12 posts tagged "Guillaume Henry"
“It’s been sort of like a Carven World Tour these days,” laughed Carven‘s creative director, Guillaume Henry, while sitting in the lobby of the Mercer hotel. His description wasn’t hyperbolic in the least. In the last month, Carven has opened two boutiques in Shanghai, its first flagship in London, and now the house is preparing to debut a stateside outpost, in New York. Located at 83 Mercer Street, in Soho (with stores like Chloé, Saint Laurent, and Proenza Schouler just around the corner), the 1,636-square-foot space was designed in collaboration with architect Eric Chevallier. “I didn’t want it to be too impressive, though,” explained Henry. “I prefer places that feel comfortable, familiar, and approachable.” He plans to achieve said ambience by combining luxurious elements—like a black leather bench and marble details—with more industrial ones. “I love the idea of mixing opposites—day and night, sophisticated and casual, sexy and shy. I love two extreme worlds connected.”
The New York flagship will mark Carven’s sixteenth freestanding boutique (though the designer hints that a third Paris shop, outside the Marais, as well as another location in Manhattan, could be on the way). Carven’s investment in new international digs is a testament to Henry’s success at the brand, which, founded in 1943 by a now 104-year-old Carmen de Tommaso, was revived in 2009. Throughout the past five years, Henry has brought the sleeping heritage house back to life with his crisp, clean sense of modernity and his youthful approach to design. Last night, Henry sat down with Style.com (next to a newlywed couple in a bridal gown and a morning suit, oddly enough) to talk Carven’s history, imagined muses, and why real life is the most incredible inspiration.
You’ve been at Carven for five years. What have you learned?
I’m learning new things every single day. It’s completely crazy. We started with a white page, and now the book is starting to fill up. What I love about Carven is, it’s about pleasure, and a challenge, but at the same time the clothes talk to real people. Carven is part dream, part reality. We do a catwalk each season, and we tell the story of a woman, or a man. But then when the show is finished, they’re not my clothes anymore. They’re everyone’s clothes. And I love that they’re going to tell their own story. People are going to bring our clothes into their daily lives, and that’s something I adore.
What does it take to successfully revive a heritage house? Many have tried and failed, but you seem to have a pretty good grip on it.
I’ve been lucky. Carven is an old brand, but I’ve been there for the rebirth. You know, what Mme Carven [Carmen de Tommaso] did in the fifties was good in the fifties, but you have to think about why the brand worked back then. It worked because it was connected to its client. And Mme Carven was dressing cool young girls at that time, so our goal was to dress cool young people. Young is not only a question of age for me—it’s a question of attitude. It’s a question of having a fresh mind.
Do you ever feel beholden to Carven’s history, or to what Carmen de Tommaso would want?
Not really. It’s a very approachable company, and a very approachable brand. Mrs. Carven was a grand couturier, as we call them, but she didn’t reinvent concepts. She was a designer, for sure, but she was really making clothes, and I do believe in that. I’ve met her a few times, and she’s 104 years old, but she’s super young! I think when she decided to sell the brand, she took a stance and separated herself from it. But I always ask myself if she would understand what I’m designing. I’m sure she wouldn’t have done the same things—but would she respect the DNA of the brand? That’s the main thing for me.
What has been your biggest challenge at Carven thus far?
Getting Carven on Mercer Street. Five years ago, when I’d call retailers and say, “OK, we are Carven,” they would hang up the phone. And now, we’re on Mercer Street, which is like, “OK, we did it!” It’s been a fantastic challenge for us, because it was a dream. It wasn’t a question of success or anything like that. I have no idea what success means. Especially in this industry—you never know. But Carven, for me, is fresh. And for people, it’s a new brand. It’s an international brand. It’s not a question of history anymore. And that’s very satisfying. Continue Reading “Guillaume Henry Takes Carven ‘Round The World” »
“I was quite shocked by the bananas,” said Christina Martini, the creative director of Greece-based footwear range Ancient Greek Sandals. Let us explain: Martini, who designed shoes for Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton in Paris before launching her line of handmade leather sandals with business partner Nikolas Minoglou in 2011, was approached earlier this year by Carven’s Guillaume Henry. The designer asked her to create a collaborative range of gladiators for his tropical-tinged Resort ’14 collection, and apparently, he requested the fruity look. The result is a capsule of surprisingly graphic wares, which, having debuted at Carven’s Resort presentation yesterday, are offered in three heights and a palette of black, nude, and, of course, banana yellow. “They were easy to design but difficult to make, because all the bananas are at different angles,” offered Martini, who notes that cutouts and hand-stamping were particularly difficult. “And we had to make sure that the tall styles fit nicely on the leg.”
No stranger to runway collaborations, Martini has also worked with fellow Greek designer Marios Schwab on footwear capsules for the past two seasons, and notes that she pulls inspiration from ancient Greek jewelry, ceramics, and classical sandals (hence the name) when creating her collaborative and signature styles. Crafted in Greece using traditional techniques, Martini’s shoes are available at over eighty locations worldwide and online at the label’s Web site. The Carven kicks will start at about $320 and hit stores during Resort ’14 shipments.
Her name may be unfamiliar, but Olivia Cognet has already acquired an impressive fashion footprint. She learned her trade at Robert Clergerie and Charles Jourdan before lending a hand to Guillaume Henry at Carven, where she created those floppy-tie pumps and cool loafers that were quickly copied everywhere.
Last season, Cognet, 30, launched an accessible, fashion-forward line of footwear called Apologie, whose best sellers have been surrealist-inspired slippers and the undulating Monica pump. “For me, shoes are a lot like architecture,” the Paris-based designer told Style.com. “Like sculptures, they have to stand on their own, but they have to comply with certain constraints.”
For Fall, Cognet nods to Scandinavian design by outfitting low boots with “heels like furniture” and using trompe l’oeil details or putting a rosewood-like finishing on grown-up Mary Janes. “I try to strip out anything too basic and make it chic, but with a twist,” she said. So, why Apologie? “I wanted something perennial and wasn’t interested in using my own name. Apologie is an old French word [meaning praise or vindication], but the intent is humorous. You could say it’s an apologie de la femme. Or else it could just be an apology: I’m sorry for launching yet another shoe brand, but I hope you’ll like it!”
Apologie is available on shoescribe.com and apologie-paris.com.
Guillaume Henry loves a Left Bank gal, and clearly the feeling is mutual. To that end, by the time his Spring collection hits the racks, Carven will have a second, much bigger outpost in Paris, to be followed in short order by New York, Singapore, and Tokyo.
Meanwhile, there’s more good news for Carven fans: Come December, that other beloved Parisian brand, Petit Bateau, will launch a Carven capsule collection. It’s not the first time the two have teamed up—back in Henry’s first season at Carven, they did a limited-edition T-shirt that sold exclusively at Colette—but it’s his first collaboration since turning the slumbering heritage house into a hot ticket. “The two houses have similar sensibilities, so I decided to skip any narrative and go for the common values of comfort, ease, and fashion that’s not overly conceptual,” said Henry at today’s presentation in the Palais de Tokyo. Cue little dresses (literally—they only run up to size 38) in smocked jersey with little white collars or in double-face molleton, striped polos, and preppy cotton knit collars to wear under a sweater. The collection ranges from €50 for the collars to €250 for the little dresses, and arrives at Colette in Paris, Smets in Brussels, and 10 Corso Como in Milan the first week of November, to be followed by delivery to Petit Bateau stores on December 6.