Casting is key for me; all the cast members are actually customers of the brand, and it's been like this for three seasons now. We have this situation with our customers where they like taking pictures of our pieces and sending them to us, which makes me feel very proud. We really have a strong community, and the real people who like and wear the brand are not only in the ‘fashion world,’ they are outside in the streets, and I really like that.
Having this kind of diversity portrays the reality of the brand. We have a lot of different body types, and I get inspired by this. On our Spring/Summer 2023 show, where I put like half the cast naked on the runway, I was really stressed because I was aware of how radical it was in terms of the proposal and the diversity of the body types I presented. It’s something different from what everyone is doing, but the reaction was great. People were really thankful; they said it was very nice to see a normal, real body on the runway and make it desirable, which made me really proud.
We have a store in Paris, so I see the reaction of the customers to the brand. They come to me and tell me they feel safe to try things they would never expect to, and that's why I really want to push the brand in this direction. People are forgetting that making clothes is about society, and a basic white t-shirt transforms depending on who’s wearing it: a celebrity, a fashion model, an anonymous person, old, young, blonde, black – everything has a meaning, so casting is really key, and we spent a lot of time thinking about this. We started to do the casting for our Fall/Winter 2023 in October for a show in January.
Exactly, and this is how it should be. You can put your work on everyone because it is the people in the store who look like this, and the buyer in retail is usually not a fashion model. I always got pissed when I used to work at Raf Simons, because, you know (laughs), it's really not what I'm doing. For me, it's really complicated to have a fashion brand when thinking like that. You're from a magazine, but I'm not thinking about the collection for editorial, I'm thinking about the collection for people in the real world.
It's a matter of perspective, if I do my job well, it should suit everyone. For example, the fact that you have plus-sized people on the runway is because we have a lot of them in the store and customers are requesting the garments, so for Spring/Summer 2023 we are doing sizes from XS to XXL. This is what's really important, and it's still not done. I really want all the guys in the next show to be fully dressed and comfortable in their clothes, and when you have this type of body, it is practically impossible to find something as fashionable as they want without minding the size.
This whole vision regarding the body is because we have underwear, which has been very strong in the brand since years ago, and it has forced me to set the tone of the brand. It has also made me realise that I am completely obsessed with the body. It's a product that is so intimate and is the first layer you put on when you're dressing every day, so you really need to be conscious regarding comfort. It's technically very complicated as well, you have to be careful of the specific size chart or how you wash it, and other details that you don't have to mind that much in a tailoring jacket, for example.
People are often really shocked by my tailoring, they say it's amazing, but they don't know I've been working at Raf Simons. I know how to do it and I'm used to it, but it's more difficult for me to do a t-shirt that's very cool at eighty-five euros than a jacket that's seven hundred euros, so now that this underwear situation is kind of in play, I can extend my vision and say, “Ok, we know how to do clothes.
I was really shocked because it's been a few years since Patrick Bateman has been a really trendy Halloween costume, it was not the case like 5 years ago, and now it's coming very strongly, and it makes me wonder: if this guy is actually a serial killer, how is it cool to be dressed up as that? And when I read it again recently, I realised that it's a satire from the 1980s that's still relevant today, so I found it interesting to work with.
Patrick Bateman is the incarnation of everything we hate, he's a guy who hates everyone: women, homosexuals, homeless people, and fat people, which is exactly the opposite of who we are. I wondered what we could do with all this violence, so I wanted to create beauty and have this diversity on the show. Society is very violent to us – men, women, gays, plus-sized people – and we have to fight against a lot of stereotypes, not because we are one thing that defines us completely, but because I can be many things, and they are all part of me. That's why I'm very fascinated by the versatility shown in books. It's important to represent the in-between. I don't find the garments that I produce on the market, and now that I'm dressing a lot of people, they say I'm doing too much for everyone. I think that's a good thing!
In general, I make decisions a long time in advance. For example, we have already decided on the theme for the next collection – I'm a bit of a geek, you know (laughs). We are not a lot, so it takes a bit of time to develop things. We develop everything: the colour, the prints, the fabrics, everything. And for the size of the brand that we have, it's really a long process, so that's why we start developing things at any moment; whenever we see something that can work for a future collection, we save it.
Generally, I start working on the next season 2 months before the show to have this crossover. As I previously stated, the most difficult aspect of this book was extracting the anger. For example, the colour card contains black, white, blue, and red, which obviously refer to violence and blood but also seduction and danger. We have the jacquard with the blood splash because I didn't want it to be too costumey, I wanted to make it chic and elegant. Also, with all the drapery that we did, it was my first time draping in my life, and I wanted to force myself a bit to go in another direction. I wanted to portray the way Patrick was wrapping the bodies with cellophane, so we wanted to have that feeling of movement in the garment without it being restrictive.
