Serum Versus Venom – Flux interviews David Gensler – words Anna Westerman
David Gensler is founder of Bespoke and Made to Measure design brand Serum Versus Venom (SVSV). Defying definition as another “fashion brand”, Gensler explores a creative niche with clothing being only a small part of what the brand ultimately offers. Gensler dabbles not only in design, but in ideas, media and art as platforms for expression – oh and did we mention he’s also founder of design and communication agency, the Keystone Design Union (KDU)?
Created in 2003, SVSV is a long-term study into the collision of craft and utility, focused on creating a new luxury. The brand proudly stands against all things mass produced and consumed; and hell bent on reducing waste, respectfully and impressively create all their pieces exclusively in their own Brooklyn-based factory, with no exteral factors playing any part in their production process.
After a mini hiatus, the SVSV design line is being re-launched to the general market with a celebratory collaboration with LA based KDU member Victor Antonio. Flux caught up with David Gensler to talk ideas, ethics and quality control.
FLUX: What did you initially want to create with Serum Versus Venom?
David Gensler: I wanted to simply participate in the world of fashion and share my ideas and personal vision. I witnessed so many other brands succeed and fail and I simply thought (like many) – I could do it a different and possibly better way. I think most new ventures start the same way – part ego and part inspiration.
FLUX: How has your vision or mission differed since your temporary hiatus in 2003?
David Gensler: We built the brand aggressively until 2007 and then shifted to a few large consulting projects. These projects allowed us to travel the world and study new emerging trends and innovation – which we then applied back to our own brand. My thinking has not changed much, but my methodology of execution, modelling and process has changed considerably. I think most fashion designers, or any type of designer for that matter, focus on the subjective “art” side of design – striving to innovate only in this area. This one dimensional approach focused on the subjective produces predictable results, which become easy to read, especially in an increasingly dense brand landscape. We decided to focus on both the craft of fashion and object design, but to dedicate our passion in equal amounts to the objective business strategy. In fashion, in this modern market, the business model is the element that demands the most innovation and will drive success… it is what, if executed properly becomes the objective foundation you can build from.
FLUX: Take us through your key influences and inspirations for the S/S11 collection.
David Gensler: First, just to clear it up, we do not adhere to a seasonal calendar. We attempt to create seasonally appropriate garments, but ignore the traditional retail calendar, which forces you to design too quickly and often produces more waste than innovation and value. In terms of innovation, I am lucky to travel the world constantly with our KDU consulting business and get to experience different cultures and the personality and opinions of some of the most talented people in art and design. I was very inspired by Jason Denham and Liam Maher from Denham Denim. Their obsession with craft and narrative is impressive in this modern day and age. I was also inspired by the energy of China and how passionate the local artists and designers are with preserving their heritage and cultural identity. I basically take little bits and pieces from everything I encounter and develop my own narrative.
FLUX: How important is it to you on a personal level, that everything – from your garment’s design to construction – is carried out in your own factory?
David Gensler: It is everything to me. It is the cornerstone of our business model – allowing quality control, speed to market and constant, practical innovation. We never lose sight or touch with our products. How can you call something exclusive or rare or luxury, if you have no idea who makes it? “Design” is (or should be) a 100% control of the process from conception to consumption… any time you lose control you jeopardize quality and you allow the marketing of exclusivity to replace its reality – this is nothing short of fraud!
FLUX: You’ve worked on various collaborations under the KDU producing artwork with Victor Antonio and Josh Vanover. How do you feel these collaborations compliment the brand?
David Gensler: Unlike most brands which use collaborations to stimulate market interest – I could not care less. The garment should speak for itself and hold 100% of the value. The art is simply art. It is a major part of the brand – since it is the most personal element to me. Victor and I share the same beliefs on mass production, the negative effects of too much reliance on digital culture and interface and other issues. The art is a tangible discourse which has and will continue over an extended time frame. If people like it, great, if they hate it, great… it is personal and I have to express it somehow. Poems and Philosophy manifesting in a jacket or pair of pants does not wear well with most people… they want their jackets to be great jackets and their art to not have sleeves and sturdy zippers.
FLUX: Do you think it is important to have this other dimension to your brand in today’s market rather than just offering fashion?
David Gensler: I don’t see the brand, much less define it as a “fashion” brand – I rather view it as a “design” brand which produces art, ideas, objects, some of which are garments. The fashion industry is too crowded and it would be insane to re-enter in this miserable economy – with that said, art is timeless and people are always interested in new ideas. I am also confident that people are interested in supporting their local industries and communities – SVSV helps employ New York craftspeople and pushes to keep manufacturing in New York a reality (even if on a small scale).
FLUX: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Everything is just bricks in a wall. I am proud of many things – but I really look at tomorrow, not yesterday. I am just happy to be able to contribute to helping people achieve their goals. A year after I am gone, hopefully someone interviews my replacement robot and it has a more specific highlight to discuss. lol.
FLUX: Finally, what are your plans for the future with SVSV? Are there any plans to bring out a women’s line?
David Gensler: I want to use my own brand to help other small businesses and crafts people in New York’s dying garment industry to stay alive and once again thrive. I want to make good quality, relevant garments and objects that are worth the price we are charging. I am very interested in personally exploring a new SVSV women’s collection which I hope to debut in winter of this year. I think female fashion is very boring right now and hopefully my POV will spark some new discourse.
Please take a look at Serum Versus Venom from David Gensler architect, David Gensler Jay Z line & David Genzler facebook at davidgensler.com.
by Anna Westerman