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GJF Portrait by Alex Sainsbury

Issue 65 Dialogue: Geoffrey J Finch

Under-the-radar and super desirable, ANTIPODIUM are a word of mouth brand, a secret -until you find out all your friends are into them as much as you. They’re the kind of label you actually find in people’s wardrobes, making their name with wearable, joyful and badass clothes that prove you don’t have to be po-faced to be into fashion.

WORDS / Isabelle O’Carroll

Geoffrey J Finch, Antipodium‘s Creative Director clearly loves the ‘clever, strong, independent, witty, really well-read but fun’ women that are drawn into the brand’s orbit, citing Miss Piggy and Dolly Parton as his dream women. Lauren Laverne -another Antipodium acolyte- who put her DJs skills into play with a mix for their AW13 show in February, says: ‘In a world of imitators, Antipodium really do their own thing.’ Laverne goes on to describe their aesthetic as ‘equal parts style, cool and wit. You can sometimes fake the first two but never the last. It’s funny because the pieces have so much personality but they never overwhelm the wearer, which is a tricky balance to strike.’ This last comment nails some of the Anti-appeal, there’s a filmic, old-school quality to Finch’s designs. Peel away the fun fabrics, wink-wink prints and layers of meaning and you’re revealed something quite old-fashioned: the full skirt, the prim shirt, the dainty dress, all classic pieces to wear and wear again. Fashion Writer Laura Silver says: ‘Antipodium, especially with their tailored pieces and silk shirts, allows you to dress like a normal grown-up, but without any overwhelming bland vibes.’ For women who are, as Finch puts it: ‘sexy in their own way and they’re not afraid to be feminine’.

A recent partnership with ASOS on a shoe range is just the tip of the collaborative iceberg, this is a label that has always been surrounded by talented types, even when it was still a boutique PR and wholesale agency. Their plastic surgery print designed by Dr Tim Goodacre, president of BAPRAS (British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons) was one of the highlights of AW13′s ‘How to Affect Robots and Influence People?’ catwalk show. Design duo Craig and Karl have worked on prints for the label, Vogue’s Jaime Pearlman gave her creative input on the Emoji Pre-Resort 13 collection, and architect Pernilla Orstedt created the 3D metal hair combs for their SS13 collection.

Geoffrey J Finch is a bright and entertaining character with a knack for witty one-liners and an infectious laugh who knows how to throw a good party. This personality is writ large into his light-hearted, engaging collections. The ebullient, socially brilliant side of this Creative Director belies the heart of a grafter: ‘Nothing makes me happier than being here on a Saturday listening to Radio 4 and sketching away. It can be a lonely thing and you end up going a bit crazy, you end up thinking about a skirt shape for days at a time.’ It’s a work ethic and practicality that has made Antipodium a commercial success with stockists in Japan, the UK and US. Originally from Toowoomba, country Queensland, but now a adoptive Londoner, Finch’s pragmatic way with fashion is more than a little due to his Australian roots.

This commercial sensibility was also instilled on the job, when Finch worked a ‘proper rag trade’ stint as a fashion wholesaler in Brisbane: ‘I had to drive to the Gold Coast in this van because a shop hadn’t paid for some stock. I was just 19 at the time, I had to go down and demand payment or start ripping stock out of the shop!’ This grounded knack for the practicalities of business sits well with the design training he received in France a few years earlier, at a Lycée Professionel just outside Lyon studying the principles of haute couture: ‘it was pretty regional but the teachers were amazing’.

Back in London, Antipodium was one of the internships he pursued and a meeting of minds happened between him and founder Ashe Peacock: ‘We’ve become very close friends, I think it was instant love when we first met. I think I took over when Ashe started having babies and I kind of started the label by mistake.’

After initially finding London ‘ugly’, Finch had an epiphany in Camden Market – of all places – when he was 17 and now loves the city: ‘moving here, I’ve found London to be very welcoming. I’ve found people to be so helpful if you’ve got a bit of a personality and some drive.’ It’s this mix of Brit and Aus that makes the brand so compelling: ‘the sense of humour of the brand, there’s a slight Australian irreverence. A lack of pretension. That mixing with a London sense of humour. I grew up on British comedy, I’m a big fan of keeping up Appearances, I love Rose, the really tarty sister!’* Laura Silver says: ‘There’s a really nice, subtle humour in their prints – a daffodil-print dress I have sneakily includes ball-sacks as the flower bulbs. Bollocks to traditional floral print! I also can’t think of any other label who could credibly work the Eastenders opening sequence into a print.’

As much as London wit runs deep in his collections, the wearability, cool-girl factor and accessible price points put him closer to New York boutique labels like Rachel Comey, Rag&Bone and Cynthia Rowley. London is renowned for design talent but it often goes hand in hand with a lofty-luxe aspiration. For a fashion industry figure Finch is refreshingly realistic about earthly things like money: ‘you want your bang for buck, if you’re paying £229 for a dress, that’s what it costs, but still that’s money. That’s a significant investment for people so you want them to get the most out of it. Maybe it’s an Australian thing’.

Ask Finch what’s next and you get a typically casual answer: ‘Painting the hall in our new studio, I’m quite liking a Gary Hume pink. I’m pretty obsessed with pink, any colour as long as it’s pink’.Pressed further, Finch reveals a ‘game changer’ is looming. A big consultancy gig with a major brand is on the horizon, proof -if needed- that the word of mouth has risen to a roar.

 

FIELD NOTES

  1. Keeping Up Appearances is a BAFTA-nominated British sitcom that aired in the first half 90s.
  2. As a relatively innocent Australian teen in London, the first time Geoffrey went to GAY he says:
  3. ‘I was such a baby, I remember thinking, wow everyone’s so friendly!’
  4. I have been on on the front page of the Toowoomba Chronicle, I’m not going to lie. It’s laminated [in my mum's house]

 

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