Neü Gothic American: Getting to Know House of Gobin

vor 3 years

An introduction to the Berlin-based designer from New Orleans, Leah Southall Gobin

Last year, a bag of clothing arrived for a shoot at Fräulein. It was very non-descript. We see a lot of bags and boxes of clothing samples coming in and out of our doors on a daily basis. We have seen it all: the good, the bad, the ugly (what can we say? Ugly is in!) But this bag in particular, was housing a treasure trove of heavy brocaded fabric. A couple of us gathered around, oohing and ahhing. I texted the stylist: “House of Gobin has arrived! Sorry, but we’re keeping it!” The cut of the clothing was very Victorian and romantic. Blouses. Billowing pants. Straight trousers. Nipped jackets. All in very extravagant jewel-toned fabrics with fleur-de-lis and paisley patterns. Surely she most be getting her fabric custom. (SPOILER: nope! These garments are upcycled, from vintage drapes and curtains, because of course.)

A couple weeks later, the designer herself arrived to pick up the pieces and introduce herself (or perhaps she had heard how fond we were of her garments and felt the need to insure she got them back…) She was a silver toothed bad ass babe with a bit of a Southern drawl and of course, good style. We ended up talking quite a bit. And I have wanted to talk to her more; she has stayed in mind. So allow me to introduce Leah Southall Gobin, making beautiful garments in a totally sustainable and bespoke way, talking about her draw to Berlin, her inspiration in solitude, and a fondness for Barbie Doll dresses


Fräulein: You recently moved to Berlin from New Orleans. Drastically different places! What are you missing most about New Orleans? What intrigued you enough about Berlin to come here? 

Drastically different places indeed, but oddly very similar. I think what I miss most about New Orleans is the people, and the sunshine of course. Moving from a place with 365 days of sunshine to Berlin, which feels like only 60 days of sun is quite different..

I feel like New Orleans and Berlin are two places with pretty unique individuals. Like it’s almost where all the outlaws live… or want to live. I think both places have an innate ability to act as inclusive cities and that’s something I identify with.

I backpacked through Europe in 2016 and I greatly resonated with the culture over here, specifically Berlin. I knew I wanted to spend my life here, but it was just a matter of when. I am most intrigued by the people and the opportunities. They honestly feel endless…

The materials you use from your last collections have been reworked from drapery found in old homes in New Orleans. What sorts of material have you found in Berlin, pointedly ‘German-looking’ that inspire you?

Oddly enough, I was finding more old-timey fabrics in the States. A ton of textiles from the 1930s-50s, very creole Victorian, so when arriving in Europe, I was expecting the same (baroque and damask type of things). But in reality, so much of the vintage curtains and textiles I’ve found in Berlin are 1950s- 70s. I haven’t read much about the displacement of textiles during the war, but so often I’m finding pieces from post-war which I honestly love. In my personal life, I listen to a lot of disco so it feels fitting to find curtains from the 1970s.

There’s a very languid and sexy look to your otherwise buttoned up blouses and trousers. There’s something very sensual about the garments. Any consideration to branch into lingerie? What do you think is the sexiest thing a woman can wear? 

It’s funny that you say that because I actually started off by doing lingerie. While in Europe, my eye for design really widened. Shortly after my travels, I booked my one and only sewing & design course, which just so happened to be in lingerie. And while I enjoyed that, I knew my designs would veer elsewhere.

I think the sexiest thing a person can wear is what they feel their sexiest in. Some people would say lingerie, but I really think it’s specific to the individual. For me, a lot of sexuality comes from confidence, so whatever the hell you feel confidant in, that is what I like.

Where do you find yourself most inspired? Is it in the company of others or in solitude?

I’m an extremely outgoing and sociable person but low key, I am quite introverted. I can spend days alone and be perfectly content. I get inspired by people at a distance but inspire myself when I am alone. So while I pull inspiration from others and their work, in order to create my own art, I have to be in solitude. Don’t get me wrong though, I love a constructive creative brainstorm with others! While at the same time, I also find inspiration when I am sad. I am sure a lot of people feel that.

What are your favorite flowers? Your favorite smell? Your favorite books?

Roses. I can barely afford them, but roses. I went to Bulgaria a couple years back where the national flower is a rose. I haven’t stopped smelling them since. My avorite smell besides roses is probably garlic (laughs) Those are the two ways to my heart.

I don’t read that often. To be honest, reading is quite hard for me. I’m an audio and visual learner. I have always preferred to look at pictures than read a tag line (something my father will never understand).

What other creative practices do you tend to? Photography, writing, drawing…?

I used to draw and I have dabbled in photography, but mostly I concentrate on designing. Something I really enjoy doing is creating fashion out of found objects. For Mardi Gras in 2017, I disassembled over 50 Barbie dolls and drilled holes in the body parts, and created this entire outfit of Barbie doll limbs. It was amazing! I would love to shift my designs into more of that territory, but we’ll see. I just finished a little side project where I made myself a shirt out of vintage curtain rings (Vorhangringe) but it’s too heavy to actually wear. Go figure!

During this extended period of lockdown, what have your vices and virtues been?

Vices and virtues…White wine and red wine! I’ve actually had a very busy and productive lockdown, which included my move to Berlin and an entire rebranding of my line.

Over night, I went from designing clothes that would appeal to the masses of New Orleans, to designing sustainable and ethical clothing inspired by vintage designs. I have spent the last year rebuilding my brand and figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve also started meditating and attempting to create a healthier lifestyle.

Who are some of your personal style icons? 

Mick Jagger.

Where are you finding romance these days? 

I live a very hectic life where there is always something happening. I take pride and romance in the little things: seeing a sunset or simply sitting in the park with friends. Of course I love the over-the-top romance as well, but for me it’s all about the details.

What’s next? 

Hopefully more outfits made out of Barbie doll limbs 😉

Keep an eye on House of Gobin by following here

Interview by Janna Shaw
All Images Courtesy of House of Gobin

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