“Excuse me, do you know where the Gawsie showroom is?” I asked. I was in the Gerry building in Los Angeles–terra cotta and downtown industrial on the outside, and clean and minimalist California Market Center-style corridors on the inside.
“Gawsie, Gawsie…” I could see mental fingers stroking an imaginary beard somewhere as the pony-tailed showroom owner thought. “Ohh, oh. They’re in number four-oh-two. They’re the new guys.” Sure, New York-based Select Showroom is new to the Los Angeles’ fashion district — “You can still smell the paint,” said a visiting designer — but Gawsie has been making a name for itself since the 1998 launch of ATHL, which was Gawsie’s first introduction into the athletic market.
“We came out with black long sleeves with reflective prints, with the letters ATHL across the chest,” explains Steve Patino, publicist for Gawsie and its creators, the 2020 multimedia design and consulting team. “We were pushing the concept of ‘athletech,’ which is the concept of the technical athlete. In fact, we were pushing the concept more than the name of the company,” he continues. “Photographers would come up to us and say, ‘You’re that ATHL company right?’ and we would say, ‘No, we’re Gawsie Athletech — ATHL is an abbreviation for Athletech.’ ”
While many other fashion design teams stick to just that — designing fashion, and are made of just fashion designers, 2020 — say it with me, “twenty-twenty” — is a collective of individual photographers, web developers, music producers, editorial writers, street wear designers, celebrity stylists, and product branding consultants. “The concept for 2020 came a long time ago,” says Ricardo Llano, 2020’s creative director. “Me and my friends would vibe about art and design, we would paint and get into projects and art shows. It’s that vibe that goes into 2020, and the work we do.”
“We’re all so diverse and we cover so much ground,” adds Patino. “It’s so broad, it’s even so hard to describe. You bring us a project, almost no matter what it is, [we can do it.]” A regular Renaissance man’s media group, 2020 directs product placement for other fashion companies, styles celebrities, shoots photography, produces music, offers retail consulting, branding and web development. Still, the group finds time to focus completely on Gawsie, which it plans to more clearly divide into two lines: Gawsie Athletech, and Gawsie. “We always knew that eventually a division and separation of the company would be a part of our future,” says Patino. “And we are developing a completely separate accessory division for fall ’04 and a co-op double label project with Creative Recreation footwear, for spring ’04.”
Gawsie Athletech is composed of 1998’s ATHL and 2001’s very similar extension of ATHL. The 2001 collection featured, as Patino describes, “full top and bottom micro fiber suits, technical running shorts, amazing applications, dry yarn moisture wicking tank tops developed in Italy and Portugal. The 2001 line was compared to Prada sport, Patagonia, and Nike running product,” he continues. “We used technical fabrics with sleek Euro-styling fit and colors.” The Athletech division aims “to be like the Champions, Reeboks and Nikes of the world, which is a huge, hardcore athletic-oriented business,” he says. “We already sponsor local basketball teams in our local community. So uniforms and making actual hard goods like basketballs and baseballs — designing tennis rackets and so on — is a part of our big picture.”
And then there’s the just Gawsie division, which Patino describes as “our premium designer sportswear label, similar to Lacoste, Bikkemberg and Fred Perry. We’re aiming to be the future of the athletic industry from the US market,” he says. Fittingly, Gawsie is sold at Fred Segal, Atrium and Bloomingdales, Zebraclub, Madison, while Gawsie Athletech intends to be featured in major gyms and other athletic outlets. The Gawsie line began with the medieval-themed Palladium Park, which was Gawsie’s third shipment in 2003. “[It was] our strongest group ever,” says Patino. “Palladium Park was broken up into two deliveries: the first half explained the collection with graphics that consisted of four teams that went to battle at Palladium Park. The four teams at battle were the Archangels, Eagles, Lions, and Warriors. These teams all consisted of four graphics, each to make up the teams, and were produced in shades of browns, nudes, reds, and light blues, with pop-color prints to encompass the battles. Our second delivery of Palladium Park will be in stores by December 2003,” he continues. “[It] will showcase three different groupings of Italian Merino wool, hand-knitted sweaters from Italy. We also added to the collection by adding fleece from Portugal in majestic gold, with dark brown lion prints to tie back to the tee shirt grouping on top of a long sleeve grouping with new advanced printing techniques in dark colors of arc angels and lions. The Palladium Park collection is the first collection by Gawsie,” Patino describes, “to fully open the doors and eyes of the elite of the elite of the premium sportswear market and make history throughout the world.”
