photo. charli ljung
You’re quite anonymous for being in the position you’re in, as head designer at Hermès. Is that a deliberate choice?
Well, no. I’ve just never been very social. I’m not at all interested in running after photographers or going to fashion parties. I just like to be recognized for my work. Someone once said, “To live happily, live hidden.” I firmly believe in that. I like the peace and quiet with my beloved and my friends. I think the problem of today’s fashion is that people confuse being on TV or in fashion magazines with being a very good designer. There are a lot of super good designers that are not at all part of that game. To be recognized you have to be media addict, that’s the disease of our time I think.
How do you avoid getting drawn into it?
I suppose you have to nourish your own garden. You have to stick to your own values, it doesn’t mean you should close your eyes to the evolution and attitudes but I think one should always try to keep a distance. It’s troublesome when people think the media is the truth, and that to be in and to be cool you have to follow the trends and be a slave to them. The problem is that it doesn’t produce meaning. The commercial media system is just about moving, moving, moving. There’s no real underground anymore.
So you don’t have a Facebook account?
No, those things are just too time consuming. Just answering email annoys me. To be honest I don’t really see the positive aspects of it, I don’t think it makes people happier. I’m probably a bit old fashioned but I do consider the whole social media thing a bit superficial. You meet people you wouldn’t meet but the whole concept of who you know and who’s your friend and everything – I find it kind of terrifying.
Your fondness of simplicity and classic elegance, where did that all come from?
I’ve always been interested in my everyday environment. In the true sense of culture such as our everyday choices of how we live, how we decorate our homes, the food we eat, the music we decide to listen or not to listen to. For me culture is all about what we choose to consume. And style is an expression of that. I always believe in clothes that underline one’s personality and freeze the moment – clothes don’t disguise but reveal the personality. I’m not very interested in theatre or carnival. Not the show-offy things. I’m into sim- plicity and a very deep quality. That’s what I’m interested in.
There’s a fine line between timelessness and elegance and just simply being boring. No offence, but how do you avoid being boring?
Just because I’m into minimalism doesn’t mean I’m not a curious person, I’m very curious. Very eclectic, very into the history of fashion and art as well as different cultures. I’ve been lucky enough to travel. I probably integrate that in my work, more or less consciously but always avoiding being too obvious. You may find references to Asian culture or New Wave aesthetics, the 20s, avant-garde, etcetera. I try to fuse all that into something very simple, trying to be as timeless and simple as possible. I make clothes that I really like to wear myself. Maybe that’s one way of keeping simplicity from being boring. Simplicity doesn’t mean poor; it can be rich and full of stories.
Speaking about stories, what are you reading at the moment?
Right now I’m a little bit sad because I just finished reading a great book and am looking for the next one to thrill me. I just finished a Serge Gainsbourg biography. I’m a huge fan of his. I tried to finish it very slowly and wanted it to last. I like to read history and philosophy, as well as novels, I’m very eclectic. I just read a beautiful book by Balzac called Treatise on Elegant Living.
That book was actually the source of inspiration for the latest Weekday collection.
Oh really. That’s funny.
You must lead a really busy life doing both Hermès and your own brand. How do you pull it off?
I think to be good at this job you have to work consistently, not just day and night the last few weeks before a show. Being a designer is more like running a marathon than 100 metres, if you know what I mean. You have to keep up a very constant level of hard work. I’m lucky enough to have a very stable private life and a brilliant partner, who is also a partner of my own brand. We share the same vision, the same determination and the same taste.
Is she also a designer?
Yes, Sarah-Linh designs and is very much involved in the women’s collection and in the art direction of the image.
The Christophe Lemaire brand has actually been around for more than 20 years. What do you think of your earliest collections now looking back?
Oh my God I don’t like to look at them. I started very young, too young and too ambitious. I was 25. It was like jumping into the water and not knowing how to swim. I made a lot of mistakes. I guess I could compare myself to some wines, those that are not very good at a young age but grow better over time.
How long have you been content with the work you do?
I’ve been happy with my designs for no more that the last three years. Fashion is very complicated, having your own brand is very difficult, to say the least. You need to have a certain level of experience and confidence. Hermès is also a very good experience because I found myself at a beautiful brand and a great company with a true culture very close to my own personal values.
What did you know about Weekday when they approached you for a collaboration?
I knew about them through Samuel Drira from Encens magazine. We work closely with him. We heard about their collaboration with Weekday, which he was really happy about. I appreciate the Weekday mood, the dynamics and point of view on fashion. Christophe Lemaire is probably a higher range than many of their other garment and the Weekday team made it clear that we will have a specific display and environment in the store. I like the mix of street wear and fashion, it just feels contemporary.
What can you tell me about your autumn/winter collection for Weekday?
We wanted to create a style vocabulary with which you can create your own story. I like the idea of mixing elements to create different silhouettes. We really wanted to go even deeper in quality. My time at Hermès has pushed me even further in that direction. We are more confident at making higher quality today. I myself go and check on the quality of the fabrics as much as I can. Last summer we went to Mongolia with the Trans-Siberian railway to meet people I’m working with to produce jaak scarves. They work in ancient traditional techniques, That’s true luxury to me. There’s something quite deep in the quality.