A conversation with Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud, artistic directors of Carven.
On the occasion of Carven’s Fall-Winter 2016-2017 runway show, Numéro meets up with the house’s two young and talented artistic directors.
They met on the benches of l’Atelier Chardon Savard, where they both studied fashion, and became fast friends. Respectively, the former artistic director of Iceberg and the accessories designer at Givenchy, Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud, both 31, have for the past year been in charge of artistic direction at Carven. Numéro talked with the couple whose March 3 runway show has injected positive energy into Paris Fashion Week.
Numéro: Carven is a ready-to-wear label with a haute couture heritage. How would you characterize the house’s position?
Adrien Caillaudaud: The head of the house, Henri Sebaoun, explained it to us at the beginning. Our clothes needed to remain accessible, but the house would maintain its own atelier. We’re distilling the couture heritage, specifically the respect for finishing touches and the textile research that allows us to make our own designs.
Alexis Martial: We’re able to be demanding without having to make concessions on the design, because in parallel with our work with the atelier, we’re supported by a production team.
Carven’s current image is younger than when you arrived at the house. Was that a deliberate intention on your part?
Adrien Caillaudaud: We didn’t intend to give the house a younger look, but to add other dimensions. The Carven girl is sort of prudish; she wears preppy miniskirts and little coats. We added an urban touch inspired by the ‘90s, with printed t-shirts and graphics. Today’s Carven girl is sort of the best friend of the girl who existed before we arrived.
Alexis Martial: She’s less well-behaved, freer, about 20-40 years old. At Carven, there’s a certain liberty; everything is open. We never tell ourselves, “That’s not Carven.”
Your first collection featured a pair of trousers that has become a real signature piece. And you continue to use bright colors, even in winter.
Alexis Martial: It seemed obvious to us to introduce trousers, because that’s what women wear today. Wearing trousers makes women a bit stronger, a little more boyish. Our trouser is worn high, contours the lower body and draws out the legs.
Adrien Caillaudaud: The bright colors are inspired by the design and architecture of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which often dangerously approach bad taste. We like the mix of tweed and plastic typical of that period, the clash of colors that don’t fundamentally go together. These elements electrify our runway shows.
Is there a story behind every collection?
Alexis Martial: There is always a scenario that allows us to construct a range of themes and sets.
Adrien Caillaudaud: In the summer, the Carven girl travels; in winter, she comes back to Paris. We imagine her on a boat, wearing her boyfriend’s t-shirt. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical voyage, but we like the idea that the collections are linked to a memory, that the client returns to the pieces that she wore or loved before.
Alexis Martial : Our collections reflect our own way of life. This summer we went to Japan with very little luggage, and returned with five suitcases full of souvenirs-- even brochures whose colors and graphics we liked (laughs).
Is it natural for you to work as a duo?
Alexis Martial: We were forged in the common universe of the school where we met 12 years ago. We then worked together at Alexander McQueen and at Givenchy, even if we didn’t work together every day.
Adrien Caillaudaud: We never had a desire to start our own brand… but we were always convinced that we would work together for an established house.
By Delphine Roche.