He has been working among Michael Kors at Céline and together with Alber Elbaz at Lanvin the following six years, before he was named Creative Director of Cacharel. In 2011, the fashion house decided to let him go, leaving him with an amazing resume but no job. This year the Belgian designer surprised everyone by returning to the industry with a label under his own name. And with numerous selling points and supporting press from the very first collection on, this may actually be just the beginning for Cédric Charlier.
Sonny Groo sat down with Mr. Charlier at his office in Paris, a couple of weeks before showing his Spring/Summer 2013 collection.
You just came back from Tokyo, tell me about the trip and how you're doing.
CÉDRIC CHARLIER It was an intense, short trip, but most of all, it was an inspiring one. The beautiful thing about Tokyo is the mix between the historical part of Japan and the super modern one. Often it's a bit of a clash with the controversial aspect of the country, which I may not understand completely, but every single part does inspire me.
To start from the very beginning: After winning the Moët & Chandon Fashion Awards you left the academy and decided to start working at Céline, then Lanvin, and eventually for Cacharel, but this year you've surprised everyone by launching your own fashion label. Why now?
CC For the past couple of years I've been learning and learning. And even though I've always dreamt of having my own label, it basically never felt like the right time to do it. Cacharel was the final bit of learning in order to push myself, I mean the usage of colors and prints isn't something that I would normally do, but it made me learn a lot. Cacharel may have been the universe, that is, as beautiful as it may seem, in the end it wasn't my own.
After leaving Cacharel I was approached by Massimo Ferretti from the Aeffe Group; they carry other brands such as Alberta Ferretti and Pollini, and he asked me to collaborate under my own name and start the label. It felt right and the timing couldn't be better—with the movement happening in today's fashion I think it's the right time to introduce new things, for example a new label.
What is it like to all of a sudden have all eyes on you completely, as well feeling the pressure to not only create a collection that fits with the audience, but also one that completely suits you?
CC When I was younger I didn't want anything more than to have my own collection and to have everyone love it. Now I know you can't please them all and it's important to show the world out there what you believe in and feel like sharing with your audience. In a way you could say I find it really important to have the freedom of expression. There's no other option than to send out the very best, hoping the rest will agree and appreciate.
For a first collection, there is quite a range of accessories. I'm seeing bags, shoes and even sunglasses. Are these done through a collaboration or part of your own production company?
CC The sunglasses are in collaboration with Cutler & Cross, who were one of the first to approach me, and so far working together with them has been great. The other accessories, such as bags and shoes, are done through help from Italy, but that may change next season. Mostly I find it important to present full looks, including strong accessories. It doesn't have to be picture-perfect, but I like options and a playfulness between the items.
A big part of the collection was quite dark, which made the copper-colored pieces stand out. There's also a part that had this artistic touch, almost painted-on dresses. What was the inspiration for this all?
CC I really like to deliver something un-expected. My clothes are very graphic and can look very cold when they're hanging on the hanger. I figured it would be important to add some energy to the collection, a little life. That's how the copper details were integrated in to the collection, they are inspired by a volcano and have this warmth and sensual feeling—to me, a touch of live.
The colored prints came from the idea of control, something that I'm in charge of and you can also find back when looking at painters. During a visit to Copenhagen I came across the work of Per Kirkeby and he is the perfect add for this collection. The abstract movements are completely controlled, but it doesn't seem that way at first. That to me is very exciting.
When working on your collection, do you have a specific woman in mind?
CC I think it's a very old-fashioned thought to be working for a specific kind of woman or even a group of women. My clothes aren't made for one type of woman only and I don't think women should stick to a certain designer or look throughout the day either. They should dress the way they feel, they should express themselves by what they wear.
To me it's more about the mentality as well; it's all about the entire look and total feel and I love women who are loving options and will use them. It's the energy they have and that should be expressed through their clothes.
Where can the first collection be bought? As for the accessories, will all of them go in production?
CC One of the first buyers who came to the showroom was Barney's New York. The American market is a big supporter of young talent and it's amazing to see them creating space for new names. They have also bought the bags and shoes, which are all produced and will probably be available online as well.
What's next, Cédric? What can we expect from you in the upcoming months? And what kinds of projects or things would you like to be doing next to fashion?
CC I'd like to learn more about life. What exactly, I don't care about too much, but I'd like to have more knowledge, always. I'm not one of those designers who's getting inspired by a book. For me it's about the curiosity of figuring out, the urge of finding new things to be working with. Curiosity is definitely one of the keys to inspiration.
Something completely different is cooking; I absolutely love to cook. It's the best feeling to open my fridge and to see what I have left and create something with only those ingredients. Perhaps a good example is this one: There is the chef who is trusting his feeling and will cook with emotions and without any measurements or strict times. Then there's the other one, where everything has to be there, spot on and perfect. I like to see myself as the first chef. To me it's important to work from the heart—I believe the rest will grow from there.
Cédric Charlier has recently shown his Spring/Summer 2013 collection, which is available at Barney's, IKRAM, Moda Operandi and other select stores. His collaboration with Cutler and Gross has expended, and a new line of sunglasses will be released next season.