October. Paris. Grey skies overhead. Indian summer battling the impending autumn. Dormant pavements. A sunday like all sundays, slightly diffuse, quiet and filled with possibilities. Turning the corner onto Rue Hérold, this was fashion week however, it suddenly becomes apparent, how hidden we are, away from all the proverbial fashion ruckus. A feeling of anticipation slowly creeps upon our shoulders. To feel something, in this day and age, amidst the constant roll of collections, felt truly wonderful. Our destination, would only come to further enthrall our senses.
SANDRINE PHILIPPE has been holding court here for some years. Her atelier is framed by stark black walls, covered by leather samples, texture swatches and iron furnishings. Bare, but warm and welcoming. Her work often falls underneath La La Land’s radar, as it is beautifully layered, emotive and intellectual. Sandrine, is one of those people that has a voice that speaks louder then words. At first, her designs might provoke, antagonize or isolate the onlooker. Look deeper and you will find her designs are part of an ongoing dialogue, abreast with the purest of love and interaction. Peek beyond the blackness, creep underneath the leather, scrape away the complexly knitted cobwebs and reach for the starry skies, that Sandrine so thoughtfully musters in her modest Parisian atelier.
Groundstrokes. Sandrine, let us begin by exploring your childhood, what kind of a youngster were you?
As a child, I was most curious, impulsive and a bit of a dreamer child. I was raised on the countryside in Brittany, France, which meant nature, freedom and wide open spaces. I always say that my roots have deeply influenced me and my work. I am unconsciously connected with the special light in these areas that frame the Western shores. There is a hint of protective grey frog, that runs in all day running on countryside. It feels as if one can often discover some haunted castle surrounding by old local legends. As a youngster, and still, this intense feel is so inspiring to me, more then turning solely towards boring romantically desperation!
Instigator. Could you recall a unique moment that perhaps served as a trigger for you to explore garment design?
From early age I always knew that I want to do something in fashion drawing for sure! It was imbedded within me. The the trigger was my grandmother (a seamstress) and her old sewing machine, the noise of it was so fascinating to me. Her house was so inspiring, there were all these hidden treasures on her shelves. After a while, as I turned a little older ,the second trigger was a picture of a early Rei Kawakubo “Comme des Garcons” jacket, it had so much emotion embedded within. For me, it symbolized a sense of certitude to follow a path as a designer.
Francophile. The connotation of being French or Parisian, has changed so much over time and in history, with a new turn taken in the last few years. What does it mean to be French and be part of its society today?
You are right, these dynamics have changed a lot. To be French now means to be brave and go on life without fear. It means, to be proud of our history and democracy, proud of our values and to respect it as far as we could. In the times we live in, these are no longer wishes, but have become a need for all of us. We must hold on, belief and remember.
Establishment. Thank you for sharing those words Sandrine. Part of your profound connection to Paris, also must come from your unique atelier on Rue Hérold, where we met today?
Well, to be honest, at first it was not a plan at all, but when a friend of mine proposed me this place, it all became evident. It was so special to walk in here, it felt like a form of visceral evidence. I knew right away, that it would become my place. Inside we have created our own world. And we find ourselves both in the middle of the city, but as you said, we can hide. My atelier is quite secret and for sure it is underground like some respiring “ lung” amidst the tumult!
Blackest Noir. The true foundation of your universe. What makes black such a profound canvas to hone your skills from?
To me black also serves as evidence. It is the exposure of my vulnerability and intensity. Equally it embraces emotion and aesthetics. Black shows us mystery, the strength of darkness and invisible beauty. As a colour, it makes us look deeper and beyond what is there at first. As a designer, I feel, this shaded universe, promotes a feeling for freed emotion, time and expression. No restraints, but personalities.
Laboratory. Your work is deep, meaningful and so rich in craftsmanship. How reflective are you in your craft?
Indeed, it is a such a wish, to ask for more reflection in fashion. Regardless of the others, whatever I do, I focus solely on emotion. To do my work as I do it is the way of expressing these emotions, to provoke true sentiments within people. I like for my work to be shared and used by people from all walks of life. To make such pieces that embrace their wearers fully, I am heavily immersed in research, tailoring and profound craftsmanship. This is the only way for me, it is the truest form of creation, you simply cannot lie!
Consumption. How would you like for your designs to be appropriated, when they journey onto your clients?
I propose they dispose!!! What I mean by this, is that I propose a universe but what I like much more than anything is when my customers are creating their own. I never want to dictate anything, I love the freedom my work may give to individuals, this is truth!
Art not Basel. We spoke of inspirations before, loosely. I am intrigued to ask you more about the artists that you feel drawn too emotionally?
In the fashion world “ Comme des Garcons “ and the late Lee Mc Queen of course. However, perhaps even more than fashion designers, art is really important for me. I am fond of Anselm Kiefer, Boltansky, Annette Messager or Mathew Barney! When it comes to moving works, I love the work of choreographers like. Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker or Hofesh Shechter or Marco Chenevier. There are many that inspire and move me. And yes, of course, I almost forget Gérard de Nerval, the writer/poet, who I have loved ever since I can remember!!!
Layman’s terms. In short words, what are the tent-poles of your universe?
Truest of Truth and honesty.
Emotion and sensibility.
Universe and laboratory.
Leather-head. And any shout out to leather, one of your most prolific surfaces?
It is ….. life ! it is so organic, it is complicated to explain that. It is like a bestial attraction, a vital necessity!
Vogue-ing. Your last presentation (ed. FW16), was quite an event. Could you tell me why you like to stage your collections elaborately and tell a story each time?
As you might know, I always say that I am not a fashion designer but a universe builder!
What is important for me is to propose something different , truly different, to provoke emotion not only doing fashion but give my work another proposal with other possibility. This is my way of life and how I can pass my thoughts onto others by trying to share my own vision of the world…
Ed. So Sandrine… now let us wind things down with an ultimate quick fire round….
Intricate. What makes Sandrine, truly Sandrine?
Sensibility, emotion,work and love
Duplicate. If you could wear and repeat one of your designs eternally, which one would you pick?
All of them are my babies, but my favorite one is my caveman coat. It is a longer piece in false fur with a leather harness. With a piece like this, I have made exactly what I had in mind at a certain period: soft comfortable garments, that are also strong and a little raw. They truly mark a novel take on Ying and Yang!!!. Another item, I cherish, is a couture tailcoat, which took so many hours of work too complete. The time spent, result and process, makes me love this piece so dearly.
Complicate. What tune would serve perfectly as the soundtrack to this conversation?
Sigur Rós for sure..…..or Einstürzende Neubauten (Armenia)!
All images courtesy Atelier Sandrine Philippe, 6, Rue Hérold, Paris