Modern Romanticism

Robert Geller’s reinterpreted classics

Text by Mengly Taing

To design for today’s thinking man, Robert Geller looks to the past. Each collection begins with an idea that leads to a time and a place far from the present. “Paris in the 1960s or Berlin in the 1820s,” Geller says. “It gives me a sense of color, texture and attitude.” But Geller’s clothes are anything but ancient.

Lately, the 32-year-old German designer has been drawn to early 19th century explorers and young men embarking on journeys. His own fashion odyssey began at RISD, where he earned himself a yearlong post-graduate internship with Marc Jacobs. There, he met Alexandre Plokhov, his partner at Cloak who he helped revamp the cult label after his stint at Marc Jacobs ended. When Cloak produced its final collection last year, Geller briefly ventured into women’s wear before returning to his first love.

For his Fall 2008 collection, Geller paired slim-fitting military jackets and officer’s coats with soft, chunky knits. Although well-tailored oxford shirts and trousers are indicative of any accomplished menswear designer, it is the details of Geller’s overall dark aesthetic that are quite daring. “The Geller man,” he says, “is very complex. He has a sense of history and romance. He has an interest in fashion, but likes to look a little tough.” Most importantly, he is not afraid to show his sensitive side.

“The whole design process,” Geller says, “was about discovery and a yearning to better understand the world.” He delves deeper into his exploration of the roles that masculinity and femininity play in his forthcoming collection. Shifting from Prussia to bohemia, his Spring/Summer 2009 collection features shots of color and stripes inspired by gypsy travelers. Geller favors the layered look. He also accessorizes three-quarter-length sleeve shirts and ombre trousers with loose-hanging bow ties and charming rosettes peeking from pockets and hanging from chains. He collaborated with New York-based Japanese designers Hiroshi Kure and Chie Nakai of Driftwood for all the jewelry in his line.

With one collection in stores and another one on its way, Geller is busy working on his Fall 2009 collection. He is sketching, preparing layouts and working on fittings—all while planning a quick jaunt to Paris, then continuing on to Tokyo where much of the line is produced. “I think that all of my experiences throughout life affect what I do everyday,” Geller says. Although he has attracted a female following, he has no plans to introduce women’s wear to his line anytime soon. He would rather focus on where his career takes him. “Right now, I am taking it step by step,” Geller says.