Interview: SANDER GEE

We spoke to 28-year-old creative Sander about his work with Burberry, Ozwald Boateng, and other exciting brands.
Hi! Let’s start with who you are and what you do.

I’m Sander. I’m from Belgium – from Antwerp. They call me Sander Gee because it’s easier to say than my full surname! I’m a graphic designer and art director. I didn’t study fashion, but a lot of my jobs are in fashion. I have my own studio.

What brought you to London?

I came in 2012 to Ozwald Boateng. I had a job offer in Saville Row as a graphic designer. I stayed there for one year. It’s a very small company, so you have a variety of stuff to do – the design team is very small, so you have to be very flexible. It’s not just making a poster – it’s social media content, magazine content, making sure that everything has the right line. So, that’s where the art direction comes in – making sure that the communication is always clear and to the brand throughout. After one year, I decided I wasn’t really learning anymore, I needed more challenges. I started my own company officially. I was already doing some stuff in the evenings – if it’s your passion, you just want to keep going, you know? Within that year, I made a lot of new contacts, then I started to work for Burberry freelance. They hired me for a try-out for three weeks. They extended it to three months, and eventually, I’m still doing freelance work for them! They offered me a job a few times, but because I like the variety, I like to work with a lot of different people, I like to have my own thing. Once you get into a big company, you’re always going to do the same thing, it’s very hard to grow.

What’s your philosophy now you’re more established?

Once you’ve proven yourself, people like you. There’s a lot of people that want to be in your shoes, so deadlines are super important. Make sure that the client is happy. Even if you have to sleep three hours a night, whatever. If you make that client happy, you’re making a long relationship.

It seems like you fit well in London.

I’m still in London, I moved out for a bit because I had a girlfriend in Montreal. That didn’t work out. I was figuring out what to do. I travelled the world a bit while I was still working, to maintain my clients. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I was a bit of a nomad for a year. London had always treated me well, so I decided to go back. I had my friends and connections, I didn’t want to lose them.

How’s your work-life balance?

After my travels I realised, the first few years when I was in London, I had to prove myself, so it was work, work, work. You forget about your friends and your family. After being in the jungle for a few weeks, I learned from the locals that family is really important. I came back with that. So now, I still have my own studio, I still work for big companies, but I also work for start-ups because I know where I come from. If they don’t have the money, fine, we’ll figure something out. I know it’s very hard. So now, I’ve been here for six years, I’m getting that balance with work and family and friends. That’s where I’m at now.

Where do you look for inspiration when you’re working with a client?

When you work with a client, you have to understand the client. A very big project that I’ve been working on for two years is in Florida, in Miami. Everything was by phone. I hadn’t met him until we’d been doing the project for six, seven months. That was the first time he flew me over. Once I was there, my goal was really to understand the audience of the brand. I asked Miguel to show me to the places where the potential client goes – if it’s hotels, restaurants, leisure, whatever – so I can really go into the world of this client. That’s where I get the inspiration on – really understand the brand before you can create something.

What is your proudest moment?

I just really like building something from scratch and seeing it come to life. Seeing that the client is really happy with it, and the communication was well-executed. Let’s hope the client from Florida really works, because that is a major project – I really hope that is something that will succeed in the long run. I just got promoted to the creative director, because I’m literally doing almost everything visual. He’s the mastermind behind the company, and we still discuss things together. I did the whole branding, I gave them contacts for designers in Italy, for factories. I’m the middleman between Miami and Italy. I needed to check out that the client was happy. The Italian designers came to London, so I organised a shoot, so at that point I was a producer. Fixing models, fixing a studio, fixing a photographer. Lookbook done! Next stage, bringing the clothes to Miami, showing them to the client with the lookbook. Next step is the website, the online platform. So, if that comes together, if that comes into a store, I’m happy for sure!

What is your personal style?

I like timeless pieces. Pretty plain, I’m not too loud, although you need to have some key pieces in your wardrobe to stand out. Even if you go full black, with pink shoes or yellow shoes, that’s a statement. Fashion… I like how it is changing, because I don’t like fast fashion. That’s probably because I didn’t study at a fashion school, I studied graphics. I like things that you can wear for a longer time. So that’s where my fashion vision lies.

Do you have any unwritten rules?

No! Go with the flow, be open to new ideas. I might say ‘no’ in the beginning. But then let me think for 5 minutes and I might say, “Wait a second, I’m really sorry I reacted that quickly, but this could be a cool idea”, and then we can create something. When I work with a creative, or someone who’s out of their mind – which happens a lot in this world! – I’m that guy that might balance it again, so it’s cool to work with a super creative person. We can take a few steps back and bring it to life.

Is there anyone you aspire to be like?

There are a few people that I follow,  their mentality or their vision – I can’t say any person in particular. I think it’s important to do your own thing at the same time. Get all your inspiration from others, take the best parts, and just build on that.

What’s coming for you up that’s exciting?

The big Miami project, we’re doing a launch in September, so we’re working on the launch party now. It’s not just going to be clothing, it’s more like lifestyle, so we’re going to invite in a chef, get a few people to talk about health and food and moving. Just create a world that customer really values, that is a very big project. There is a handbag and accessories company, Amal Fashanu – she’s the daughter of the famous footballer – we’re working together now to lift that brand up a bit more. There’s a company in Antwerp that just reached out to me, they want to start a new label as well inspired by motorbikes. I’m going to do their branding and their vision, of course using their moodboards. There’s a guy I had a call with this morning as well, he’s an African designer. He wants to be kind of like Ozwald Boateng, so he said “I need you because you’ve been there, let’s work together”. I’m working on his branding.

Find Sander online: http://www.sandergee.com 

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