The silhouette and the serenity of Lemaire
Instrumental music is what drew me to fashion shows in the first place, way before I cared about fashion. Some of the highest paid DJ’s mix music for the luxury fashion houses during Fashion Week. Hermes always had some fantastic soundtracks and that is how I discovered Christophe Lemaire, the closet music buff. As it turns out, his clothes are even better. This is not an introduction to a blog post which ends with me showing what I purchased from Lemarie or a compilation of shopping links of what you should buy from Lemarie xUniqlo. He is one designer I adore without ever wanting anything he created. It’s possible. Yohji is another. Rei Kawakubo, Rick Owens, Alber Elbaz, … all brilliant craftsman. But wearing the same feathers is not a requisite to admire someone, is it ? Their minds are exquisite and I can always learn a little.
I am creating a dictionary of StarWars association for every fashion designer I admire. I have someone in mind for most of the Jedi council. If Yohji is the Yoda, Lemaire could be Obi-Wan.
There are designers and there are stylists. The ones who modify the details and tailor an existing template and sell – are stylists. That is the reason celebrities and IT girls can create clothing lines without the years of study and apprenticeship. But a designer, moves the needle on the craft forward – a new silhouette ( Coco Chanel ), a new kind of draping complete with the technical know hows ( Cristobal Balenciaga ), a new interpretation of the modern women ( Yves Saint Laurent, Yohji and Rei ), a new aesthetic ( Martin Margiela, Jil Sanders, Calvin Klein ), … And this breed is rare. Every decade has a few if we are lucky. I will remember Lemaire for his distinct silhouette and aesthetic. His clothes acknowledge that you have a women’s curves but don’t emphasize it. Relaxed tailoring that negates the need for sports clothes to achieve comfort. Fabrics that are exquisite and are luxurious in a stealth mode. Designs that are simple and serene. He is someone I would listen to, if he has style lessons to offer. He does. A compilation of interviews below :
On Dressing :
We work around the idea of the intimate relationship we can have with clothes. When we start thinking about the collection, we think of what a man or woman would need and like to wear. What will help them feel more confident? Clothes shouldn’t be a disguise, nor a social mask.
On Clothing :
Clothes should be practical. I like the concept of easy wear. I think [86-year-old] actress Emmanuelle Riva was extremely chic. She’s super stylish. At the Cesars, she was wearing this beautiful red silk dress. I don’t know whose it was. [ed.: It was Lanvin.]
I don’t like clothes that constrict. The idea is that they should accompany and help you. There’s nothing superficial about getting dressed. Clothes can give you self-confidence and help you be yourself. We have a direct contact with our clothes; they’re like a little house. You have to feel good and at home in what you wear and. I think that’s elegance. Chanel said something like: “When a woman is badly dressed, one sees the dress, and when she is well dressed, one sees the woman.” That’s what I’m talking about.
On Uniform dressing :
Sarah-Linh : First, it doesn’t mean uniformity. It means that sometimes you don’t need to think so much about what you want to wear because choosing your outfit in the morning is not an end in itself. It could suggest clothes meant to help you. There’s also this idea of constancy and consistency.
Christophe : And we like things to be obvious. I was always fascinated by uniform, whether military, sport or workwear. There is a certain quality about it, because it’s made for a purpose, a function, and also because there is a certain idea of dignity attached to it. For me, it’s the best design. And, if you think about it, the clothes that dominate in the contemporary world all come from uniform: trench coat, denim trousers, chinos, etc. We also believe that stylish people are generally people who have a personal uniform. Georgia O’Keeffe, for instance, is our biggest reference, and she has her personal uniform. We could mention Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, whoever. If you can create clothes that have this quality, that’s our ideal.
I really hate this idea that you have to change your wardrobe every six months – that’s bullshit. At the end of the day, you have to find your own style vocabulary.
On how-to-buy :
Know yourself. Know what you want to wear, know your body, know your tastes. Buy pieces that fit you. And extract yourself from the pressure of advertising, spectacle and this conditioning of ‘You should buy this, this and that to be cool’. No, you should just follow your own instincts.
On his Clientele
People who are into style more than fashion. I offer essential pieces you can play with and make up your own specific uniform.
On his Personal Style
I mix traditional clothes inspired by China, Japan, and India with Western workwear.
I like the concept of a personal uniform, it is what I am looking for myself. I don’t like clothes that are too fragile or precious. I like functional and durable garments.
