An Interview with Alexandre Vauthier



Peplum blazers paired with thigh skimming miniskirts or skinny trousers, a figure-hugging jumpsuit, one-shoulder dresses with thigh-high slits, deep-V plunging necklines, sometime asymmetrical, that still managed to leave something to the imagination, the Fall 2012 Couture collection of Alexandre Vauthier in a chich colour palette of pure white and gold oozed sex appeal.

The V shape appeared at different angles in most looks, a play on the first letter of his name that the designer hopes will help make his clothes instantly recognizable.

After the presentation, a French journalist remarked to Vauthier that in his outfits the models were “mortellement sexy” which loosely translates as drop-dead gorgeous. Sitting on the black leather coach of his studio, a stone’s throw from the Avenue des Champs Elysees, Vauthier said a few days later he believes his role is to make women as beautiful as he can. “My style is quite sensual and glamorous, but to be frank I believe it’s the models that speak the best when they showcase the dresses. When I see how the clothes make them feel, I know I succeeded,” he says.

“I want people to recognize the cut, the workmanship. I guess I have some codes that are now starting to emerge after several seasons, recurring things like the colours white, black and gold tend to be the base of everything I do, the cut, very close to the body. I’m really trying to make women as beautiful as I can every time. I don’t do this by phantasme (fantasy) but I listen to them and I try to understand what they want and need. I think it’s important not to forget that women like to seduce so the woman wearing the dress should seduce the man.”

His latest collection, presented on the official haute couture schedule, was inspired by the R&B culture of Los Angeles. “I like to start with something very underground and make it very chic. I knew from the start I wanted to do something with gold chains,” says the 41-year old, who worked with the jeweller GoossensParis to develop a line of fantasy jewellery that he draped around his models in cascades.

Vauthier loves to experiment with a wide range of new materials and for this collection he has worked with different manufacturers to develop platinum leaves on muslin which give the fabric a paper-like appearance, guipure lace made with gold thread as well as a jersey with some gold thread, and silk chiffon on latex.

The designer wants his couture to be extremely wearable: “I believe it’s important to appreciate what is happening in the world around us, and do a couture of context. Yes, it’s great to create beautiful evening gowns with amazing embroideries but frankly there are quite a few people doing this already very well. I personally want to do a couture that is very wearable, with ultra-precise finishing, a couture exceptionally pure and honest with a fabulous cut.”

Prior to setting up his Couture label in 2009, Vauthier had worked for Thierry Mugler for four years and then as head designer for Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture collection for another eight years, while also working on Gaultier’s fur collections and special projects (movies, shows).

Vauthier recalls his time with Mugler fondly. “My years at Mugler were extremely formatives at all levels. He taught me to be resourceful, find solutions very quickly. He also allowed me to meet a lot of important people as he was working with a lot of atelier like Maison Lesage, Goossens, Lemarie and he also really sharpened my eye because I was sitting in on the fittings. As he was someone doing a suit with 300 pieces, he was an excellent teacher. And beyond work, he has also taught me a lot of things about life.”

His time with Gaultier provided other opportunities and taught him to juggle many different balls at the same time. “Mugler was all about the anatomy, the details and sophistication and was very Americanized. Gaulthier is very Parisian with a very French culture which translates into his vision of couture. With him I learnt to be a multi-disciplinarian,” he explains.

Working alongside two of the most iconic French fashion designers gave Vauthier the knowledge, confidence and, importantly, the contacts to start his own line. In 2009, having used the savings he had set aside to buy a flat, Vauthier presented his first collection with its distinct architectural silhouette inspired by a trip to Los Angeles

In 2010, le Bon Marche Rive Gauche department store asked him to design an exclusive outfit based on his couture collection. Vauthier create a jersey mini dress with removable shoulder pieces and a black varnished belt. This led to a bigger collection for the department store and the launch of his own ready-to-wear collection, now sold in 25 outlets around the world, including Joyce in China, Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong and Envie de Pois in Singapore.

With his own atelier still extremely small, Vauthier reaches out to specialists to help with his collections. Maison Lesage worked on all his embroideries, mainly with crusty gold bead and crystals, including his final look – a show-stopping gold bodysuit embellished with beads, rhinestones, ceramic fringes and Swarovski Elements, while Christian Louboutin was called on to update his popular Bis Un Bout with white or gold toe-caps and gold heels.

It is this importance to details and craftsmanship that set aside couture from ready to wear. “Couture as I see it is all about details that you can’t always see,” he says, explaining that a small white biker jacket lined with lynx while its zips are gold plated and engraved by a specialist. Other furs used in the collection had gold fringes sewn into them.

While the designer has already developed a successful line of accessories of jewellery and evening bags, he’s now planning a new perfume. No date yet for its release, but it is easy to image it will be as sexy as his couture.

As written for Couture by Designaré – Vol 3 (September 2012)