“Vends et regrette.” Sell and regret. This may seem like a strange way to describe one’s own retail success, but A.P.C.’s Jean Touitou can explain.
In 1987, Touitou launched the the trend-eschewing, cult French label, A.P.C., a line coveted by fashion insiders for its clean silhouettes and slim-cut jeans made from raw, unwashed denim. Almost 20 years later, he joined forces with designer Jessica Ogden to create the spin-off Madras collection which, true to its name, is sourced and manufactured in Madras, India. A.P.C.’s newly launched Quilts collection (the second series hits stores this March) was in part inspired by Touitou’s hope to salvage wasted rolls of fabric left behind in clothing production. Ogden was happy to helm this design process.
According to Touitou, his working relationship with Ogden has been a collaboration in the truest sense of the wordone based upon a shared focus on tailored aesthetics and tradition. Their mutual obsession with quilts doesn’t hurt either. For Touitou, it began with his mother, who would pass on her handmade quilts as gifts, some of which took up to two years to create. Ogden’s fascination derived itself from an interest in old and distressed fabrics: “I always want to know the history behind something. I have a curiosity about how things have been made and why they exist.”
With full access to A.P.C.’s archives, a privilege any A.P.C. addict would trade her perfectly worn-in New Standard jeans for, Ogden designs and assembles the patchwork quilts in a process she holds close to her heart. “It’s like turning a drawing into a painting and having it come to life by the end. It’s very personal,” she said. The quilts are then hand-stitched by sewers in Bangalore, India who are trained in Amish quiltmaking (Touitou compares the discovery of this group of quilters to a New Orleans jazz musician stumbling upon a House of Blues in Shanghai).
In keeping with that spirit, each quilt is numbered to give the owner a sense of exactly how unique it is. Touitou is quick to emphasize that it is the preciousness and scarcity of these fabrics and “not the will of being elitist” that is behind it: “There is only so much of each fabric20 meters of this, 20 meters of that.” He continued, “You know, when you’ve invested part of your life creating these fabrics, they have a soul and there are stories to tell. When they exist a second time, there’s our signature, passed on for generations.”
When asked what influences her design, Ogden points back to her own history. She credits her Jamaican upbringing as a huge inspiration. “There’s something so relaxed about the way people wear the clothes there. There’s an ease for everything, being able to pick things up and find how they work in your wardrobe, not needing to follow high fashion, rather, things that have history. People have a real sense of style.”
Her mother made clothes for her family growing up, and since then, Ogden has been perpetually endeared to the idea of sewing. This explains her frequent eBay searches for vintage sewing kits, used needle books, and dress patterns. “I think it’s so fascinating to see people’s personal needle books; someone’s throwaway is your treasure,” she said. For research, she also shops eBay for children’s clothing and quilts of all styles and periods. “I can’t describe what kind I prefer. It’s like describing why you fall in love. There’s just not one specific type.”
Meredith Barnett is the Editorial Director for The Inside Source, a digital style magazine presented by eBay. The Inside Source writer Stephen Watson authored this article in its original form. Click here to read it in full.