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#AtHome with PAUSE: Q&A with GOSSEauCOEUR’s Designer Benjamin Kyei

Interview by: Lynn Moyo // @mongamelii

 

From a personal perspective, what was it that made you choose what you’re doing now, rather than going in a different direction?

As a kid, I always loved dressing up and designing different outfits and accessories – not only for me but for my toys as well. My parents always believed that one day I would end up becoming a creative of some sort and I guess with the interest I had in fashion growing up, working in the industry only made sense. I feel like my life as a designer began when I was a child. However, it wasn’t until I was in my second year of university that I started to believe in myself and follow my passion of becoming a fashion designer.

In terms of ethos and values when it comes to fashion and your brand – what is your why? Why do you do what you do?

Everything I do is purpose-driven. GOSSE au CŒUR translates to ‘Kid at Heart’ in French which is a message that relates closely to my Christian beliefs. My faith has shown me that there is freedom within when you accept you are a child at heart. I believe this statement represents not only me and my beliefs, but also a wider community of people around the world. As God’s child, it is my purpose to spread this message; I am just using my interest and love for fashion as a creative medium to do so.

Walk us through your process – how do you go from an idea or concept that’s in your head, to something tangible? What’s your process for designing one of your products?

I’m constantly making notes, taking photographs and thinking of new ideas. Being open to my surroundings is a very key part of my design process. I find inspiration in having conversations with people around me. I value everyone’s opinion and believe that I can learn something from everyone that I speak to. This widens my perspective and allows me to explore different ideas within fashion.

For me, it is important that I get an idea out of my head and onto something I can see or touch as soon as possible. I mostly design on my laptop using photoshop and illustrator. At other times I can simply be at my desk with a pen and paper. It all depends on how I feel and where I am when a new idea comes to my mind.

I am a colour-blind artist. Unlike most designers, I don’t focus on colour palettes and shades when I’m designing. To me, I find colours very distracting. This is the main reason why the colour palette for GOSSE au CŒUR designs has been quite simple thus far. I feel like being colour blind has allowed me to unlock some sort of ‘designer cheat code’ because not focusing on colours has given me one less thing to worry about when designing. I’d rather focus on the fittings, fabric quality and comfort when working on a product. Personally, I find these factors are more important to a customer when shopping or putting together an outfit.

What inspires your product line? Is it a more personal perspective or customer trend-driven?

My designs are firstly a reflection of my own personal style which is inspired by a blend of two key musical subcultures: rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop. I think when designing it is important to keep customer trends in mind. Whilst my designs are not too influenced by these trends, I believe knowing and understanding what customers are into is very important.

What do you listen to when you’re creating?

I listen to a variety of music when I am creating. My music taste changes depending on how I want to feel. In the creative process of my recent collection, I spent a lot of time listening to Gospel music. The story behind the collection ‘Forever Daydreaming’ is all about freedom, inspiration and hope. Listening to Gospel whilst creating gave me freedom in my thoughts, inspiration for my designs and the hope needed to make this collection work. Other times when I am designing, I listen to hip-hop and rap because this culture is very influential in my creativity.

Many creatives take inspiration from their surroundings and what is happening around them. How do you stay creative at home or with the restrictions that have been imposed?

Initially, it was a challenge to maintain a level of creativity with all the restrictions in place. Like most creatives, I am heavily inspired by my surroundings but with all the uncertainty, adapting to this new ‘Lockdown culture’ was important for me. I have found watching TV shows and movies from different eras, as well as historic and cultural documentaries very inspiring in this time. Last but certainly not least, being at home has afforded me more time to have conversations with my family and friends. Exchanging opinions and speaking about relative topics of today has given me a new insight which I’ve infused into my creativity.

While the coronavirus has brought about a lot of disadvantages for brands and creatives – if you had to name one positive thing for your brand that you’ve taken from the current climate, what would that be?

I would say social media has been a lot of peoples go-to during this pandemic, including myself. This has allowed the opportunity for the brand to build stronger brand awareness and interact with a wider audience effectively through social media platforms.

In 2020, what would you describe as the difference between streetwear and luxury? And where would you place yourself with those categories?

I feel like the definition of luxury has changed over recent years. Luxury brands have always gained inspiration from the underground street culture. The only difference between now and the past 10-15 years is that designers like me are getting more recognition and a seat at the table. Currently, I wouldn’t necessarily say the brand is neither streetwear nor luxury. I would rather place it somewhere in the middle. As a designer I am inspired by both, blending streetwear style with luxury sensibilities. I guess we can categorise the brand as ‘Luxury Streetwear’.

As a brand founder, you have to wear many hats – being a designer, social media management all while having to run a business. How do you best balance these different facets that make a successful brand?

The experience of wearing multiple hats and filling different roles within the business at one time has definitely matured me. Being strict with my time management and focusing on forming good habits has been key. I wish I could take all the credit; however, I have to big up my family and friends. They have always supported me and to be honest, I don’t know if any of my success so far would have been possible without them.

Do you think social platforms like Instagram, TikTok or Twitter are must-haves for brands, or can brands get away with not having them?

I believe social media is a must-have for brands, especially with the way platforms like TikTok and Instagram are constantly growing and developing. However, I do not think brands should solely depend on any one platform. Spreading across different social media platforms allow brands to communicate and feed their audiences in different ways.

Given the chance, which designer or brand would you like to work with?

Definitely Saint Laurent. That would be a dream appointment for me. I think the brand has some of the best designs and aesthetics, and I would love the opportunity to add my own creative spin to it. God willing, one day it will happen.

Where can we expect to see your brand in 5 – 10 years from now?

In 5 years, we would have done some dope collaborations presenting both Men and Women’s collection at Paris fashion week. In 10 years, we’ll be everywhere. Watch this space!