This Monday, Feb. 14, within New York Fashion Week, Woolrich John Rich&Bros. launches a new Black Label collection for ladies designed by Creative Director, Paula Gerbase, as part of the new John Rich&Bros. premium women’s line. Born in Brazil and settled in London, Gerbase graduated from Central Saint Martins. She trained in bespoke tailoring at the atelier of Hardy Amies on Savile Row, followed by a five-year time as Head Designer at venerable tailor Kilgour, she developed her uncompromising eye for quality of fabric and construction, and her distinct minimalistic aesthetic. In addition to her work for the women’s collection of Woolrich John Rich&Bros., Gerbase designs her own London-based label, 1205. Here, Gerbase explains what the new collection will be about and how it will evolve.

How do you feel about designing the new Black Label Woolrich women's collection?
When I was asked to design the debut collection for Woolrich Black Label, I was excited by the heritage of the Woolrich brand showing so much in its fabric. I knew there was room for a great modern collection of women’s clothes that had beautiful fabrics both traditional and modern at their core. The collection needed to be as practical for the modern urban woman as the hunting vests of the ‘40s were for rural men. As always, the balance of femininity and masculinity was a starting point, but the collection really began to take shape once I started taking heavyweight mens hunting/fishing garments and subtracting the layers, revealing a purer, lighter, more feminine form. I was inspired to create clothes that were feminine in the way they felt when worn, delicate and fine, but had the honesty of the traditional Woolrich masculine garments.

How does your background and experience influence this new Woolrich collection?
Woolrich is a very interesting fit for me as a designer. Being a Woolen Mill, their archive and focus on textile and weaving techniques was endlessly fascinating, and meant that I could experiment with various weaving and knitting techniques for the collection. My own work has indeed always had a real focus on fabric, and I have been able to take it further with this collection with exclusive techniques and fabrics we have developed. The mannish outerwear and workwear was a perfect starting point for me creatively, as my own work has, since I can remember, focused on balancing masculine and feminine garments and techniques. With my own line, 1205, I explore unisex tailoring, and so with Woolrich Black Label, it was really about finding the core of the Woolrich garment by removing all the masculine outer layers, to reveal a softer more feminine silhouette, drawn from very functional masculine garments.

Paula Gerbase
Paula Gerbase
What is the focus of this new collection? What kind of woman do you have in mind wearing it?
I generally focus on fabric and construction. I don't like to hide behind embellishment, thinking about garments in their purest form. The balance/contrast between structure and draping interests me. I enjoy playing with proportion, and using interesting fabric mixes which contrast with each other, such as cashmere knitwear with nylons, or diaphanous silks with melton wools. I continue to explore the balances between masculine and feminine garments with my own line, as well as with Woolrich Black Label. I would hope that strong women with a clear view of their own identity would be drawn to the pieces, and that they take the garments and wear them in their own personal and unique ways.

Exploring Woolrich archives, a concentrate of long-time outerwear history, and mixing it with the needs of contemporary women's apparel - what is the result of such a challenge?
By exploring fabric techniques and developments, we have focused on the construction and heritage by contrasting feminine and masculine cuts and textures. For example, for the field jacket, which is a classic outerwear men’s piece, we have played with proportion, giving the body extra volume, while keeping the arms neat. While it is a voluminous garment, the fabric used was in contrast, very feminine, a knitted wool jersey. The jacket lines in featherweight nylon which not only adds extra drape, but also acts as a windproof layer, and to finish, the removable coyote collar harks back to the traditional fur-lined hoods of the archive pieces I studied.

How come you picked New York Fashion Week for your debut?
Woolrich is an American heritage brand; there would be no other place to begin this new chapter in the brands' history.

Can you give us a brief forecast on how the collection, the show and the whole atmosphere will be like?
The film we have shot for the f/w 2011/2012 collection plays with scale. It should feel intimate and awesome at the same time, and exaggerate the real focus on fabric and texture in the collection. It was important that the film itself played on the purity of the clothing, and I feel that the textures and the shapes are the real stars of the imagery.
It was important to use the heritage and language of Woolrich garments, and interpret them in a feminine way.