Japanese theatre (Kabuki and Noh opera) — and a personal background in acting and dance. He attended the fashion design program at Esmod University in Berlin and gained international experience with Jenny Peckham in London, Matohu in Tokyo, and Clemens in Munich. He has participated in several international competitions, programs, and collaborations, has been nominated for a number of design awards, and launched his own label, Shakkei, in 2009. At the 2012 Vienna Awards for Fashion and Lifestyle, he was awarded the title of “Best Newcomer.”  How does an up-and-coming designer like Gabriel Baradee understand fashion, creativity, and innovation? From where does he draw inspiration and how does he strive for success?

Fashion as Entertainment

Through the effective use of light, music, and beautiful garments, a designer can transform catwalks and photo-shoots into spaces for entertainment and pleasure. Baradee’s measure of a good show is when audiences emerge inspired and uplifted. A good entertainer must always know their audience, but in fashion, consumer, industry, and media interests do not always align. Industry insiders look for innovative construction, attention to detail, and creative use of volume and colour. Customers and clients seek beautiful, well-made, and practical garments in which they can live their daily lives. Baradee always tries to strike a balance, appealing to a range of audiences through an innovative yet practical approach to garment production. His designs are well-made with attention to detail and visual interest, but also appear accessible and wearable for sophisticated consumers.

Inspiration Plus Method Equals Creativity

Fashion design is not art, but handicraft, says Baradee. He does not mean to downplay creativity. Quite the opposite. Fashion is a creative craft, the successful execution of which requires inspiration accompanied by structured method, research, and technical skill. He draws inspiration from architecture and Japanese culture. “My approach to fashion is always very Japan oriented. Traditional Japanese clothing making always starts from the fabric. Then the designer develops the pattern.” The name of his signature label, Shekkei, derives from a term used in Japanese woodcarving. Although difficult to translate, Shekkei involves inspiration from a landscape and incorporates two complimentary views – that of the viewer, and that of the view itself. “There are always two layers that I try to combine in my design,” says Baradee. “You have the design itself – the beautiful garment, the dress, the nice clothes – and on the other side, it is produced under fair conditions and the material is organic cotton, for example. So you always have these two layers that are overlapping each other.” To transform inspiration into material reality, he spends time researching in libraries, touring cities, and taking photographs, a process which he describes as both the most pleasurable and challenging part of design. Conscious of the myth of the creative genius, Baradee understands creativity is not something one has as an individual, but something that is learned through experiences, openness, and awareness. “You have to always be very awake, and open to things you see. You have to write things down and you have to do your research.”

An Ethic of Sustainability

Baradee’s line is produced exclusively in Vienna and Berlin. His commitment to local production and ethical sustainability demonstrates a thoughtful vision for the future of both his own line, and of the fashion industry broadly, which he sees as moving away from fast, disposable fashion toward more timeless style and environmentally friendly practices. In his own work, an ethic of sustainability means that innovation takes a different form from stereotypical images of the fast-paced, ever-changing trends commonly associated with the fashion world. He describes an orientation toward timelessness and return, saying that in his own design “there is always this aspect of wearing a garment a second time, a second year, again. It shouldn’t be that quick… you wear the things once, then you throw it away. I think the higher the fashion label is, the more timeless the garment should be. You should be able to wear it in three years and it’s still fashionable and chic. So I try to be innovative every season of course, but this slowing down is also something very important for my work.” In the future, Baradee thinks smaller labels will be better able to adapt; more like speedboats than multimillion-dollar ships that cannot turn around quickly. Slowing down and adapting means smaller labels can provide costumers with more unique and individual garments. “Companies that are focusing on slowing down will have big opportunity on the market in the future. You don’t have to throw away everything you did in the last season… I think people are a little bit fed up with this overconsumption. We see this with food and cars and I think the fashion business is a little bit behind but it will get there, and I can see that it’s getting more and more important for the customer,” says Baradee. Unique, timeless, reusable, sustainable. An admirable hope for the future of fashion creation. As for those who choose to wear his creations? Baradee’s designs express the identity of their wearer as sophisticated urban intellectuals who are knowledgeable, decent, and environmentally responsible.

More information

More about Gabriel Baradee and his past and current collections can be found at Shakkei.

The following videos present some of his recent work:



About the author

Allyson StokesAllyson Stokes is a PhD candidate in Sociology at McMaster University. She is currently conducting research on the fashion industry in Canada and is particularly interested in  issues of gender, culture, and work-life boundaries. She looks forward to future interviews with additional fashion designers. If you would like to contact Allyson please send an email to stokesae@mcmaster.ca


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