Giuliano Calza: The GCDS God
Guiliano Calza is a man with his finger on the pulse of contemporary streetwear. His label, GCDS, taps into a rich history of Italian youth culture from the Paninari gangs of the 80’s to the Nike Air Max cult of Italian gabber fans of the 90’s. Calza has captured the fashion zeitgeist by fusing this Italian heritage with Asian street style to bring to life his covetable creations that have already earned the label a cult following.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 14th issue of ODDA Magazine.
What prompted you to found GCDS?
In 2014 I was still living in Shanghai, China, curating the image and communication of my brother’s restaurant in China. I learned many things and it was an absolute life-changing experience. After attending college in China and working there for 4 years, I thought that could’ve been my city forever. But I couldn’t stop thinking about being back to Milan and start my own project, so the first sweaters and socks were produced by the same guy who produced to uniform for the staff and the kitchen. One hundred pieces of each style sold out online in just 2 weeks.
Why did you decide on the name your brand God Can’t Destroy Streetwear?
I think streetwear is a part of everyday life of everyone so instead of creating just another brand that embraces “BAD BOYS” and “THUG LIFE” for 16 year-old kids. I wanted to build a new story for streetwear with a positive vibe. Believe me they call it in every way possible GIULIANO CALZA DESIGN STUDIO, GOD CAN’T DESTROY SEX, GCDS. But, at the end of the day, what is important to me is that they recognize my world of references under the GCDS abbreviation.
What is it about streetwear that is so appealing to young people?
I think there’s a lack of “NEW”, there is this continuous going back to 80s and 90s were most of the trends that are now alive were first big, it’s very related to the hip-hop culture, sneakers culture and vintage treasures but, most of all, I think it’s because streetwear is not clearly defined, it does include whatever looks good. In a historic moment where we trying to include, seems like a place where kids want to belong. I think that people can both grow their individual style feeling to belong to something bigger. I honestly think that GCDS is creating a playground for a new generation of people that want new stuff. As a business, I think no one can escape Streetwear. Every single collection that is made today borrows from streetwear’s culture such as prints, fabrics, sneakers and iconic positioning.
How would you describe the brand’s ethos?
Central to the GCDS ethos has always been for me to create something MADE IN ITALY with a global resonance. It’s very connected to my personal journey. Create a unique scenario that showcases the Italian craftsmanship and education with an open minded view on trends and a modern way to create, and of course making it into a modern business.
How has being an Italian business influenced your approach to design?
I started working at Blumarine when I was 20. Since then, I always wanted to believe in the Italian knowledge of doing things. I think being able to produce everything MADE IN ITALY for the upcoming show is been a big achievement for me. I truly respect our manufacturers and the kids that create the collection and communication with me along the way.
You have had global success since launching the brand becoming a hit in the Asian market within your first year; how do you credit such quick rise to a must have label?
Living in Asia for 4 years helped me discover the Chinese market for sure, but I think I’ve applied more than just my knowledge. I worked really hard, I describe myself as the intern of myself, I’ve always pointed to this, I come from a country were bureaucracy is always a problem, being able to use social media and marketing to advertise something in a modern way has been my way.
The brand made its NYFW debut for SS18. What was it about New York that made you want to show there?
I was invited by NYFW, coming from nowhere and being an Italian independent brand having a show during September fashion week after just 2 years. I think would’ve been a dream come true for everyone and a big recognition of the work done.
Unusually, GCDS went from a digitally focused label to presenting physical fashion shows. What made you want to make this change?
I think GCDS has started and still is a digital label. First of all, being based online gave us the chance to create a strong image and deliver GCDS worldwide without going through huge productions and unpaid deliveries to the stores. Secondly, we have opened to distribution and the show represents a big opportunity to showcase the environment of my creations. I still see it as an opportunity to entertain buyers.
Why is it important to collaborate with other brands or digital influencers to create capsule collections?
We are a generation of bored people that keep swiping all day long. Creating capsule collections with brands or personalities is a way to communicate and create other stories to tell.
I see the phone generation as someone that has to be constantly waken up by something new, something that entertains them.
How do you choose your collaborators?
Usually, they are people that add something special to the brand, people that are absolutely fun to work with. The design and press team is made by 5 people and me, so we talk and brainstorm a lot on what we like and what could be suitable for GCDS.
Do you approach your design of womenswear and menswear in different ways?
It all starts with one word on a white canvas. Then, it usually takes 2 months of brainstorming and collecting, pieces, images and small hints from what I’d like to see coming to life. Many of the items are designed to be unisex, but then evolves into shapes suitable for women. Accessories are the fun thing to me, so fly to the south of Italy to see shapes and fabrics is the best time of the collection preparation.
You have a growing celebrity following: who have you been most impressed to see in GCDS?
I’m always really happy to see friends or celebrity wearing my pieces, is like them hugging me. I was shook when I first saw Bella Hadid leaving for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show wearing GCDS, slick woods is absolutely an example of personality and bravery.
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