Marc Le Bihan Outside his Paris showroom, boutique, and atelier.
Haute couture refers to the design and build of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. It’s hard to think of anyone doing this these days. A majority of fashion has dramatically shifted from where it started, haute couture, to what it is today, mass production. Ironically, the word “couture” is used so loosely that it doesn’t carry much meaning anymore. However, designer Marc Le Bihan is one of the few fashion designers in the world today creating couture and ready-to-wear collections day and night in his Paris atelier. Marc's range goes beyond couture used as “press collections”, image pieces, or outrageously expensive pieces to move his ready-to-wear. His work, always sensitive, sensual, and cut immaculately, serves a purpose, and always has a reason behind it. For our Fall Winter 2014 Paris buying trip, we had the pleasure to see and talk to Marc about his new collection.
Case Study: Where did you start the collection?
Marc Le Bihan: The first pattern I did for the collection was this (photo under) And then I said it could be nice if I could drape it on top of something. And I need to put something underneath..
CS: So the idea was construction versus drape?
MLB: Viola, I started to combined things. The idea of draping on something construction. But I never had time to finish!!!
CS: Where was it going?
MLB: More drape, and to mix tailored things into drapes- mixing tailor linings and draping.
CS: Do you think a lot of your ideas come from past collections and ideas?
MLB: Always. For example we had a skirt for 15 years ago, and I thought it was very relative now, and I wanted to bring it back for this season, but to make it a dress in the same spirit of the skirt. We draped out of the skirt to make the dress. Another example is this dress, we went into the archive, took the patterns, and made the changes from there. The small jacket came from an old 1998 collection I did, but it was completely different, I just kept the body and pocket, the spirits still there.
CS: So every collection coincides with another?
MLB: A lot of times a jacket becomes a dress, skirts become pants, so on and so on.
CS: When you start a collection its not that you’re finishing a new inspiration, it’s more of an evolution of yourself?
MLB: I’ve worked for 20 years. I have everything to work, the ideas are always coming, but when someone asks me what’s the theme…. your what? (laughs) There’s no need for that nonsense. The story is important? Hello?! the clothes are important. When you build a story around yourself, if its really you, its forever. It’s for life.
Closing Look from S/S 2000 Collection
Opening Look F/W 2001
Menswear from F/W 2002
CS: This idea of finding the research within you, does that create timeless collections?
MLB: Finding research from outside of yourself doesn’t do it. You end up with collections that don’t work, and nothing is consistent. You cannot mix Gothic architecture, with renaissance architecture, and fairy tales to make a collection- in the end to come up with nothing. You have to find yourself, not things you just like.
MLB: The sprit of my first collection is still in me. If fact something crazy- I’ve never questioned if my work is good or not, I just keep going. I’ve always done this for me. I started by just doing my work, and sending my portfolio to competitions… you know, maybe it will work maybe it won’t.
CS: If your designing for yourself, how do you react to criticism?
MLB: Sometimes people say that the collection isn’t fashionable enough. But in fact, I don’t care.
MLB: Some people ask me for look books, I say absolutely not. It’s not about wearing something exactly the way I put it together, you can take a few directions. Sometimes that troubles people. They want to wear the outfit of the season….. I mean hello??
S/S 2003 Finale
Scene from F/W 2004
Case Study: What advice would you give to a new designer?
Marc Le Bihan: If you’re a student, just get the diploma, don’t think about what people think, do what you want- don’t listen. Stop obsessing about details, you don’t need details, its about volume and texture, you don’t need to put a cuff or collar or tailor sleeve on everything.
Look from S/S 2004
Ballet from S/S 2004
CS: You were showing during couture week?
MLB: Yes, one show we had transparent currants all along the runway so you could only see the models if you were in the front row (laughs). It was 45 minutes long! At the end when people saw a white dress they thought it was over, but no, it was just the middle! In the end, the models started swapping clothes and finished quite nude on the floor.
Marc Le Bihan
Spring / Summer 2005 Haute Couture
Defile • Paris
Spring / Summer 2007 Haute Couture
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