A water-pollution-inspired collection gets the attention of a museum.
I really think that showing in museums helps because people who are going to museums can stop in front of a work of art to read the concept and pay attention to details. If The Musée de La Piscine has acquired my pieces, it is because they were touched by my concept.
A museum is distinguished by its unique collection of objects with a formality of procedures and practices in acquiring these objects. It’s a high bar for an artist to be part of that collection, particularly if it is at the beginning of one’s career. Berlin based French designer, Victoire Laffineur, is an artist who achieved that. In being recognized for her creative output, The Musée de la Piscine in Roubaix [North of France] has acquired one look from her body of work, Renaissance, for their collection.
Renaissance, a strong design statement of the damaging effects of water pollution, is timely and timeless. Art should not be separate from life. Through the use of technique, Victoire puts into context the sociological and environmental aspects of her designs with compelling imagination and detail. From concept to execution, she takes pride in her French fashion heritage and it shows. Her materials collaboration with notable centuries old French ateliers adds a symbolic enchantment to her creations.
My talk with Victoire. . .
There is a cultural debate that fashion is not an art form. I believe fashion is an artistic expression and is as valid as sculpture and paintings. Victoire, do you feel that your designs are a work of art and why? Clearly The Musée de la Piscine in Roubaix, who has acquired pieces of your collection, must see your work as art.
Fashion helps me to express myself. I love this freedom I have when I am designing. You need every part of your body to achieve a collection. You feel all the materials you are using. For example, just like a painter with paint, brushes, canvas…, you are choosing and working with fabrics, trimmings, furnishings…
I would say that my designs are a work of art because there is no production behind it. I am designing unique pieces. I don’t expect people to wear my clothing everyday. I want to spread a strong message through my designs. I really think that showing in museums helps because people who are going to museums can stop in front of a work of art to read the concept and pay attention to details. If The Musée de La Piscine has acquired my pieces, it is because they were touched by my concept.
Ahh. . .I can understand that.
Europe fashion has roots in seeing the value of fashion as an investment. The attention to construction detail, materials, and quality is very important. What cultural impact did fashion have on your upbringing?
I am proud to be French because of its wonderful fashion and handcraft heritage and am especially proud when I can share it. When I am designing and choosing my materials, I always keep in mind what I want to highlight from the French know-how.
For my Renaissance collection, I worked with wool companies such as Cheval Blanc and Phildar; worked with the most amazing lace in the world from la Dentelle de Calais-Caudry; and with Maison Lognon for the plissé [pleated] parts of my design. It was very pleasant to work with all these companies and Maisons who were already convinced of my work by showing them my collages and telling them of my concept.
Your choice for using 4 colors and the names of the colors is quite profound. Why did you use the material that you did for the pollution water story?
When I started my collection, I first began to set up the colors without wondering if the colors will match together. The 4 colors I used were obvious. They are strong enough to have only 4 colors. They are Shaken Blue, which reminds us of the blue of the oceans; Threatening Rust which is actually the color left by boats; Harmful Yellow which means the yellow of the pictograms of the toxic products; and I used -Synthetic Green which represents algae.
I used a range of materials for the pollution water story for two reasons. First, I totally fell in love with the fabrics I found and they were exactly the color I expected. Honestly, it was also a challenge for me because through my collection, I learnt how to manipulate technical fabrics such as neoprene and velvet.
Second, I used as many materials as I wanted because it reminded me of all the pollution we find in the ocean. This mix of what is natural in the ocean and everything else inspired me. It is maybe more obvious when you have a look at my headdresses. I did not limit them with 4 colors. They are in line with a combination of ocean colors and material waste we find in the ocean.
Also, my collection was built with a lot of open questions. For example, concerning the latex I used to create my own plastic scales, I was wondering if the fishes from tomorrow will develop plastic scales in order to survive with their plastic neighborhood.
Yes that’s amazing about the survival of the fish. You have such vision for your concept and execution. A well thought out story on water pollution.
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries. I don’t like the idea that there are too many clothes being produced to be wasted afterwards. I don’t want to take part of this.
Being creative is also being innovative in how you use materials. Victoire, define for the viewer what fabric manipulation is.
Very simply, I would say that fabric manipulation is using all techniques to reshape or redefine a material. It can be a wide range of techniques from a small amount of gathering to crazy patchwork all the way to pleating, smocking, quilting, cut work, embroidery, etc.
Fabric manipulation helps give meaning to my designs. I am always questioning or have a strong idea behind them. I love doing experimentation, testing, and exploring new material. It makes the piece feel unique and beautiful. The fabric manipulations I brought to this collection act in the same way to my pieces that the manipulation from pollution does to the ocean.
Your headdresses complete the look and add another layer of visual communication of your story.
Yes, I collaborated with Jodie Cartman, a headdress designer, to create unique headdresses. These represent all the colors and textures you can find in the ocean. They finish perfectly my looks.
Zero waste and saving the planet from the harmful effects from the fashion industry is what today’s generation of designers are doing. What does upcycling mean to you and what are you currently creating or would like to create that is sustainable?
Fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries. I don’t like the idea that there are too many clothes being produced to be wasted afterwards. I don’t want to take part of this.
Upcycling is used by many artists, not only in fashion. When you are working in an upcycling way, it means that you have the power to give a second life to something. To me, working 100% in an upcycling way in fashion is very idealistic, especially when the production is huge. Regarding my work, I love working in this way for a specific request or when I just feel inspired by an abandoned product.
What do you think of American fashion compared to French fashion? Please be honest.
I am French and I have been in America only once in my life. What I think is that American fashion looks more easy going and casual than in France. To me, Americans are not afraid of their bodies and dress with ease by showing more parts of their skin. French people seem concerned by how they look by others, as if they were not free to wear what they want. I feel like in France, people are still looking for a style because we are sometimes stuck in this French elegance that puts more emphasis on quality.
Your observations are interesting about American fashion. From my numerous travels to Paris [back in the 1990’s], I saw that the French had such an understated and sophisticated style.
And finally, Victoire, what do you hope to be doing 5 to 10 years from now?
I would like to continue with my label and be able to dress up powerful people who have the same convictions as me. I hope I can take part in different Fashion Weeks. I would also love to work closer with museums to create textile installations to support my collections. And above all, I want to imagine and tell stories.
Keep telling your stories and being a master at that. The fashion world needs more storytelling! Congratulations, Victoire Laffineur! We look forward to seeing more of your designs.
Photography – Pascal Lefebvre; Models – Marie Loridan and Capucine Dhenry; Makeup and Hair – Clémence Delabre; Headdresses – Jodie Cartman; Design – Victoire Laffineur