Gerrit Jacob, My German Heartthrob

I have been stalking Gerrit Jacob for five months now. I know that he likes popcorn, broccoli, baby food puree (apple), dislikes the sound of the Spanish language and onions. He arrives at the fashion studios of Central Saint Martins everyday at 9am, goes for his highly anticipated Waitrose break between 1 and 2, again at 5 and 6, then continues working till 10pm, usually leaving on the dot.

He likes to treat his home and work life with a certain degree of separation, and so rarely bring his garments home with him. “I actually go out like twice a week,”  [laughs]  “I would say I just don’t have time to be boring, you know?” He is a man after my own heart. 

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Gerrit tends to move tables when he has produced too much mess for his liking, and on the odd occasion that he is in his usual place (far right of the studio), he can be found by one very Hansel and Gretel technique: wherever he goes, he leaves behind a magical trail of ‘doodles’ on tables, chairs and walls.

Now, the term ‘doodle’ is his word, not mine, and is a total down play of his natural and emotive illustrative skill. “Oh yeah, I have ADHD, so I’m just always fidgeting,” he says, brushing it off. His illustrations show his slight obsession with the naked female form (there is hope), with focus on long flowing hair, and detailed faces.

The drawings carry a strong, raw emotion, and exude a soft sensuality, capturing vulnerability, as if these women are characters with stories. Gerrit has similar long flowing hair, although after casually coming across his college ID, I can see it used to be longer. It bounces coolly off his shoulders, stylistically parallel to his usual relaxed white tee and trackies combo.

Gerrit Jacob is in his third year of the BA Womenswear fashion design course at Central Saint Martins, having interned at Jonathan Saunders, Trager Delaney, Kenzo and Galliano (post Dior bust up) to hone his skills in preparation for his final collection. His collection is clearly an extension of himself, his use of jersey reflecting his laidback demeanour, and “classically German” design.

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“I never really intended it to be this German, but it is just so German” he says laughing. “It’s the colours – really graphic and mismatched – and the proportions, I think.” But something you notice even before his German aesthetic, is his warmth and charisma. There is a certain magnetism that seems to attract people to be around him at all times. He walks with an entourage of helpers, and friends in his wake, chatting and laughing, and seems to provide a calming to presence to some of the other more frantic designers.

“His best quality is how friendly and warm he is, the second being his hilarious demeanour.” Tesfar, one of Gerrit’s first year helpers, has only good words to say. “It was great working with Gerrit, he was chilled but always concise. He was clear and direct without putting any pressure on in terms of the deadlines for his hand ins, fittings and line ups.” Fan-girl levels most definitely engaged.

His collection ‘Geil’ – an out-dated German slang word that can mean cool (and horny) – is clearly influenced by his half-suburban, half-rural German upbringing. “The town of Bad Bramstedt has farms and fields, then there’s this one street that’s basically the city centre.”

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He lived back and forth between Bad Bramstedt, with his mum, and Hamburg, with his dad, until moving to Hamburg for good at the age of 15. This constant juxtaposition of city and suburbia has played a huge role for the inspiration for ‘Geil’. His manifesto explains that through the image of the perfect, glorious suburb, with its tall hedges, affluent nuclear families, and perfectly trimmed lawns, stands the dull reality of miserable girls growing up between mundane terrace houses, and gloomy streets. “It’s about those girls appropriating omnipresent images of sexuality without realising their significance, against the backdrop of their dismal environment.”

The collection illustrates this idea of an appropriated style, with many pieces having their own accompanying suburbia story and detail. A loose cream, cropped jacket sloping slightly off one shoulder represents a young girl reworking one of her mother’s old jackets, updated and reinterpreted. A blue jersey jumpsuit, broken up with red elastic, is tied casually at the hips of another model, and evokes putting on a father’s boiler suit. Lace panels can be seen protruding from the suit, over and around the hips, leaving a slither of exposed flesh.

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Trousers play a key role in showing the tomboy personality of the relaxed ‘Gerrit Girl’, but a sexual undertone is also palpable. Either a lace body draws attention to the hips, or the trousers do, with the hip areas completely removed. The dachshund motif can be found worked into almost every outfit, from being emblazoned on the chest of sporty collard shirts, to intricate plastic zips, and a huge iPhone case. The iPhone case created the perfect tongue in cheek catwalk moment, receiving appreciative chortling from the audience at the in-house show. Gerrit’s humour – truly his greatest weapon – found its way into his work once again.

Gerrit’s garments may not shout the loudest, or create the biggest spectacle, but they are clothes you would genuinely love to wear – no smoke and mirrors. They are relaxed, they are sexy, they are relevant and they are now. After the curtains closed on a spectacular BA show, and the audience had filed out, there were still no signs of Gerrit winding down. Gerrit took his encore at the official CSM after-party with his DJ’ing debut. It seems my beloved will continue to bless audiences of all kinds, whether it be fashionable front rows, or a club full of sweaty art students.  He will now be much harder to track (obsessively pursue), no longer contained in the walls of Central Saint Martins, but I vow to continue my stalking and provide more updates as the years go by. If all else fails, I’m sure his trail of illustrations will lead me down the right path.

Words by Becky Burgum.

All photographs by Julie Greve for Gerrit Jacob.

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