Everyone has an era that touches their soul and journeys with them through a lifetime of style shifts. It might be an affection for 80s sportswear, a hangover from the first time around that can’t quite be shaken off, or a love of vintage flared denim inherited from 70s rock ‘n’ roll vinyl.
The cool minimalism of the 90s has stuck with the Galvan girls since their teens and underpins the new label’s look. All centre-partings, dewy skin and strong eyebrows, the foursome share more than a hint of the supermodel verve and vitality that was so potent then; in turn, their designs are imbued with a youthful freedom derivative of that infectious energy. Growing up, they pasted Herb Ritts photographs torn from magazines into their school journals and poured over black and white shoots of Christy Turlington in Vogue. “There’s a particular Peter Lindberg image of Amber Valetta wearing angle wings which has inspired a slip dress for our SS 15 collection,” shares L.A.-born creative director Sola Harrison.
The clever foursome have tasked themselves with recalibrating the idea of eveningwear, casting aside associations of aging taffeta and grandiose gowns with their modern collection of elongating slinky dresses and effortless evening jackets which has been snapped up by Bergdorf Goodman’s, Neiman Marcus and Matchesfashion.com in their
“Clean, modern, young,” says Harrison, 30, preaching words not often slung into eveningwear’s vernacular. American CEO Katherine Holmgren, 29, elaborates: “The adjective we return to time and again is ‘modern’ – it’s less trend-driven than ‘cutting edge’. When we think of modern design, the lines of mid-20th century architecture might pop to mind, or the creations of Geoffrey Beene in the late 1980s to early 1990s. This type of clean, pared-down design is timeless because it always feels fresh and relevant.”
The four convivial, rangy girls are friends first and foremost. Harrison, a former model, shared a room 10 years ago in New York with Galvan’s sales director Carolyn Hodler, 29, before the latter went to work for Christie’s Contemporary Art Department. On the international art scene, the girls met Holmgren, 29, Head of Corporate Development at the Serpentine Gallery and previously Frieze Art Fair. Holmgren explains, “For years we had complained with our friends about the difficulty of finding the right dress for black tie events. Each art gala or wedding meant another desperate hunt for a dress that was modern and beautifully made without costing a fortune.”
“We felt that simple elegant evening wear with a modern edge was missing in the market and so we founded Galvan,” states Swiss-born Hodler with breezy ease, but not before they had quit their respective jobs, found their designer Anna-Christin Haas, 35, – a graduate of AMD Academy of Fashion and Design and Jasmine Di Milo’s design director for eight years – via a mutual friend and sought expert feedback from industry professionals and friends working in retail and PR. “The art world can be a tricky arena to navigate in terms of dressing,” says top London fashion and art PR Daisy Hoppen. “There is absolutely a feeling of wanting to look chic and understated, and with that comes the never-ending search for a relevant black tie outfit that isn’t couture prices or overtly sexy.” Stripped of fussy detailing, Haas cuts the elegant and simple dresses with a fluidity that belies their clean and linear look, using only the best fabrics. Working with the best mills in Italy, France and Spain, she says, “Fabrics are an essential part of design and have the most immediate, sensual impact on your skin. Comfort should be an essential aspect of luxury.” That means combining classic silk and stretch crepes with interesting textures and specialty materials, such as the metallic spaghetti strap dress which uses lightweight knitted metallic lamé with netting. “It feels modern and interesting without being fussy or overcomplicated.”
The pared back look has dual-sided benefits – not only do the designs feel timeless, but without expensive embellishment the pieces have a much more accessible price point. “Women have begun to realise that if they buy classic, simple pieces not only can they wear them season after season but they can have more fun accessorising them,” says Hodler, who wore their jumpsuit to a Madrid wedding with a bohemian cape from Talitha and then to a gallery opening with a smart Stella McCartney blazer. “It could not have looked more different.”
Behind this modern aesthetic is a truly forward thinking operation. Based out of their Notting Hill studio in west London, with Haas based in her Dussledorf atelier, the girls travel between L.A., London and Germany and communicate via a series of toiling sessions with constant contact via phone, Skype and email. “The geographical separation isn’t problematic,” shrugs Haas, “Quite the contrary, really, because we do have such a strong sense of shared purpose and a clear view of what we want our collections to stand for.”