Alexandre Vauthier is part of a tremendous changeover taking French craftsmen into the 21st century. We reached the friendly designer by telephone, who at the time of the interview was taking a break in the beautiful region of Pyla in the south west of France, the land of his roots.
After your studies at Esmod in Paris, you started at Mugler. What do you remember from your time in his studio? Apart from the human side—he was like a father to me—he taught me to be a perfectionist, to be tough and to be open to other worlds besides fashion.
You also worked for 8 years with Gaultier? At Gaultier the universe was completely different, because Mugler is very Las Vegas while Gaultier is much more Parisian with a lot of humor and a certain subversiveness in his creations. Each garment had to be comfortable, not constricting like at Mugler. That’s what I learned most from him.
It is essential to have a mentor when one comes out of school? When I was a student I had three dreams: to work with Lagerfeld, Gaultier and Mugler. I worked with two of them, and Karl will remain a fantasy. But I’ve always been fascinated by their respective worlds. I’m fortunate now to be able to express myself personally. This wasn’t something that I necessarily sought. I didn’t have this essential goal to have my own brand. It is important to work with people who have tremendous talent because they inspire and guide you.
What worlds do you want to create? I don’t have a message. Rather I explore clothing and female identity. I think people can interpret what they want. I don’t want to be totalitarian and even less to be a dictator of good taste. I just need to see sleek, efficient lines, an almost perfect elegance. I needed to return to basics both in my personal and professional life.
What inspired you to focus on the shoulders? Everything is inspiring in a woman, but I think the allure begins with a graceful walk.Then it is carried by a dignified head framed by elegant, well-defined shoulders that create a graphic allure.
It must be hard not to fall into mockery or theatrical costumes when creating these silhouettes? …Or even falling into caricature. This is really the work I’m trying to amplify, that is to say, push the limit without ever falling into the fantasy. Everything is about balance.
One must ask where this elegance is derived from. It’s like an architectural construction, like a house. The body is a work in three dimensions and it must be brought about in this way. All the research work shouldn’t be seen in my clothes. What interests me is the apparent complexity.
Is it scary to embark on this fashion adventure given the number of designers that exist around the world? I’m a rather anxious person, and this time I wasn’t worried for a second. We must move beyond our fears especially when we have an intense need to express ourselves. Things happened naturally. I never thought I would do it, and finally with thread and needle the first collection came out, and I didn’t think I’d make a second one, and now I’m working on the third… In my opinion we shouldn’t over-analyse when we start something. It takes a bit of heedlessness otherwise we never act. It was a natural desire within me rather than a well-considered desire.
Why did you choose haute couture rather than the less daunting ready-to-wear? That’s part of my journey, my learning and my meetings with true artisans: the lace-workers, the feather-workers and even the blacksmiths. It’s like when I developed my shoulder-pads; no foam cutter was able to help me. I finally found an aerospace engineer who works for Airbus who enjoyed the challenge. During his spare time, he worked on composite materials and the shape of the shoulder finally came out as I wanted it. What is great with couture is that you can afford to work with craftsmen who have nothing to do with fashion, which gives new ideas, new techniques and new products. Finally, I believe we must continue to make people dream and only couture really allows this.
I hope you will continue to make us dream for a long time. I hope so too. Thank you Stéphane!