It’s Kind of a Funny Story: Christopher Peters and Shane Gabier, Creatures of the Wind
Next up in our series that profiles fashion couples and how they met
Shane Gabier: I think we should talk about the moment on the train.
Man Repeller: Is that how you met?
Christopher Peters: Well it’s not how we met, but that’s when we kind of decided we were going to be like, I don’t know…that was a weird experience.
SG: Well Chris was – at the time that we first met, I mean, I guess we’d known each other for –
CP: He didn’t even know who I was!
SG: No, a couple years later I looked at…one of Chris’s old student photo IDs, and he changed so much and I was like, “Wait, you were that guy?” You’d changed a lot in a couple of years.
MR: You guys went to school together?
SG: I was a professor The School of the Art Institute in Chicago and Chris was a student, and I was dating somebody else at the time, and we just kind of broke up, and Chris was maybe moving to London, and at that time, I mean, he’s ten years younger than me, he was just a kid, I wasn’t really thinking about it, you know what I mean?
I was teaching in fashion design, and Chris was a junior, but graduating. And…did my birthday happen first? Yeah, my birthday happened first.
CP: I think your birthday happened after. So I’d gone to school to clean out my locker and get all my stuff because I was leaving. I was moving to London to transfer to school there, and I –
SG: Oh yeah, so it was that night on the train. So I was downtown for some reason…
CP: You were there for Björk!
SG: Oh yeah, I went to see Björk! I was getting on the subway to go home and I got on the car and I looked to my right, and there was this dude that I’d been seeing around the neighborhood who I was into, and he kind of looked up and smiled at me, we said hi a few times, and then I looked to the other side and Chris was down at the other end of the car, and I was like, “hmmm,” and I went left and talked to Chris. That was a couple days before my birthday party.
CP: And so, I don’t know why I decided to do this because I was moving, but I thought, “Oh, I really think Shane’s cute, and I want to date Shane, I guess!”
MR: Just from that instance on the train?
SG: No, we’d known each other from the department a little bit, and he’d come over to my studio and helped me on a project earlier that spring, just for a couple of hours. And we had a lot of mutual friends.
CP: So I decided I wanted to date Shane, and I found out that his birthday party was coming up, so I called one of his best friends and was like, “Let’s hang out tomorrow night!” and she was like, “Oh, I’m going to Shane’s birthday!” and I was like, “Oh man, I really want to hang with you.” She said, “Oh, you can totally come to the party!” And I was like, “Can I?” And she goes, “Yeah, that would be cool!” So I got myself invited to his birthday party and I brought a really nice present, which was this still life photograph of Victorian England –
CP: London, yeah, and then one of his friends was there at the dinner, who was this super-cute dude, and he was kind of flirting with me during dinner. Shane wasn’t really paying attention to me at all, and I was like, “I don’t know if he likes me like that, whatever,” and the guy asks me, “Do you need a ride home?” and I go, “Sure.” So I got a ride home, we pull up to the front of my house, and he says, “Do you have roommates?” and I remember thinking at that moment, I really have to make a decision right now! This cute other dude, or Shane? So I said, it’s Shane, and I jumped out of the car and said, “I have roommates, everyone’s here, I gotta go bye!”
And that guy called Shane a couple of days later and asked him if it’d be OK if he asked me out, and Shane said no.
SG: He called and asked me if he could get Chris’s number, and I was like, “I don’t think you guys would be a really good match.” And then we had our first date the next week.
He came over –
SG: He’d just bought –
CP: I’d just bought the Jodorowsky –
SG: The Jodorowsky –
CP: Kind of like…
SG: His three movies.
CP: It was El Topo, The Holy Mountain and…something else. They’re like these super-psychedelic, super-violent movies. So we watched The Holy Mountain. That was our first date!
SG: He kind of moved in right away.
CP: And we’ve been together now for seven years….we’re always together, which is the other crazy part.
MR: When did you launch the business?
SG: Later that same year we started making stuff, because there’s a studio in my house, so we started just working on things, but at the time we weren’t really working towards anything specifically…
CP: The next February we decided we were going to take a bunch of stuff to LA.
SG: There were a couple of stores out there that we were interested in our stuff. We met a few editors. We met Kim Friday from Women’s Wear Daily at a party and one of our friends was wearing something we’d made, she asked about it, and she took our contact information.
CP: And then a couple of months later, we had the cover of WWD! But we didn’t even have a collection.
SG: No stores, just a rack of stuff we’d made. And they put it on the cover of WWD. That kind of started the ball rolling.
CP: And then we got a feature in W Magazine.
SG: We both knew we wanted to make clothes and it was really fun for us to work together, too.
CP: I don’t think we could’ve been any more naïve. We were like hillbillies making clothes! Like, “We’re going to sell a little fashion line!”
MR: That naiveté is so important.
CP: With fashion, it’s so difficult to get places. Knowing what it takes to get there, it’s just impossible. If you knew everything that would have to happen, it would be soul-crushing. It’s better not to know and kind of like, believe in miracles and just –
SG: Just figure it out.