“Palladium Park was about the local heroes, local teams and local championship battles,” clarifies Llano. “The word ‘pala’ [refers to] ‘Athena,’ the goddess, and ‘dium’ [to] the field or garden — ‘Athena Garden.’ Warriors would battle for a place in her garden and to be by her side.”
“It was a very dark collection that opened up premium sportswear accounts all across the country,” says Patino. “Like Bill Hallman, in Atlanta; Untitled, in Chicago; Zebra Club, in Seattle; Boro 51, in Nevada; Commander Salamander, in DC; Madison, in LA; American Rag La Brea, Bloomingdales, Fred Segal; Atrium, in NYC, and the list goes on and on.”
The current collection, Coastal Sol, has continued to open accounts across America — think Saks and Bergdorf Goodman — picking up where Palladium Park left off, and then some. Gawsie’s first full collection, Coastal Sol has wowed initial watchers, offering fifty-plus cut-and-sew designs beyond the graphics-based gear. And though Coastal Sol shows a sunny disposition typical of spring — and while Palladium Park’s darkness seemed a perfect fit for fall — “the two collections are kind of seasonal only because of the delivery dates,” Llano tells me. “Coastal Sol could have been fall and Palladium Park could have been spring. It’s about the concepts, the athlete and the spirit of the sport. Not the season or popularity,” he says. “Coastal Sol is a little different because I wanted it to be more fun, young and more about the lifestyle of a golfer.”
The collection is comprised mostly of male fashion fundamentals: shorts and pants, jackets and button downs, tee shirts and polos — all with urban-yuppie pastels, cursive lettering, subtle details (like faux darts on a windbreaker), and contrast stitching on back pockets begging for focus on fit body parts — that lend the collection a feminine-but-hardly-effeminate feel. It’s metrosexual, only not on a bullet train to Cliche Land; it’s Ryan Seacrest, only with a better tan and a bling-bling edge; it’s trendy, only many moments ahead of being dubbed that. It’s a little dandy, sure, but I like to think Gawsie wearers are men who turn down their hairstylist’s suggestions of highlights; fellows who are hush-hush about eyebrow waxing; guys who drink white chocolate martinis for the vodka content; dudes who dig lines like Coastal Sol because they’re simply —
” — Real pimp stuff,” pimped Select Showroom owner Matt Germaine. He laid out the Coastal Sol collection, the hypothetical vacation wardrobe of a young professional way into golfing attire. The fresh-from-New-York samples seemed largely and chicly Easter egg-colored: mint greens, sky blues, and sunset oranges played up against darker logos and sand backgrounds. There are basic, relaxed-fit chino shorts, with carpenter hook details — theoretically for golf paraphernalia — and slacks simple enough to shift attention to other pieces–like breezy, cotton-linen, two-button blazers, with selectively frayed edging. Some of the pieces have lightly gelled text — “Coastal Sol,” “Feeling Good,” and less legible English-Italian-French scripting — while others are more classically preppy in blank Italian seersucker fabric. Tee shirts are swept with bold graphics prints, front and back, following soft color schemes: baby blue with navy blue and white, bright orange with light, light sherbets. The most popular print is a sketchy golf bag crossed out by golf clubs, largely on tee shirts or on the back of piqued polos.
It’s the polos that better articulate the Coastal Sol concept than what the title, simply scripted onto blazers and shirts, can do. There are forgettable solid, piqued polos, with only teeny trademark nickel-plated logos to distinguish them, or now predictable prints (Hawaiian flowers or golf graphics). But then Gawsie’s young professional turns into more of a fashionisto via smooth cotton polos that feature three pearl snap buttons and half of a front pocket — hypothetically for sunglasses — with stitching that outlines the missing half, hinting at novelty over practicality. And for the metrosexual unconcerned with looking hetero: try a cashmere, johnny collar polo with tiger stripes over a palm tree and Caddillac graphic. It’s these pieces, and the adventurous tee shirt versions, that are the link between Gawsie the obviously street-wearable and Gawsie the almost-runway. Several items in the collection find this point between high and low, including the hypertextured terry cloth hoodies (in royal blue and melon) and the “Rainman” poncho, with its crisscross neckline and bibbed hood, and its PU-coating that offers an almost slippery feel to compliment its trench coat-like belt details.
“The press is eating that up,” said Germaine, of the poncho.