Christelle Kocher on Koché, cool and showing in The Strand
The thing one must always expect from Koché is the very unexpected – which is why its designer Christelle Kocher will stage yet another fashion first this Tuesday at noon in Manhattan. She will hold her latest fashion show inside the most beloved bookshop in America, the Strand on lower Broadway.
“It will be Paris meeting New York in a really French silhouette,” says Kocher, who will present 46 looks of her pre-fall 2018 collection inside the storied bookstore.
“The Strand is one of the great iconic centers of culture in Manhattan. It’s exciting to marry the energy of our shows and spontaneity to this venue. I want to pay homage to this crazy city and what is important – all the great literature and writers here from Hemingway to Sylvia Plath. You can find a book about everything here,” marvels the designer.
Models will weave through the rare book section; pause before the general public on the ground floor and change backstage in the stockroom. The Strand's tagline is 18 Miles of Books.
Ever since she launched her brand in 2014, designer Christelle Kocher has been ripping up the rule book. Not surprisingly for the brand, whose designer defines it as the meeting of High Fashion, street culture and contemporary art. Last season, she sent out a women’s RTW collection inspired by Europe’s richest soccer team, Paris St-Germain – team jerseys finished with crystals, away jerseys morphed into funky cocktails – shown inside a Gothic church. Two years ago, she presented her 2016 collection inside a truly decrepit old dive passage – where clients coming out of an African hairdressing walked the runway with models slinking by in zebra parkas and deconstructed frocks. An uncanny mixologist, her collections always manage to be tough yet whimsical, funky but always feminine.
Back in 1998, Kocher won a grant to study fashion in St Martins, before running up a striking résumé with stints with Bottega Veneta, Dries Van Noten, Chloé, Sonia Rykiel, Martine Sitbon and Giorgio Armani.
“St Martins was the best place in the world in the late 90s. Everyone talked about Galliano and McQueen or Tracey Emin or Gary Hume. There was a great music scene and this incredible energy,” she recalls.
Kocher has kept on grabbing attention – being shortlisted for both the LVMH Prize and the ANDAM awards in the past two years. Tuesday’s show will include new techniques, courtesy of a two-season collaboration with Woolmark. From the get-go, the boldness of her imagery - like her signature graphical patchwork tops, to the purity of her line - wonderful slouchy pants – has marked her out for greatness. The brand is still very much a fledgling one, with just 30 sales points worldwide, but its influence far outweighs its reach. The true mark of a designer of great potential.
In 2010, Kocher was named artistic director of Maison d’Art Lemarié, the Paris feather and flower specialist; one of some 10 unique resources owned by Chanel. Guided by Karl Lagerfeld, Kocher’s team at Lemarié created a series of truly beautiful sailors’ shirts and cocktails in horizontal bands of micro plumage for Chanel’s Métiers d’Art collection staged in Hamburg last week.
“My goal is always to challenge the craftspeople. It’s an intrepid project with Chanel, to make a collection that is all about experimenting and finding new technique. And this in turn gives me greater knowledge, and helps my own line,” smiles Kocher, when we speak in Hamburg in the concert hall soaring 100 meters above Hamburg’s port.
She flew the following morning for NYC, with “an amazing Lemarié coat of goose duck and feathers with ostrich trim,” created for her own collection.
“This season I approach fashion and lifestyle in a more casual way. Lots of unisex, and plenty of menswear. I am even mixing prints of the Eiffel tower, PSG, New York and my own Koché logo. Kinda crazy!" exclaims Kocher.
Aged 39, Kocher now lives in Paris with a suitably artistic boyfriend, director of plays and contemporary dance Julien Lacroix. Born in Strasbourg to an electrician dad and a nanny mum, Kocher discovered fashion through TV.
“I grew up in the suburbs and I was initiated into fashion from a young age via television where I met Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Paul Gaultier, which was just magic. And I began to dream and draw. And, today, I live my dream.”
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