MR: Do you think that being creative together helped your relationship?
SG: Yeah, for sure, and…after a couple of years, it worried me a little bit, like, “Can we sustain our relationship, working together like this?” You hear stories of couples working together in fashion and ending really disastrously. I mean, we talked about it a lot, but at a certain point too, we both realized that we grew up in households where our parents worked together. My parents had a business together, and so did Chris’s, so maybe that helps.
CP: One of the big things we’ve realized is that we can’t be separated from each other, and not in the way like, “We just love each other so much!” If we break the hive-mind, and this is more in the work realm, if we start reasserting our own separate aesthetics again, that’s when we start to fight.
SG: Like if I go away for a week, which doesn’t really happen that often, and we’re both sketching and working on things, we sort of drift apart a little bit, and when we both look at what we’ve done, it’s not the right thing anymore.
CP: That’s really the only time we fight, is when we’re apart.
SG: The only thing we fight about is work, the collection. We’ll fight about pantone colors or different weights of leather –
CP: Or pockets and buttons! “I only want two buttons!” “No, you need more buttons!”
SG: Really important stuff. But we always work it out too, and I think it’s probably really good for the collection and really good for us because it forces you to make more of an informed choice. Everything has to be…worked out, that makes us more efficient.
CP: But it also forced us to be very considerate. We have to talk like we’re constantly in therapy: “I understand why you’re saying this thing to me, but I’m responding to this in this way, because I feel this and this and this and this.”
I think that in the larger scheme of things, it’s helped us to be better at communicating. We’re actually not that great at communicating a lot of the time, because a lot of people think we’re very confusing and wordy, but I think that, in terms of how we work, we’ve been able to really maintain a healthy working and personal relationship.
MR: Do you ever shut work off for personal time?
CP: The only time we don’t talk about work is when there’s a fight happening, I think the last one was about sequins or something, and that was a big one, where it was like, “We’re just not going to talk about sequin stuff! We can talk about other stuff, just not sequins, because we’re not going to fight about this over dinner!”
SG: I think nothing really goes into work past a certain point unless we both feel good about it, you know? Usually if we can’t agree on something, we just kind of kill it and move on to something else.
MR: You guys are probably each other’s best editors in that regard, because you still understand each other’s viewpoints, and then you’re probably able to understand that it’s both your child, and that it can be detached.
CP: It’s weirdly our kid.
SG: I like bright color a lot more than Chris does.
CP: Yeah, I’m not into super-bright.
SG: So usually I have to look at those kinds of colors and ease him into them. But, I always want a couple colors, like a couple just really searing, totally off-colors in the collection.
CP: Yes. I mean, that mint green wool skirt from fall, that was definitely your baby, that skirt, both versions, the pink and the green. And then that color, I think we decided…I don’t know how that color went into that skirt.
SG: We first put it in a couple of sweaters.
CP: We first put it into a couple of sweaters, but then how did we decide to do it with the green?
SG: We had the fabric, we had that wool.
CP: Our merchandiser had come in a couple weeks beforehand, and I mean, she’s not a big color person, she killed it in a lot of places. And then we ended up running that skirt on a bunch of color wheels, so that’s how that skirt came into being. But I remember when we were like, “This collection is so understandable! Nobody’s going to freak out about anything!”
SG: That’s where the idea of naiveté comes in.
CP: That collection felt like, for me…our first real collection. And I don’t mean to diminish any of the other collections beforehand, but – it was the first time where we actually made the collection, we actually plotted it out, and had a team and an office and people to work with, as opposed to, “This is cool! Let’s make it!”
SG: So much of it is directly related to actually having a physical space. When we were living in Chicago, we just had three binders: one with fabrics, one with sketches, and one with paperwork.
CP: I had a giant backpack, I walked around like Dora the Explorer. I carried it everywhere with me, and my job was to hold the collection. You could not remove it from my body. I wouldn’t even leave it in hotel rooms! Like, I’d just be like, “This is our entire office!”
SG: So now having a studio with everything up on the wall, it’s so simple. It’s changed our entire way of working, and – you know, we can just kind of stare at what’s happening for days.
MR: Do you feel like your personal relationship operates differently when you’re designing, versus when you’re between seasons?
CP: We never stop working, which sounds so stupid and fake, but this is the only thing that we really love doing. And I think for both of us, that’s one of the best parts about having a collection and being able to grow: you’re always working, and you’re always able to design stuff.
This time last year, my mom was driving around New York with her SUV, helping me deliver stuff. It’s weird when we talk about not having had money, because I think everyone was like, “Oh, you didn’t have money money,” but we were so broke. I was living with my parents. I remember we had a couple of gala dinners last year and we couldn’t afford hotels, so we’d go in black tie, and then we’d pick up our bags from the coat check, run to NJ transit, get home at 2 in the morning and my mom would pick us up.
MR: But nothing can bring two people closer than that. What sort of advice do you have for other couples who are working together, or want to work together?
SG: Talk a lot.
