Alexandre Vauthier: Purist couture in Le Palace
No independent French couturier in Paris has built as successful a brand in the past decade as Alexandre Vauthier, a designer whose leitmotif is unadulterated glamour.
Success has fueled rapid expansion and allowed him to move into rather tony headquarters – four floors in the 16th arrondissement overlooking a beautiful verdant square. Fittingly for a couturier with such a deep understanding of his métier, his studio overlooks the elegant Palais Galliera, one of the half-dozen greatest fashion museums on the planet.
For Spring/ Summer 2021, Vauthier shot a kicky video in that temple to Gallic partying, Le Palace, a lightning-paced two-minute clip to the tune of disco classic, Cerrone’s 'Human Nature.'
His entire cast all great dancers slinking about the famed nightclub from haute cheek-boned androgynous gals in perfect Perfectos to beauties in dazzling sequined cocktails spilt up to the waist. Not a mask in sight.
Grace Jones lookalikes grooving with dyed blond hunky guys; everything in semi-darkness. French party fashion in capital letters. Nothing very revolutionary – but all exceptionally well executed.
“Since we’ve been in lockdown since March 15 last year, by force majeure, that unleashes a lot of fantasy. As we are deprived of a social life, I’ve tried to think how people react, and the truth is, we are all just dying to party again!” smiled Vauthier in his reception room finished with lamps and tables from Goossens.
“This whole moment has been a great challenge. But we’ve managed to do two films, in Paris and in New York,” added the couturier, referring to a witty short by the NYC-based duo of Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, who lensed the film in the Hamptons.
In Paris, Vauthier rented the Palace and hired of-the-moment Spanish filmmaker Albert Moya to shoot this Spring/ Summer 2021 collection.
“I love Albert’s work, giving him carte blanche. Let’s hope when these clothes are worn things will have evolved and people will be able to go out again, and dance and enjoy life,” he shrugs.
Vauthier, who trained with Mugler and was head designer in the couture atelier of Jean-Paul Gaultier, launched his own house in 2009.
“Immediately, I had a great commercial reaction. Le Bon Marché asked me to produce a series of 30 looks and they sold extremely well. Then I began to add, bit by bit, the ideas of couture into my main collection,” he recalls. Within two years he had given Beyoncé a makeover; and helped create Madonna’s look for her album cover of Girl Gone Wild.
Now, between couture, ready-to-wear and pre-coll’, he designs six collections a year. He is tight-lipped about turnover, but retails in 240 sales points in the world, an extremely good performance for an indie couture house. Though as a financially cautious indie house, Vauthier carefully restricts his runway appearances to just couture. “Couture is what most vibrates and excites me. Plus in couture, I get to work with great artisans like Lesage or Maison Michel every six months, and we challenge each other. Which is very positive,” he stresses.
Last month, Vauthier launched his first major collab, a collection of shoes with one of Italy's greatest shoemakers, Giuseppe Zanotti. Due to lockdown the creative interaction was cut down to three sessions of three hours of Zoom.
“But you know, I almost don’t need to talk to him, as he understand what I want. We speak in the same vocabulary. In terms of height of heels; finish, chromatics and buckles,” explains Vauthier, who debuted several of the 90 looks in this couture video.
Prior to launching his own brand, Vauthier voyaged a great deal. Especially to see his best friend Anne Marie Perse, whose husband Tommy owns the legendary LA boutique Maxfield. Staying in their Hollywood Hills home on Mulholland Drive.
“It reminds me of the Atlantic coast where I grew up,” says the 49-year-old Vauthier, who was born in Agen, a medieval town known for its hard-headed rugby team, and studied in Bordeaux.
He’s also a huge fan of Tokyo, loving its foreignness and the way this giant city manages to remain quite silent, “which I adore. But now I minimize travel, as I have to manage this house.”
Unlike many designers, Vauthier is in no hurry to open a big flagship boutique.
“Given what has happened, if I had one I may have had to close the maison! One has to keep one’s financial priorities in mind,” he says with raised eyebrows.
After a dozen years, would he care to define his brand’s DNA?
“That’s for you editors, or my clients, to say. But what I like is my range, passing from Michelle Obama to Brigitte Macron from Isabelle Adjani to Isabelle Huppert from Rihanna to Beyoncé. Women from multiple cultures and ways of living. There is not one category of woman that’s seduced by my clothes. There is a transversality which I find great. I like individualism. That’s what satisfies me. And the chance to meet these remarkable women, whom I greatly admire,” he nods with a big smile.
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