The first collection of the brand was inspired by Yukio Mishima's 1956 novel, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion! I would love to do more, but it's so niche here, you have no idea. I'm really trying to take more famous books, and it's been like only two seasons since people are really getting it. I did two collections on Curzio Malaparte, this Italian writer that I am completely obsessed with because his work is so violent, and I am also obsessed with this kind of subversive and scandalous storytelling. He was really on the edge of fascism, we don't know if he was really writing the truth or if it was fake, he was a war reporter during World War II, but at the same time he was writing novels, so the fact that he was really in between is very interesting. Yukio Mishima was so fucked up, and I'm obsessed with it. I did stuff about Franz Kafka too, so I think it's nice to work with something that's a bit on the edge, like watching a Lars von Trier film. You can hate it or adore it, but you're feeling something, and I want people to feel that way when they come to a show.
It's very mainstream: everyone is wearing clothes. It's not like everyone has paintings or art at home, so I don't think it's necessary to put fashion in a category where you have to define if it's art or commercial, it's in between.
Understanding your approach to fashion through literature somehow gives the brand an artistic background. There has always been this debate about whether fashion should be considered art. A strong argument against this statement is the aspect of functionality, necessity, and other technical factors garments must have that are not required to exist when it comes to an art piece. You are very particular about clothing comfort, utility, etc.; I am curious about your point of view on this discussion.
I don't consider myself an artist, I'm more like an artisan. Clothing has to be a product, and I don't think that's a bad word at all – I'm obsessed with this industrial process. It would be easier to have like twenty interns do embroidery and crazy things for the show, but if you're not going to produce them, what's the point? It's not art like painting or sculpting, it's something that's still in the body, and it has to be functional. Even couture is not art because it is made to be worn by the richest people on the planet, you have to use the market for that.
In the end, when you are in the store, you don't need a 10-minute speech to say something, it doesn't have to be complicated or emotional, and if I'm doing my job well, you can feel something without knowing exactly what it is. It's maybe the choice of the colour, of the fabric... What we're doing is really tactile. That's why I think it's difficult to talk about art because there are a lot of senses involved and people appropriate it in different ways.
My boyfriend is a curator of a fashion museum in Paris, so he's doing fashion exhibitions, and you see how the relationship between people and garments has changed. People now really like to do fashion exhibitions because it touches everyone, it's very mainstream: everyone is wearing clothes. It's not like everyone has paintings or art at home, so I don't think it's necessary to put fashion in a category where you have to define if it's art or commercial, it's in between, and you can push it into whatever category you want. It's not art, it's something different that is not less valuable, but different.
I’m always interested in knowing the designers' and creators' opinions about the use of artificial intelligence in disciplines like fashion. Some see it as a tool for exploring new paths and ways to create, while others see it as a threat to real-life creatives. Where do you stand?
I'm totally obsessed with it, which is not the vibe of the brand at all because the brand is different from me. Even if it has my name, it's something different that's evolving with its codes, and we are pushing a direction, but I'm obsessed with AI. I think I would love to do a project with it. I don't see it as a concern for me as a designer, it's a new way of doing things. AI generation for shoes and bags is so cool, right?
Of course, it gives more freedom and possibilities you don't find in the real world, but I would like to compare it with physical books versus e-books. Which one do you prefer?
Real books are the best. As you can see, there are books everywhere in the studio. I like to keep them there to feel them.
Exactly! For me, a physical garment has a similar feeling to a physical book, the fact that you can touch it and hold it gives you a connection you can't get through a picture or a graphic.
But I think there's a difference because literature is very attached to the concept of print. We see texts and images all day, but to have a printed piece is different. I think that in the future, AI will be a tool we can use to create random things and concepts, but it will never replace what we have in real life. It is like the situation with e-commerce and physical sales – they both coexist.
This has been an amazing conversation. Tell me, after all this success and attention from the last few months, what can we expect? What’s next for Louis Gabriel Nouchi as a brand and as a person?
To keep existing (laughs). To stay true to ourselves and independent while also being able to control everything as well. I am a total control freak. Now we have fame and attention, but I know that in fashion, it doesn't last forever, and I don't think it's a bad thing. I started this project and am lucky enough to be able to live off of it, and this is something I learned on the job: when it's done, it's done, and I can't do something else. It will be sad because it's the end of something, but it's not the end of my life. We are not saving the world, we are making clothes. I'm very happy about this situation, but I'm still very down to earth about it. There will be cooler people and better people, but I try to be as hard-working as possible. I think we have touched something in the communities we are representing and that we are standing for, which is really great. Now it's about how you evolve while remaining independent.