Carven‘s artistic director Guillaume Henry was joined yesterday by Alexa Chung at Barney’s New York Flagship to showcase Carven’s Spring 2011 Collection. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the young, Parisian designer to chat about the rebirth of Carven since he took over its directorship in 2009.
Read on for a glimpse into the charisma and charm that is Guillaume Henry. And make sure to click through the slides for some of my favorite pieces from the collection. Side note: Guillaume and I got to chat it up in French at the end of the interview that kinda makes us BFF, right?
Given Carven’s longstanding legacy, how did you feel when you stepped into the artistic director position in 2009?
Oh it was super challenging and super stressful, but it’s such a brand that I like. You know I neverdreamedof being an artistic director in the past; it was something I would think of, but I wouldn’t imagine that it would happen to me. And especially with this brand, because I love it it’s all about what I like. It’s about freshness, youth, elegance, effortless chic, and when I was offered that position I couldn’t refuse.
With the recent resurgence of interest in Carven in celebrity dressing, who would (or do) you love to see in Carven?
All the girls that have been wearing Carven are girls that I really admire, so each time it was such a surprise, such a shock to see those girls. I’m really looking at them, I’m getting inspired by them, and then they’re wearing Carven so it’s so great.
But it’s true that there are a few girls that I really would love to see wearing Carven. For example Kristen Stewart or Natalie Portman she’s so chic and elegant and fresh for me. And yeah I mean I would love to meet her, but I mean there are so many. Especially in the States, I mean I would say Kirsten Dunst, Dakota Fanning, and even the more mature ones. I love Susan Sarandon it’s not really a question of age, it’s what do they do, what gift they bring to the people.
What tenants of the brand’s original vision have you kept in tact as your re-launched Carven? What elements of the brand’s identity have you updated?
The main idea when we first started working at Carven was to keep the heritage of the brand, but it doesn’t mean doing the same clothes as another time, because who would wear a crinoline today or a satin dress with too much embroidery on it.
Today a woman wants to go outside to have fun, be chic, be able to wear only a tank shirt with a pair of jeans. But the main idea was to keep the DNA. Carven, when she first started, became obsessed with this idea of fresh elegance, and that’s what we want to do.
Carven is frequently described as being “free from ostentation.” In your opinion, what is ostentatious in today’s manner of dressing? Or rather, what fashion trend are you eager to see pass?
You know there are as many designers as there are trends. Do you see what I mean? I’m not there to criticize, I’m just there to express what I personally like. Sometimes I can find super interest in a girl that is overdressed or over-tacky. I can only do what I’m able to do, but it’s a question of being aware of who you are deeply. So as far as other people, don’t pretend to be somebody else. And then I can like anything.
What is your favorite piece in this season’s collection? Which piece was most challenging to design?
For a piece that was most challenging I would say the draping and all those kind of twists like in the black bustier dress (see above). It’s a proper ready to wear line, but sometimes there’s this couture technique, and we spend a lot of time in the studio or atelier developing those techniques.
And I would say as well the prints because they’re all exclusive, and we spend a lot of time working on the color because for me, a print should tell the story of the collection. So it’s always a big challenge for me to work on the print.