In its big annual show, an unmissable event of the fashion world, the La Cambre department of fashion design invites the students of all five years of its course to present a collection. Given that many of these young designers go on to be very successful, there will no doubt be a few names to remember. The five final-year students who will, in a few months, come face-to-face with the realities of the profession, reveal to us what lies behind their final collections.
“My collection is about everyday life and what can happen to disrupt it. I drew my inspiration from Chantal Akerman’s film Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. I create unlikely combinations by mixing elements of exceptional clothing with other, more everyday garments. I wanted to create something poetic, something very real, that takes us into a more idiosyncratic world.” The collection is made up of twelve silhouettes developed from the same shape, with coats that open to reveal explosions of unexpected colours. “The collection is about how a piece of clothing can become exceptional and how you make it exceptional. This is very important in an increasingly uniform fashion world.” Fashion was a choice that came gradually to Clément Grangier (Paris, 25 years old), who hesitated for a long time and considered enrolling at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It was during his five years of studies at La Cambre that his approach and his fashion ambitions took shape. The four internships he completed helped to clarify things for him. They made him aware of the reality behind the myths that surround labels, and that seeing behind the scenes can sometimes be disillusioning. “I did my last internship with Olivier Theyskens. Technically he is very gifted. I realised that nowadays, people are more receptive to you if you have a variety of professional experience. Otherwise, the fashion world has a tendency to become increasingly compartmentalised.” After the show, Clément intends to relieve the pressure on himself. “I need to put school behind me to be able to have clearer ideas and start afresh.”
Mathilde Van Rossom
“My collection is about who I am today as a young woman and as a designer. It reflects my political interests and the theme of mother-daughter transmission.” Mathilde Van Rossom (Brussels, 24 years old) enrolled at La Cambre because she always had a strong desire to make clothes and dreamed of working for a big luxury fashion house. After her five-year course, her priorities have changed. “Gradually, I became aware that, in general, fashion is still an industry that causes a lot of pollution and exploits people in Asia, as well as in Europe. I realised that my role as a designer includes thinking differently and that it is possible to reshape the fashion system.” In the future, she hopes to work for a business driven by strong ethical values. Showing her commitment to those values, she chose sustainable materials for 80% of the collection: organic wool and cottons from Europe and Turkey. Mathilde also chose to make her collection gender-neutral. “In 2018, I think it’s more relevant to mix men and women. I think it’s very normative to create barriers that no longer reflect the way people live.” Fashion weaves connections, creating exchanges, in the first place between well-known designers and emerging designers. “How can we ignore what (Hussein) Chalayan and (Martin) Margiela did before us?” The same dynamic exists between designers and the people who wear their creations. “With a piece of clothing, you’re passing the torch to somebody else. You put a huge amount of yourself into it, but it’s a stranger that will wear it and add their own story to it.”
“My collection juxtaposes two themes that create a link between the past and the future. The underwear and casual wear is very colourful, inspired by my Serbian heritage and by clothes that my grandmother wore in the 1950s and 1960s. Normally, I don’t often work in colour, but I found myself inspired to combine these kinds of motifs with sporty fabrics. The designs are complemented by leather coat-bags, which reflect my hopes for the future.” Milena Walter (Paris, 26 years old) always wanted to work in fashion but, having completed her baccalaureate at seventeen, she spent three years studying literature at the Sorbonne before coming to La Cambre on the advice of a professor of drawing, whose course she was following in parallel. “In the beginning, I always planned to make clothes, but this year I realised that what I wanted was to work with accessories and leather goods, though without leaving clothes behind altogether. It’s a very different approach; the pieces are smaller. Every detail counts, and they take a lot of time.” She is conscious of the fact that leather is not like other materials. From the first to the last piece, all the leather in her collection comes from French tanneries which guarantee that their products are fully traceable back to the animal. “I don’t think of skin as a fabric. When I’m making a pair of trousers, I am very aware that I am using the skin of four little animals.” So yes, vegan leather could be a solution. But not straight away. So far, what she has seen has not convinced her.
“My collection explores fatherhood as a form of masculinity that goes beyond the macho codes of the alpha male. Since I don’t have any children, it was developed as a projection of the type of father that I could be. It also reflects a personal desire, and the desire to be able to look at myself in the mirror. It’s a collection with little garments that cuddle up to bigger ones, with elements of continuity between them. There are large pieces designed so that you can have a child next to you and you can wrap them up.” For Cyril Bourez (Lille, 26 years old), fashion was the obvious choice. He got his first sewing machine when he was twelve years old. For him, a piece of clothing is, above all, a beautiful object, and fashion is a way of carrying, embodying, and appropriating objects. “The more I do, the more I want to create real clothing. I want to keep making experimental pieces to show on the catwalk, but also make pieces that can be produced and worn.” He likes quite traditional materials, which he seeks to take to another level in the tailoring and with details like the positioning of a pocket or the cut of the armholes. In his final collection, he displays his motifs and colours in mesh and jacquard pieces. Having always had an interest in men’s collections, he would like to pursue that interest by joining a company that makes menswear. “But I know that I have to be ready to move and stay open to whatever comes along, and that leaving the school will be a great leap into the unknown.”
“My collection is big and colourful. It is inspired by what is currently happening with the Kurdish fighters, strong women defending their children and their country. I combined that with modern dance similar to (American choreographer) Martha Graham’s. In movement, there is a tension between the jersey and a body that is trying to free itself.” Rebecca Szmidt (Nancy, 25 years old) came to La Cambre following three years studying design at the Ecole Condé in Nancy. She wanted to learn the trade, to work more with clothes, and less with drawings. “When I was little, I already wanted to become a fashion designer. It wasn’t so much the catwalk, and everything that goes with it, that attracted me, but actually creating clothes.” After five years, some things have stayed the same, including her desire to start her own label, but she has gained an awareness of the realities of the market. She has also refined her vision artistically. “Before, I only wanted to make things that were beautiful. Now I want to explore what some would consider ugly or outdated. For example, there are motifs in my collection that I would definitely have found ugly five years ago, because my eye was not mature enough.” Rebecca feels like she is still finding herself and is taking a pragmatic approach to her future. The next step will be to join a fashion house, big or small, to do an internship. “If I had the choice, I would definitely prefer a smaller, slightly sleepy label that needs an injection of punch!”
> La Cambre Mode[s]: show 18. 1 & 2/6, 20.00, Les Halles