BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
To say that fashion designer Andrew Gn, whose lush and intricate designs have recently graced Janelle Monae and Amy Adams, was surprised when he walked into Casa Branca last week would be an understatement. Longtime friend and designer Alessandra Branca transformed her bijou of an atelier in the Gold Coast into a tribute to the Singapore-born now Paris resident Gn, with signature peacock feathers and intricate jewels set in the 16th century pietra dura inlay replicated on opulent wall panels.
Chic Chicagoans couldn’t resist peeking into the pop-up store and a chance to visit with Andrew, who launched his namesake label in 1996. Cynthia Chereskin, Elizabeth Ryan, Karen Riley McEniry, and Noren Ungaretti cohosted the event with Alessandra.
University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation President Diane Reilly welcomed guests with glasses of champagne, explaining that a portion of the proceeds from Andrew’s Fall-Winter 2018 Collection sold at the pop-up would benefit the foundation.
Diane has said:
“It is an honor to serve as the UCCRF Women’s Board President and experience first hand the energy, passion, and commitment our board has to providing ‘seed-funding’ for the most innovative, cutting-edge research taking place in the field today.
“University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation is one of the country’s premier institutions for the research, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. UChicago strives to explore and develop innovative ways to prevent and reduce the effects of cancer.
Every day we are working collaboratively to Answer Cancer!”
Alessandra explained her view of the atelier and hinted at future possibilities for its use: “The pop up was a wonderful opportunity to introduce my friend Andrew—an amazing talent—to Chicago in an informal and very personal space rather than a store.”
She was off to the Kips Bay Showhouse to install a display, but before departing she hosted a Booth One dinner for Andrew and her pals. She honored his Parisian passions with bouquets of anemones set in the candlelight: the evening became the ultimate girls night out.
Andrew visits Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco seasonally. His line appears as well at Bergdorf’s and Neiman’s, and he says that even though his clothes often walk the red carpet, he has a diversified clientele ranging from 25 to 95 years old.
“I am a very happy person—I love my life. I am not at all like the Daniel Day Lewis character in Phantom Thread. Work is a blessing—I never take a break. My office in Paris is lined with books and ceramics and is a very pleasant place. I am not a sketcher. I let a design mature in my mind then I communicate it to my assistants.”
We asked about his Hollywood clientele:
“Janelle Monae looked terrific recently in one of my peacock designs, which I created as a tribute to Aubrey Beardsley’s illustration for Oscar Wilde’s Salome. I particularly like Amy Adams. She is a real woman who knows what she wants and is very intelligent, much like Julianne Moore.”
An avid auction house denizen, Andrew was taken as a child by his father to sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s and taught to love them. After Chicago, Andrew headed to California to view the traveling David Rockefeller auction preview.
At the pop-up, glorious blouses adorned with roses displayed his love of English porcelain: “I brought a bowl into my atelier and had it scanned. One of my assistants would then draw it and paint it. We would then prepare the print for the blouse.”
One of the most feminine pieces was a dress taken from a Kyoto fabric Andrew loved.
“I am part Japanese and part Chinese and was inspired by a 17th century silk weaving. We like to change our themes: it might be Indian mogul, but recently it was global tribal with pieces hinting of ancient Egypt or Southern Africa.
“I believe in craftsmanship first and foremost, anything done by hand. We use all sorts of fabrics, silk and cashmere, of course, but it is fun to work with viscose as well. We make our own buttons, textiles, and, often, lace. I like perfect symmetry, and Chanel is the only other house that has that.”
Andrew has two Right Bank houses in Paris, one where he loves to live in candlelight, surrounded by 19th century ascetics, English porcelains, and Old Masters. He recently redesigned his other residence—an apartment just blocks away—with an eye for 20th and 21st century design, with contemporary painting and sculpture, as well as mid-century modern pieces.
Growing up in Singapore, he delighted seeing his mother dressed in Chanel, Bill Blass, and St. Laurent. It seems his sister was equally as enchanted by their mother’s fantastic sense of style:
“My sister is very glamorous and a bit rebellious. For her wedding she chose a gold Azzedine Alaia with a hood, deep slits on the sides, and layers designed to peel off. Great expressions on the faces of guests at the church!”
Pop-up photo credit: Mary Clare O’Sadnick, of Branca, Inc.