by Daniel Andrews-Rubenstein
Photos, Art Direction & Styling by Gerardo Dubois
My first assignment for WUBA is to interview Gerardo Dubois. Dubois, known to most by his nom de mode, Bandoleiro, took this year’s BAF Week by storm with his imaginative and transgressive designs. More recently, he has been working on a series of pieces with Björk. I know little about fashion and even less about designers, my vague impression of the latter having been formed mostly by Maya Rudolph’s portrayal of Donatella Versace on Saturday Night Live. Understandably, I’m a bit nervous.
I meet Bandoleiro at his workshop, a PH in Villa Crespo. He greets me at the door wearing trainers and track pants. On first sight his aura hovers a little closer to hood than Mugatu; I am relieved. Bandoleiro brings me to his office, a small room off his workspace. The room is dim, cozy and filled to the brim with his projects. Boxes filled with photographs and work materials fill shelves along the high walls. A long rack is tightly packed with dresses and what can only be described as Technicolor Dreamcoats. He brings me up to his roof where he produces the end of a joint. After partaking, he brings me to his neighborhood cafe for tea and empanadas so we can talk business.
Bandoleiro was born in the Western suburb of Paso del Rey and moved to Buenos Aires seven years ago at the age of nineteen. In school he stood out among his peers as a class clown. It’s easy imagining him in this role, though I should note that Bandoleiro himself isn’t loud like his designs. He offers a quiet, subversive humor that could crack up a classroom without irritating the teacher. After high school he enrolled at the Universidad de Palermo where he studied fashion design. However, he found the formality of the education didn’t suit him; he wanted to learn through creating and experimenting rather than by plotting out his creative process on a display board. After two years, he left the program.
The following year, in 2006, Bandoleiro had a falling out with a friend that resulted in some clothing being left at his house. He had no personal use for the items and they served only to remind him of his erstwhile friendship and undertook a project he describes as “emotional recycling.” He decided to transform this clothing, and thus the experience of losing his friend, into a creative project that would launch his career. He disassembled the clothing and refashioned the scraps with hand-me-downs from his mother and a few small things he stole. Bandoleiro wound up with 15 unique pieces he later sold at Festival Buendía.
While the looted accoutrements in the aforenamed collection were due in part to a humble design budget, they were also a nod to the “redistributive” aesthetic tenet that serves as the inspiration for Gerardo’s sobriquet. His pilfering, I should note, is usually paired with purchase; he will buy 5 buttons and stuff his pockets with the rest he needs. He explains to me that he sees a kind of Robin Hood value in stealing a little bit to create something beautiful.
After stints designing for several porteño brands, including Docena, Bandoleiro began focusing more on expanding his own eponymous line of couture. Over the years, he has become a local icon in the underground fashion scene and his creations sell for a premium abroad at boutiques in New York and Tokyo. Last year, he presented collections at Ciudad Emergente, Señor Amor, and BAF Week. His appearance at BAF Week caused ripples in the fashion world and heralded change in the event’s inclusion of emerging designers.
This year’s BAF Week played host to more small independent design houses, the result of a strategic alliance with the publicly funded Centro Metropolitano de Diseño. As a result, BAF Week-- a private enterprise,--was able to increase its budget with an influx of money from the city of Buenos Aires. This allowed the possibility to invite 6 designers who couldn’t foot the considerable bill of showing at the event.
Bandoleiro’s show, entitled “Principe y mendigo” (Prince and the pauper) was among the most discussed at this year’s show. Paperblog praised his collection for using rescued scraps of discarded textiles and everyday materials to create a “sustainable avant-garde style.” The clothing in the collection is difficult to characterize. It is futuristic yet indigenous. It has the abundant detail of the Neo-Baroque with a Dadaistic sense of absurdity. The show’s schema of modesty ranges from a long-sleeved frock to a leather ensemble that renders the wearers posterior entirely exposed to the elements (photo).
Last year Icelandic songstress Björk purchased one of Bandoleiro’s dresses at New York’s ever hip Opening Ceremony. She was so taken with the piece that she contacted Gerardo when she arrived in Buenos Aires to see the rest of his collection. After a surreal backstage rendezvous and a private showing, Björk commissioned Bandoleiro to design pieces inspired by her new album “Biophilia.”
While a fan of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, Bandoleiro explains that his inspiration doesn’t come from other designers. He tells me that he finds most of his inspiration in people he sees on the street, daily life, and porn. However, inspiration itself is not the driving force behind his creative endeavor. In Bandoleiro’s words, “I don’t so much believe in inspiration as I do in improvisation.”
Looking forward, Bandoleiro’s career could go in many directions. As his visibility increases both domestically and abroad, he is poised to expand his production and scope to satisfy an ever-growing fan base. However, he tells me that within the next 20 years he would like to be directing porn. This would most certainly be a loss to the world of avant-garde fashion, but could very well give way to a new genre of adult cinema where the unclothed emotion of the late Robert Mapplethorpe collides with the chromatic psychedelia of American commercial artist Lisa Frank. Until then, his designs will continue to stimulate and inspire audiences from Buenos Aires to Reykjavik.
FIND BANDOLEIRO AT:
Buenos Aires: Kabinett, Gurruchaga 1744, Palermo
New York City: Opening Ceremony, 35 Howard St
Los Angeles: Opening Ceremony, 451 North La Cienega Blvd
Models: Jonathan Ciarroca, Jordan Dawe and Edu Beber @ Hey Management, Matias She, Deni Toy @ Bandoleiro, Andi Bixel @ WUBA