My uniform is made-to-measure leather boots, tapered chinos, a fishermen’s rib yak sweater (both from Christophe Lemaire), and a vintage wool and alpaca single-breasted three-quarter coat.
On trends he appreciates :
I’m happy to see that we’ve come back to a certain common sense: real quality, timelessness, simplicity, and classicism in the good sense of the term. Until very recently, high-fashion women were like luxury prostitutes. Now there is a need for a more authentic and dignified style.
On Minimalism :
Minimalism is very much up in the air. We were probably one of the first to defend that vision of fashion. Today, it’s considered a trend, so we are pressured to develop, yet we believe in repeat pieces with a certain timelessness and constancy. At the same time, you cannot be a prisoner of that. It’s an interesting balance to find – how to infuse newness into something permanent.
On Business of Fashion :
Its true that we are not just interested in making money, in focusing on media strategy and creating buzz. Maybe its a bit naive, but we want to bring meaning to what we do and be faithful to what we believe in. Singularity is important. If you want to have your own brand, its best if it exists to express your own vision. If its only following the rules of the business, its just like any other brand. So we don’t calculate riches. The way we do things, its very personal. We don’t even try hard, i don’t think.
On relaxed Silhouette :
Something easy. There is a certain idea of elegance with volume, generosity, room. Women deserve pockets and solid clothes. We like the concept of solidity, which we like to take from menswear to womenswear. Not only the androgynous look, but also the way clothes are conceived. That is also why we like to adapt workwear for women.
We see clothes, style and fashion as part of a cultural choice. Not something that is too intellectual, elitist or obstructive, but linked to everyday life and quality of life, just as culture is. You should choose your way of dressing just as you choose what you want to read and eat, or what kind of movie you want to see, or what space you live in. Thats why the fashion show and our own shops are very important. We only see fashion as a context.
The search for balance and harmony has been a constant feature of French culture through history – and we are still searching.
First of all, know who you are. This is an introspective exercise and it involves brutal honesty vis-a-vis yourself. If you re looking for a disguise, you’re running away from the truth. Its a path you have to take. It has nothing to do with money or information from the outside. You have to look at yours, understand your body, work out which aspects of it need to be emphasized, find what goes best with your skin tone and color of your hair. Who would you want to be ? what do you wish to express ? even through appearances can be deceptive, we judge other people more or less consciously by their clothes, their way of moving or their way of speaking.
There’s no hard and fast rule that applies to everybody. Everything depends on the person you are. You have to find your own personal uniform – and ‘personal’ is the key work here. You have to find your own vocabulary. I believe very strongly in quality. Jean Louis Dumas, the president of Hermes used to say that when you buy a beautiful and expensive object, you forget the price but you remember the quality. I would say yes to a beautiful pair of boots or top quality pumps … provided they suit you perfectly.
For one thing, not all women like wearing dresses. Theres nothing obligatory about dresses, and anyways, I sternly mistrust any for of diktat. People should dress as they see fit and according to their personalities. In civilized countries nowadays, you’re perfectly entitled to be eccentric if thats what you want to do. I think thats wonderful. We are even ready to tolerate a man who wants to dress as a woman, so that very notion of good and bad taste is highly disputable.
Women wish to be desirable. Men also wish to be desirable. Thats perfectly normal. But the word ‘sexy’ is so overused and reductive now that I personally don’t like to use it anymore. The notion of sexiness has become sad, impoverished, and synonymous with “cheap”. I compare it to what pornography is to eroticism. Its like having breast implants and showing them to the world. “Sexy” today is the aesthetic of expensive prostitutes. I am very sensitive to feminine charms, but I prefer things to be hinted at – by a lovely nape, delicate features, perfect skin, magnificent hair or a certain way of moving. So corsets and skintight clothes are not necessarily pleasing to me. I believe you can be sensual as well as modest. Modesty is in itself desirable. And I believe the vast majority of men – and women – agree with me.
Listen to him talk :
Isnt he wonderful ? If you are into StarWars and have suggestions on associations for fashion designers, do let me know. I have Margaret Howell, Phoebe Philo, Jil Sanders, Calvin Klein, Georgio Armani, Stella McCartney, Coco Chanel, Yves, Cristobal Balenciaga, Rick Owens, Alber Elbaz, … on my list waiting to be cast.
My Jedi Council so far :
Lemaire as Obi-Wan Kenobi.