CP: The most important thing is to talk and to remember that you love the person you’re doing this with. You just always have to remember you care about this person, because a lot of times, emotions can overrule your ability to think about things clearly, and you just have to create the space in your head and a dialogue with each other where you can really figure out your problems.
I don’t think I could have the same relationship with anybody. I didn’t know I’d be in a relationship with anyone! I just never really connected with anybody. I thought I was going to die alone.
MR: Well ultimately you will! We all die alone!
CP: I never get tired of hanging out with Shane, ever. He’s my best friend, and when you’re in a relationship with somebody, they should definitely be your best friend. It shouldn’t be just about whatever physical things you’re doing with each other, because that’s not really sustainable. I’m never embarrassed in front of him, and I’m embarrassed constantly.
MR: Was there one particular moment when you thought, “I love this person so much?”
CP: Yes! I remember the first time I told Shane I loved him.
SG: That was like pretty fast actually. Like, a couple of weeks.
MR: Were you the first one that said it?
CP: I think we said it at the same time.
SG: No, I told him to say it.
CP: I was like, “I want to tell you something!”
SG: He was just looking at me, and I was like, “Say it!”
It was the end of May and – well, I guess it was June, because we started dating at the end of May, and we were just riding bikes around town, eating ice cream, going to the lake –
CP: It was pretty idyllic.
SG: It was just the right time, because the semester ended, so for me it was summer break, too, you know? And it was just like…the right opportunity, the right moment to just like hang out. It was summer, and it was beautiful, Chris had just gotten a bike, so we rode bikes around.
MR: What are your favorite things about each other?
CP: I really like Shane’s laugh. That’s one of my favorite things to do, is to make Shane laugh. And he laughs a lot at my jokes.
SG: That’s all Chris really wants.
CP: I just want someone to laugh at me! Class clown syndrome. And it totally spirals if he stops laughing. I get more desperate and start saying more stupid and more offensive things, and the jokes get worse.
What do you like about me?
SG: He’s really funny, and I think, honestly, there are so many shallow things too. But mostly we just want the same things, you know? I’ve never dated anybody who has the same kind of weird taste — it’s kind of a weird collage of things that we like. There are definitely places where we separate and have different interests, but the way we live our lives is really aligned. We both like to travel…
CP: I hate traveling! That’s so not true!
SG: That’s not true. You like to go places.
CP: No I don’t! I hate traveling! I keep saying that!
SG: You didn’t have a good time in Japan last year?
CP: No, I have a good time, but I don’t like traveling. I’m happy to be there, but I don’t want to go.
SG: He doesn’t like flying. Maybe that’s a better way of saying it. We do well when we travel together. We want to eat the same kind of food, and we like the same kind of music.
CP: We both really like eating. Our two favorite things are working and eating, so it kind of parallels.
SG: It’s just really easy. I don’t find the relationship challenging, it just kind of rolls off.
MR: I feel like the common denominator for all successful relationships is ease. There are third-party variables that always make a relationship more difficult, but there are no games. If there are games, it’s not love.
SG: Yeah, there was never any game.
CP: I get a lot of social anxiety. I talk a ton, which makes it seem like I don’t, but Shane doesn’t, and I think Shane often wants to go out and go to parties and blah blah blah, and I’m like, “I don’t want to go,” and I have a panic attack. That’s one of our biggest ones, where we do kind of fight about it. But then at the same time, I think we can communicate to a degree where we can explain ourselves really reasonably.
MR: Do you do a lot of things alone?
CP: No, we don’t. Recently, I told Shane to go to a movie premiere by himself and he did, and he had a good time.
MR: Was it one of those “Just go!” and then, “I can’t believe you went!” things? Or is that a girl thing?
CP: No no, because that’s the other thing. I wouldn’t tell him to do anything if I didn’t want him to. I owe him honesty, and that has been the foundation of our relationship, because…what does it serve me in the end if I’m lying to him?
SG: At this point, we both kind of know everything about each other anyway.
CP: There’s also no jealousy in our relationship, which is good. I never really felt the need to prove anything or be anyone in a relationship. I just wanted to be with him. I’ve never had a best friend like Shane before, ever, in my entire life.
SG: Neither have I. I’ve had very close…best female friends for sure, and I have had best male friends, but Chris is by far and away the person I’m the most comfortable with, and the one I can be the most honest with.
MR: It is pretty impressive that you’ve build such a successful label, and that you’re together, and that you’re happy together.
CP: Well, I think that our relationship and the label are so intertwined. The work is a product of our relationship, and I wouldn’t say it’s like either of our aesthetic more than the other, it’s more about the dialogue of a relationship and working together has created the product. It’s our baby!
MR: Wearable fetuses!
We keep ending our interviews asking what the best relationship advice you can give is. So do you have any tidbits, for the ladies who read Man Repeller and anyone else?
CP: I would say the most important thing is to listen and to communicate, and to be honest with yourself and honest with the other person, because you really have to learn objectivity when dealing with a relationship. You can be emotional about things, but at the same time, you have to learn where that person is coming from when they’re talking about how they feel…or when they’re trying to say anything, really.
SG: That’s exactly what I was going to say too, actually.