Dhaka, Sunday, 24 March 2019

Coralie Marabelle Is Giving Eco Fashion a French Girl Twist

2019-02-17
Coralie Marabelle Is Giving Eco Fashion a French Girl Twist

by Laird Borrelli-Persson: Coralie Marabelle is a Parisian designer forging a new way forward in fashion, so it seems especially fitting that she was born just a few blocks away from the house of pioneering female designer, Jeanne Lanvin. Marabelle, 32, started sewing at the age of eight and can’t remember a time when she wasn’t “crazy about garments.” That passion led her to Studio Berçot, and to assistant positions at Hermès, Margiela Artisanal, and Alexander McQueen. In 2014, three years after graduating, Marabelle scooped up the Public Prize at the Hyères Festival with a collection inspired by a vintage photo of an Iranian sheep shearer. Through this recognition Marabelle came to the attention of the Federation Française de la Couture, which invited her to participate in Designers Apartment, a program supporting emerging talent. Within five months of being selected, Marabelle had pulled together a collection and made her Paris Fashion Week debut in September 2016. “Launching my own label is the best thing I have ever done,” Marabelle writes from her hometown, where she’s recently opened her first shop near the Canal Saint-Martin at 114 rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Reading all of this, it might seem that Marabelle is progressing at the speed of light. Au contraire; this Parisienne is a proponent of slow and eco-conscious fashion and she’s set up her business to operate outside of the fashion calendar. Rather than introduce two or four seasonal collections, she creates one capsule per month, all variations on a theme. “We chose this rhythm to have total creative freedom and to be able to always surprise our customers,” says Marabelle. This method of production insures that the collection “is always in movement with new pieces coming in. It is like a never-ending story that goes on and evolves.”

We can reveal here, along with a sneak peek of her February drop, that the designer’s new seasonal focus is on female artists and kicks off with garments inspired by the work of Alexandra Bircken. Read on for Marabelle’s thoughts on “French Girl style” and why responsible fashion matters.

What are your takeaways from having worked at Hermès, Maison Margiela, and Alexander McQueen?

My first work experience was at Hermès working in the womenswear design studio when Jean Paul Gaultier was the creative director. There I was taught the importance of having a true respect for the materials, the products, and the clients you work for, and to always be looking for the best fabrics, best finishings—the best everything. I also learned a lot from Jean Paul Gaultier; he is very positive, always so enthusiastic about everything. I love the fact that he doesn’t take fashion too seriously; he just has fun while creating. I also like to work this way. One day I asked him for some career advice, and he told me: “Don’t listen to people and trust yourself. People will always try to stop you from making your dreams come true. Just listen to yourself and do it.” I never forgot that.

From Hermès I went to Maison Margiela, where I worked under Matthieu Blazy, the creative director of the Artisanal (couture) line at the time. This was one of my favorite experiences. I worked on crazy couture pieces, all unique, mostly made by hand. We made necklaces from vintage Indian jewels, a top out of an old embroidery from the beginning of the century, jackets from amazing vintage laces. I was so excited about working this way. I also had access to the archives of the Artisanal line. It was full of hidden amazing handcrafted pieces from the very beginning of Margiela. A treasure. I would have slept there if I could! With Matthieu, I also realized that it’s possible to be extremely creative and be well organized without working crazy hours and putting a lot of pressure on people. We had a small team and a very sane rhythm of work, and were still making amazing garments, which is not that common in the fashion industry.

Finally I went to Alexander McQueen in London, working as a womenswear designer assistant under Sarah Burton. I was doing a lot of creative research, searching for inspiration images, creating garments on a mannequin, drawing a lot, and making fabric manipulations and samples. It was very intense, very creative, I learned that you can make the impossible possible with a great team and a lot of work! One day I had to manage around 60 people to create three couture dresses in just a few days [for the Spring 2013 collection]. Each of them was covered with hundreds of handmade organza flowers made out of something like 30,000 hand-pleated petals. We had so many crazy moments like this; I keep such amazing memories of that time.

When you launched your own line, what was the “hole” in fashion that you wanted to fill?

I wanted to create a ready-to-wear line with a couture touch, but [for] everyday. Creative garments, but easy to wear; high quality and consciously made, not overpriced.

How would you describe your work?

Arty. Crafty. Playful. My mother is a ceramist, one of my sisters is an illustrator, another is a bag designer; we all grew up doing creative activities and do-it-yourself projects. I start all my collections by working with my hands, manipulating fabrics to create my own texture. The playful aspect comes from my use of festive and bold colors, and I always focus on movement, as I danced a lot when I was younger and it is still part of me. Art is one of my biggest inspirations. I cannot live without going to see exhibitions. I like to build my garments with architectural shapes; I see them as bold and minimalistic sculptures. As I create garments to empower women, I am obsessed with oversize and balloon sleeves which [create] a very strong silhouette.

Why is eco-consciousness important to you?

For me it is fundamental to have a sustainable approach that respects both the planet and the people working on our clothes. Most people do not know how much work there is behind one garment. Each piece we make is the result of a long process and a whole team is involved in [its] development.

How do you put sustainability into practice?

“Eco” consciousness for me means to always choose the better option through the whole process, from the choice of material, to the choice of manufacturers. We are not perfect; it is impossible to make everything [completely sustainably]. The whole industry needs to evolve, but we do our best. We produce locally (all in France and mainly in Paris) to support the incredible know-how of the manufacturers around us. [In this way we] reduce our environmental impact by avoiding too many travels and shippings. We select high-quality fabrics, mainly from Europe, from very good suppliers. We produce limited editions, to avoid overstock and waste. Sometimes our products can be sold out and we take preorders. We don’t do sales. We are very proud to work in a fair, transparent, and responsible way.

Can you tell us about your Upcycle & Recycle program?

Last November we turned the windows of our shop into big laundry baskets to collect old garments and give them a second life. Everybody stopped in front of the windows; people where very curious about it, and many of them came back with some clothes. I created new upcycled pieces in very limited editions with some of the clothes, and we also gave some to charity associations. For me, a garment can never go into the bin unless it is very damaged. We must give a second life to our clothes.

Who or what inspires you?

I am currently inspired by women and art. Each capsule of the new season will be a tribute to a woman artist, or a collaboration with an artist herself. My February pieces, for example, are inspired by the work of the German artist Alexandra Bircken. For March, the collection will be inspired by and created in collaboration with the French artist Lia Rochas[-Pàris]. And there will be more coming.

In general, I feel like an explorer. I’m constantly observing, meeting [people], traveling, imagining, looking for faraway cultures and folklore, memorable events, images. Every collection starts with an obsession for something. Spring 2017 was inspired by a trip to see the Japanese temples in Kyoto; Fall 2017 started with the work of the Malian photographer Seydou Keïta; Fall 2018 by a visit to Salvador Dali’s house in Cadaques, Spain….

“French Girl style” is often romanticized. Is it a construct?

[No], I think it is very true; it’s a certain type of style and attitude. I think the place you live influences the way you dress.

How would you define the Parisenne look?

The Parisienne is never overdressed. She doesn’t wear crazy outfits, [rather] she is very constant in her style and there is always some kind of simplicity [to it]. She is the kind of girl who seems like she got dressed in five minutes—put on a top, trousers, sneakers, a touch of red lipstick, and ran outside. She always has some kind of négligé attitude. [Because] she wears clothes she feels good in, she won’t look in a mirror 10 times a day. She knows what fits her.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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