How the designer’s new Brooklyn label is looking beyond digital nostalgia.
At the age of 21, New York-based designer Scott Watts already has a clearly defined agenda. His brand, gallery909, is a design system constantly reinventing itself through a single medium: the human form. Through this, he is creating a technological perspective on clothes that is more approachable than the superficial fantasies of the wearable tech craze.
Before becoming a designer, Watts’ ambition was to become a software engineer. This past is evident in his references to the dawn of interface technology. “Evening Star,” the brand’s fourth collection, is a representation of gallery909’s absolutist standard. Metallics merge with neutral tones and utopian shapes. Graphics read as the identity tags of a lost generation, exposing “dystopia” stretched across a semi-transparent chest. It is a sentiment touched on by young designers from Josh Reim to Lea Peckre. What looks like digital nostalgia to some or a plan for the future to others, is , in fact, a move toward an alternate now.
Although accepted, Watts chose to attend neither engineering nor design school. He is a self-taught designer who constructs most pieces himself out of his studio in Brooklyn with help from a small but growing team of interns and associates. Raised in Miami to Jamaican parents, tall and wire-thin with a braided bowl-cut and gold-rimmed glasses, Scott Watts is a man of few words, but discussed details of his vision with Reva Ochuba:
The label employs a fabrication process that spans multiple platforms of matter. What sparked this progression of “found” materiality?
Scott Watts: It originally came from my desire to approach fashion differently through a lack of technique, but I came to find it so much more pleasing and organic to use. These materials, when I construct them into garments, are not being created using techniques taught at any institute. It’s purely my hands trying to guide this raw item into the image I see in my head. This, more than anything, makes it art before clothing. Bringing in different materials that aren’t cotton or polyester contribute to the idea of what gallery909 may be portraying that specific season; more so than simply hinting at these ideas with cotton garments.
Yet, I’m also all about contrast, so I still make pieces out of cotton and more common textiles to showcase levels of garment identity. Also, those who may not take part in the more avant-garde pieces can still make a connection through a t-shirt or pant.
What are some aesthetic hurdles you have overcome in growing Gallery909?
Scott Watts: The priority has always been making sure gallery909 has a soul, and maintains that soul. Sometimes designers, like myself, who have interests in more alternative approaches to clothing and place strong imagery behind that clothing create products that are deemed “unapproachable”. Focusing more on the idea of contrast has allowed me to accentuate the wearer in society rather than forcing the idea of disconnection from society.
It would seem that gallery909 prefers thinking forward, to the future, through a kind of post-IBM nostalgia. Does this rhetoric at all influence your design process?
Scott Watts: I design around the idea that gallery909 is a world. The elements and tones that occupy this world are translated into clothing. I love finding new techniques, practices, and moods that have yet to be expanded upon; leaving me to look and think further ahead. It is evident that what lies further is the expansion of technology, the relationship it has with the human being, and the influence it has on us. Sometimes that’s the only thing taken from my work, but it’s so much more….I am designing wear for occupants of a different world and anything different is usually associated with the future.
Are you opposed to gallery909 being attached to the future?
Scott Watts: I’m more pleased with people gaining that idea from our effort to forward-think. Not so much from just our graphics or any assumed deep science inspiration, but the story we’re trying to tell with our collection or their explanation of where we stand amongst things at the moment.
In previous interviews you have said to be inspired by Albert Einstein and internet dependency. What, at the moment, is of interest to you?
Scott Watts: Not so much Einstein or internet dependency. I feel that was whatever publication taking the simplest route from my statements. Currently, I’m very interested in absolutism — things pushed all the way so they are full. Systems, circuits, anything that can continue to be and function without any needed input.
I’m applying this to gallery909 and pushing it all the way. It’s a mood, it’s physical, it’s a way of life. Something can be gallery909-ish: a clock, even a car.
How far are we from gallery909-designed driver interface technology?
Scott Watts: Not too far. From furniture design samples and making one-offs, all the way to creating books and revisiting the concept of the physical book itself, everything right now is just being approached.
We will continue to establish a visual language and place it into everything we create whether it be a chair, an appliance, or a vehicle.