As the initiators of the Napoleonic-era style in 2004, and the medieval-style in 2006, and the Enlightenment 16th century look presented in Geoffrey’s fall/winter 2008 works, they are known among insiders as being quite strong in using historical research and reference and applying it to steering avant-garde fashion into new directions and social and political thinking. “The fact that so many other designers watch our Paris collections and eventually utilize our innovations for their own interpretations lends credence that a knowledge of history can be a useful thing, even in fashion.”
Now more than ever, as Geoffrey seek balance and sustainability at the climax of the industrial age, “A knowledge of history and how our ancestors lived and managed their environment and resources is invaluable.” For 10,000 years humans made due without electricity, gas, nuclear power, petroleum, airplanes, auto-mobiles and the myriad of electric appliances and gadgets that we now cannot seem to live without.
“Perhaps because I am a history and culture-starved American living in Italy, now with seemingly unending discovery of how people lived on this continent that is still recorded and available (unlike at home where the culture of our native population was wiped out in the 19th century)…I am constantly amazed and reminded of the blip in time that our ‘way of life’ represents in the general scheme of things. And I am constantly amazed at how many simple, elegant and efficient solutions, as well as mistakes and warnings of how not to handle our current problems, lie in studying and looking at how people lived before us.”
“Since our first Paris collections, we have made a commitment to use the medium of fashion as an Art form and a communications medium to speak to a generation of people not just about how to look, but also about how to be, and how to think — our view of a different kind of lifestyle company than most, perhaps.”
In the 1990’s, Geoffrey B. Small pioneered recycling in designer fashion along with Martin Margiela and Lamine Kouyate of Xuly Bet, and spoke out about America’s violent society. In January 2003, they were one of the very first designers to publicly come out against the planned U.S. invasion of Iraq. In 2004, their series of Napoleonic collections warned against the risks of global empire created in the name of liberty.
In 2006, Geoffrey’s series of medieval collections began to define the emergence of the new global feudalism and its eroding and deva-stating effects on middle classes everywhere. A year later, his ‘Schola’ collections highlighted the skyrocketing levels of illiteracy now being seen in industrialized nations, and its parallels with the middle ages and how it enabled feudalism to exist and thrive for over a thousand years.
In 2008, Geoffrey launched the initiative “do something” with a new 16th century style that embodied the Enlightenment, hope, and the taking of positive action to solve defined problems. The following year, he based his organic fabric collection with Luigi Parisotto on mid 19th century pre-chemical industrial textile milling and looming techniques to achieve unique characteristics.
In 2010, Geoffrey B. Small introduced the first collection in Paris to openly come out against the true risks, dangers and costs to nuclear energy and arms proliferation, presaging the triple-meltdown disaster at Fukushima Japan and helping to inspire the victorious anti-nuclear movement in Italy which led to the banning of nuclear power in that country in 2011.
In 2012, Geoffrey drew upon 1910’s and early turn-of-the-century labor struggles, suffering, and yes, clothing, to reflect upon the Occupy Movement, vastly diminishing civil liberties in the United States, and non-violent people around the world working for dignity, equality and freedom.
As Pablo Picasso once stated, “An artist is only as good as what he knows,” and what he knows is totally dependent on the culture in which he is living. And a culture is only as good as how well the current generation of its people know the history of how their ancestors lived, survived and prospered on the very same ground where they try to stand today. As the saying goes, “those who do not know history are destined to repeat it,” and that holds particularly true for civilizations in decay and decline. And in our Art, we must reflect not only what is happening in the world around us, but also what has happened before us. Then knowing what is going to happen next becomes almost obvious, if not crystal clear. And doing something to make things better becomes a possibility…”