Today's POP is Ben, talking up a storm with Christophe Lemaire!
Christophe Lemaire, the man who helped Lacoste pull up its tennis socks with his sculpted sportswear silhouettes, debuts a new vision for Hermès (where he replaced Jean-Paul Gaultier in the summer) next Paris Fashion Week. Exciting as that is, all this focus on his womenswear prowess means the men’s collections he produces under his own label can feel a little overlooked. Shame, because his sharp modernist mix of Eastern and Western references for spring is something we can all appreciate. And it’s an excuse to fantasise about not being forced to wear two pairs of socks.
Christophe kindly answered these questions for us via email from his studio on the rue de Poitou in Paris.
POP: Where did you spend your formative years working in the industry?
Christophe Lemaire: In the Paris high fashion industry of the eighties.
POP: What was the most important lesson you learnt, or piece of advice you were given at the beginning of your career?
CL: “Deep down, it’s always the same thing we want to say,”
POP: What do you find most exciting about menswear at the moment?
CL: Obviously, there is more space for creativity in menswear today as men’s position in society has evolved a lot since the 60s with more room for individual expression and style. Conformism still exists but, clearly, there are many more options today. The net allows men to be more informed with this rediscovery of traditional tailoring and workwear.
POP: Can you describe the aesthetic of your own label? The silhouettes have a unique sculpted appeal that seems to draw from a combination of Eastern and Western influences to create a sharp modernist look.
CL: This is it!
POP: How do you start the collection each season; with inspiration, fabric, colour, or silhouette? Is it always the same process?
CL: More and more I like to approach each new season with the same concept, improving, remaking the same designs. It is never the same process. It often starts with images, more and more the same, season after season: Nicolas de Stael photographed by Denise Colomb for a black shirt worn with black pleated trousers; Foujita, for the washed colours and the refinement of textures; photographs from Sarah Moon, David Byrne, Tibetan coats, Mao jackets, etc.
POP: Which are the qualities that inspire you in the materials you use? Are you drawn to technical performance fabrics, or is it always more traditional textiles you connect with?
CL: I always look for noble materials, soft, supple as well as structured such as silk, thick wool tweeds, velvet cottons… just because they are beautiful and I like the idea of a garment that becomes more and more beautiful as it ages.
POP: The spring/summer show was your first catwalk presentation in a number of years; do you still think the runway has the industry relevance it once had?
CL: There are other ways of showing your work especially now with the web but it is true that a fashion show is a unique ‘dramatic moment’, a beautiful way to push ideas a bit further, to see your clothes in a new and always enriching way. It is a special moment, difficult to replace, but I don’t like when it becomes systematical, a ritual with no more meaning where the emphasis is on spectacle rather than style.
POP: What are the advantages of showing the men’s and womenswear collections alongside each other?
CL: It has the advantage of showing how women’s and men’s wardrobes are close to each other in my collections. I develop a good number of unisex pieces.
POP: You must be very excited at following in the footsteps of Martin Margiela and Jean Paul Gaultier at Hermès, what are you most hoping to bring to the luxury brand?
CL: Something relevant, stylish and contemporary… and very faithful to the spirit of the brand: true luxury.
POP: What were you most proud of achieving at Lacoste, and what do you think your enduring legacy at the label will be after your departure?
CL: I hoped I could pull the brand back to what it was originally: sportswear with style, cool, contemporary and faithful to its very essence.
POP: How do you see the future of menswear evolving, is it all about comfort and technology, or will tradition always have a strong part to play?
CL: I believe in the future of quality vs. quantity.
POP: Your music collaborations are always on the money and show an obvious love of the scene, what are your current listening recommendations?
CL: Ariel Pink, The-the ‘Soul Missing’, Wire ‘Chair’s missing’, Omar Soleyman, LCD Soundsystem ‘Dance yourself clean’, PiL ‘Potones’, Section 25 ‘Wretch’.
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