Petit Petois – Interview with Designer Viviana Gabeiras

I was very fortunate to meet talented Venezuelan born designer Viviana Gabeiras who showed me her line Petit Petois when she was in New York.

I read that you grew up in Venezuela and that your stepmother taught you how to sew.  How else has your heritage influenced you?

I was born in Venezuela but came to the states many years ago.  I came to New York and studied at Parsons.  Even though I went back to my country, an American company brought me back.  I worked for many companies before I launched my own line.

You have to know a little bit of Venezuela to understand that we are very influenced by Europeans.  We opened the doors to Europeans in World War II.  We also had a lot of the American influence because of the oil.   My mother was a big celebrity in Venezuela. She’s retired now, but and I was influenced by all the dressing for TV.  And my stepmom was taught me more about the sewing and craft.

Can you tell me more about this beautiful dress?

This dress is a brand new dress.  It has been the talk of town, so we can not take it out of line yet!  Everyone wants to have one.  We do it in different colors. People are getting married in it in white or antique beige!  We do it with flowers on the belt or without the belt.  It comes with a bathing suit and covers everything and it gives you that illusion that you are safe.  Or we can do it with a slip if they don’t want the body suit. This is all custom made.  The store usually have them in 2 or 3 different colors.

 Everything is very soft on the body – most of our dresses. We also do prints and a lot of textures.  We have another dress which is mesh with ripped cotton stretched out on top of the mesh. We do different variations in the mesh and weight.  We are now not only keeping our mesh, but also bringing new qualities with knits and doing more luxury knits.  People like what we do, but they want me to offer it in different fabrication. We introduced new fabrications in 2011 and everybody is loving everything.  We’re very happy with our turnaround.

You’re well know for using mesh.  Why do you like mesh so much?

I was trying to find a fabric that was not lycra or spandex. I did not like the look of spandex, which is shiny. It wasn’t looking sophisticated enough.  I still wanted to work  with a stretchy knit, that you could do different things with, yet make it look sophisticated and more high end.  That’s when I started my search.  I would do different things to see how it behaved until I conquered it and could do anything I wanted with it.  Two years later Jean Paul Gaultier started working with mesh.  Not many designers work with it.  Very very few.  It’s a difficult fabric to work with it.  But once you conquer it, it’s very noble.  For me, it has given me too much.  I’m very grateful to work with mesh. And it’s also washable.  You can travel with it.  If you’re traveling and going to a big event, you don’t need to carry a big suitcase.  You can put it in your suitcase and let it hang out and you’re ready to go.

What kind of women wear your clothes?

Women today are conquering and doing so many things.  They are doing business, taking care of children, running back and forth.  Also jobs are carried with you all the time.  Me.  I’m traveling a lot.  I understand where women are coming from and what they need.  Women aren’t staying in one place.  I’m trying to give them that.

I do have a sophisticated, trendy looks, but I also give safe, classy looks.  I give to my ladies, classic, ageless, looks.  It’s timeless.  People are buying more and more because it lasts forever. You can wash it and wash it and it remains the same. It has good quality and can be worn in different ways.  I think that’s important today.  They can wear differently. We do basics, long sleeve, t shirts. For example, you can layer this like a jumper, with a leather jacket.  You can wear it in the day at the office or meetings for work.  At night, wear it with beautiful sandals or high heels and go out.  That’s what my clients are loving it about the line.  They can dress it up, dress it down, be young and high end.  Especially high end stores – they have to make sure more customers are happy – not just one specifically.

What’s the influence for the fall line?
It’s very European influenced. That’s my fusion.  My experience living here in America, where sportswear is strong.  Europeans love American Sportswear.  Americans like the girly French chic. What I did is marry both of them.  This is the right combination.  That is how I achieved the dressing up and dressing down. I took the whole French type of lifestyle and transferred to American.  I’ve always done that but never in such a strong way.  I took it to another level and it exploded.  It looks very European, but if you take it one by one you see how easy and casual it is- which is very American.

I was surprised by the acceptance.  I was so pleased with the turnaround of the collection.   The colors are very neutral..  You can mix it around. We’re going to do different mesh.

How much do your dresses retail?
Dresses retail around $200 – $220.  Some store price it at $195 to keep it in a more accessible price points .  Keep in mind that the line is all made in the USA.  We own our own plants.  It’s a vertical way of doing business.  Quality control is all in one place, even though it’s made in USA.  It’s a way of giving back to the customers.

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