Achilles Gabriel has no shortage of engagements. Alongside consultancy projects for Cédric Charlier, Sunnei and Esteban Cortazar, the straight-talking, Paris-based, Finland-born designer was responsible for Marni’s colorful men’s footwear until last year. And for fall ’19, he designed the footwear for Courrèges, which recently relaunched under creative director Yolanda Zobel.
But while he enjoys the variety, Gabriel has launched his own label, Ion, because he was craving more creative freedom. “I wanted to [start] something where I can do exactly what I want rather than having to take on the identity of the other brand,” he told FN.
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And Ion (the designer’s middle name, (inherited from his great-grandfather) is Gabriel through and through. “It’s everything I love,” he said of the saturated colors and exaggerated silhouettes.
The line, which hits stores for fall ’19 consists of footwear and clothing that are predominantly unisex. Hero shoe models, all made in Marche, Italy, include a square-toe ankle boot in vivid tomato with a hand-painted extended sole and a mixed-material sneaker where the laces extend the whole way to the toe. There are also baseball-inspired boots with sneaker soles.
Such off-key details on a clean aesthetic make the pieces unique without appearing overdesigned. “It’s about not having everything hanging out or you start looking like an influencer,” said Gabriel. (He doesn’t do influencers.)
And although there are elements of Nordic mythology in the designs — not least in the logo, a rubber-coated art deco coin embedded into the soles of the shoes — Gabriel doesn’t restrict himself when it comes to inspiration. “I don’t believe in doing a mood board where we have a sailor and a slut, and let’s do a collection,” he said.
The whole operation is collaboration. Knitwear is made in partnership with family-run Macedonian label Blondbeton and eyewear with Blyszak, a luxury optics line run by a friend. As for his first campaign, it was styled by Gabriel’s boyfriend, Hannes Hetta, and features long-term friends including Ion CEO Sacha Garel.
The designer said his target customer is “people who love good shoes, value materials and craftsmanship but don’t just want a boring laceup.”
And while sales are still being finalized, Gabriel confirmed that big-name retailers are already well-represented.”