He’s 25, she’s 81. Grandson Julien Aussel and grandmother Paulette Amar work in unison to create organic cotton T-shirts, upcycled wool blazers and silk bandanas for their Paris-based fashion label that has become an unexpected cult hit on both sides of the channel. It’s called Good Morning Keith. The name is a nod to Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards as well as Richard Curtis’ 2009 film The Boat That Rocked, which was released under the title Good Morning England in France. “Most of the inspiration I have comes from music”, says grandson Aussel. “It comes from a record that I love or concert footage on YouTube.”
Grandmother Amar didn’t plan on starting a new creative project in her eighties but found the opportunity to work with her grandson too exciting to pass up. “I share the same passions and inspirations as Julien, so it made sense for me to help him with the brand”, she says. “Our common influences drive us towards the same ideas.” Julien grew up in Paris with Paulette living next door. As a teenager, he bonded with his grandmother over 1960s music and culture, particularly The Rolling Stones. “Working together is magic”, he says.
Paulette’s knowledge of '60s counterculture aesthetics is combined with Julien’s Instagram expertise to promote the brand. “I really enjoy showing her my work and seeing everything she can do”, he continues. “She’s the best and hardest critic because she’s a true '60s expert.” The two work together at each stage of the process, from fabric sourcing to production. “I’ve done creative things all my life, so it was a natural process for me and working with my grandchild is so much fun,” Paulette says.
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“The music always comes first”, Julien continues. “I think the link between fashion and music is really spiritual. They complement each other by relying on different senses. Music on hearing and clothes on seeing. Putting them together allows you to interact with both senses at once.” The brand’s sustainable ready-to-wear products are named after musicians from the '60s and '70s, but Julien has dressed contemporary bands including The Dandy Warhols, Temples and BB Brunes.
Paulette handmakes all their signature bandanas out of 100% upcycled silk, deadstock that her grandson sources from Parisian couture houses. No new fabric is produced except for the cotton for the T-shirts, which is certified by Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Fair Wear. Organic cotton may be more expensive to produce, but this does not push up the price of the products. A signature T-shirt will set you back forty euros, an investment perhaps but not inaccessible. Appealing to young people is essential for a brand inspired by youth culture.
Good Morning Keith is an ode to an era that Paulette remembers well. She spent most of the '60s embracing hippie culture in Morocco, where she started buying fabrics from markets to make clothes, and fell in love with fashion. She would dress herself, her family and friends in her creations, but she never considered a career in fashion. In 1969, she moved to Paris, finding herself in the middle of a social and cultural revolution. It was the year that Serge Gainsbourg released Je t’aime…moi non plus, where Jane Birkin’s breathy orgasmic sighs provoked a scandal and became a musical representation of how times were changing.
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Despite the hippie culture of the '60s, sustainability was not a word used much back then. “Some people were talking about it, but it wasn’t trendy like it is now”, says Paulette. For her grandson, the decision to build sustainability into the brand’s DNA was simple. “I just couldn’t imagine hurting anyone with my dreams.”
He has no official design training, so everything he knows is self-taught from hours of poring over his many photography books. “Being passionate is so important”, he says, “because once you are passionate, the research stage of the process comes naturally.” However, dedication alone is not enough to turn vision into a successful business model. Instagram has been an invaluable resource. Julien posts a mixture of images of garments he shoots himself alongside iconic photographs of stars like David Bowie, Jimmy Page and, of course, Keith Richards.
Many customers first encounter the brand on Instagram. Julien has aligned the Good Morning Keith account with aesthetic pages like @rockarchive and @70sdaily, conveying a mood rather than blatantly trying to sell products. But the app comes with its downsides. “Everything now is linked to what we put on Instagram and how many followers you have”, the grandsom laments, “which comes back to how much money you have to produce a collection.”
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Like many emerging designers, he finds the business side of running a brand more challenging. He launched Good Morning Keith using money he had saved from babysitting. “If I don’t earn money, I’m not doing this project”, says Julien, “so every day, I have to think about selling and writing to stores, and that doesn’t come naturally to me. In a way though, having no money pushes you to be more creative. Having only fifty euros to organise a campaign forces you to work hard and be inventive.”
Having no money might push you but it also prevents Julien from being able to open a permanent store. Gentrification is making it harder for emerging brands to have a physical presence in capital cities. In the next few years, he hopes to be able to open stores in Paris and London, given that sixty per cent of his customers are from the United Kingdom. “I think that in the '60s and '70s, it was easier to create products and find the money to set up a brand or create a collection”, he says. “Now, it’s really complicated. I think we’re living in a more selfish time. Fashion is a hard industry. No one is waiting for you and no one will wait for you.”
As a temporary solution, he’s has opened a series of pop-ups, most recently raising over six thousand euros to open an immersive boutique in Montmartre for three months last summer. Since its closure, the brand has a secret showroom in Paris that clients can arrange to see by appointment. Julien’s admiration of '60s youth culture is evident, but Paulette is influenced by her grandson’s generation too. “It’s fantastic how passionate they can be and how much they want to undertake,” she says. “I get inspired by their willingness and passion. Nearly all of Julien’s friends are working on creative projects. With the expansion of social media, it has become much easier to market your creations and ideas, so that helps a lot. Seeing young people creating and sharing their work is a big source of inspiration for me.”
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Today's youth movements bear a striking resemblance to the movements of the '60s and '70s for which the brand is so nostalgic. As then, there’s also a sense of us living in a world where history is unfolding dramatically. In the 1960s, the miniskirt became a symbol of female liberation. Now, sustainable fashion is leading the charge for the climate movement. Perhaps in another fifty years, we’ll look back with the same nostalgia at 2020. “Young people are the ones who are going to have to face issues like climate change, and I don't think they feel very listened to or represented”, says Julien. “If you keep ignoring people, they will protest, so what’s happening at the moment is logical.”
It is disheartening to think that we are protesting about the same things our grandparents’ generation were fighting against fifty years ago. But it is also uplifting that this defiant spirit lives on, being passed down from generation to generation. Reflecting on subcultures from eras past who worked together as a community to create a better world can give us optimism as we look to the future. And, as Julien says, “The music is just fucking amazing.”
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