Sphere showroom spotlights emerging labels during Paris Fashion Week Men’s
Designers Apartment has changed both format and name, and has been re-christened ‘Sphere - Paris Fashion Week Showroom’. The emerging designer platform run by the French Haute couture and Fashion Federation has been staged for the first time during the Paris Fashion Week Men's this January. A smart idea to further support rookie talent, offering more visibility to menswear collections and also giving an opportunity to womenswear labels to showcase their pre-collections.
Instead of being held just twice a year, during the Parisian women’s ready-to-wear week as before, the new showroom is now also operational during the men’s week, so in total four times a year. The first edition of Sphere was held in Paris from January 15 to 19 at the Palais de Tokyo, with nine labels on show.
Five of them were part of the previous Designers Apartment cast. The first was Mossi, a label with a pared-down aesthetic blending art and couture, created in 2018 by Mossi Traoré, which showed at Sphere alongside Gamut, set up in 2017 by a design collective trained at Brussels’s La Cambre school. Gamut presented a winter wardrobe consisting of a selection of items inspired by biker apparel, with several interesting ideas in terms of cuts.
The third label was Egon Lab, launched by Florentin Glémarec and Kevin Nompeix in 2019, presenting items like a quilted shirt/down jacket in white with sky blue stripes, and a nail-studded leather jacket.
Also at Sphere, Ester Manas and her associate Balthazar Delepierre, with their inclusive fashion, all of the models available in a single size accessible to everyone. This season, Manas launched a jewellery line with unique creations made from salvaged pearls. The fifth participant at Sphere was women’s ready-to-wear label Boyarovskaya, founded by Belarusian designer Maria Boyarovskaya and Ukrainian fashion photographer Artem Kononenko in 2016.
The other four labels showing at Sphere were new entries: Simon Lextrait, Kits, Mansour Martin and Blue Marble, each with its own unique style and highly attractive products. After growing up in the French region of Ardèche, Simon Lextrait, 28, developed a passion for modern art and nature. These two elements characterise his unique, highly conceptual design style, as shown in his fourth collection by the T-shirts whose knitted fabric features yawning gaps filled by a tulle filter, creating a lenticular effect.
Or by the cotton trousers with black and white legs and pockets in positive-negative style, inspired by the Russian avant-garde, and the lightweight knitted top in linen jersey, whose floral design, seemingly painted in watercolour, is made using a Japanese printing technique, positioning fresh flowers on the fabric and hammering them to impregnate the cloth with their colours.
“I create pragmatic pieces in which I try to infuse a romantic mood,” said Lextrait, who puts the accent on choice of materials in his French-made collection. After a prep course at the Lyon Fine Arts Institute, a degree from the Geneva University of Art and Design and an Erasmus fashion design course in Amsterdam, Lextrait began his career with Kostas Murkurdis, known as a former assistant to Helmut Lang. Lextrait then launched his menswear line in 2017, and is the resident designer at the Ateliers de Paris, the city of Paris institution supporting the creative industries.
Mansour Martin follows a fairly similar approach, with a strong focus on sustainability and a willingness to be receptive and to nurture the label by collaborating with artists, artisanal studios and innovative individuals. The label focuses on craftsmanship and fine materials, and 85% of the products are made in France, while knitwear comes from Belgium and jersey from Portugal.
Mansour Martin was created in 2019, its name combining the first names of its two founders, Mansour Badjoko, one of whose parents is Congolese, and Martin Liesnard. Also part of the team is Christophe Trad, a renewable energy entrepreneur who has invested in and is managing the label, which is underpinned by the strong friendship between the two designers, both passionate about fashion.
After studies at La Cambre in Brussels and the IFM in Paris, Mansour Badjoko, 33, worked on a few fashion projects in Brussels, while an intern first at Thom Browne and then Balenciaga. Martin Liesnard, 34, has a degree in luxury and design management. After internships at Chanel and L’Oréal, he worked on various projects for Christian Louboutin, then joined French label AMI, where he worked in marketing and communication for four years.
“We love Brutalism and ample, very linear shapes,” said Liesnard. They developed Mansour Martin over the course of two years, adopting a unisex positioning. Their second collection, for the Fall/Winter 2020-21, mostly consisted of highly distinctive sleeved tops: a plush, tie-dye brushed-wool hoodie has the colour of a cloudy blue sky, while another top is made in a brocade fabric with an organza and silk blend.
A pair of jogging trousers in polyester recycled from marine waste is printed by sublimation, without using water, with a design by artist Julien Colombier. A silk shirt is decorated with polka dots in devoré velvet.
Another label, another world. Kits, launched in 2017, has five collections to its credit. As the name suggests, the inspiration was a fashion designer’s survival kit, containing needles, scissors and other stitching tools, as well as essentials like tights and underwear. It was first developed by 30-year-old Dorian Walleck, born in Toulon. After initially studying medicine, he branched out into fashion and became a photographer, notably working for French magazine Numéro.
At the Studio Berçot fashion college, he met Kim Tran, 30, a Vietnamese-American designer who left San Francisco and settled in France in 2012, after winning a scholarship. Following an internship at Rick Owens, Tran now works as creative director of French furrier Sprung Frères. Walleck and Tran teamed up with Saveria Mendella, 25, who works in marketing communication after studying linguistics. They launched Kits in 2017, and the label already has a handful of clients in the USA and Japan.
“I began by cutting up tights to make tops, underwear and other items. Eventually I created a line of wardrobe essentials for myself and my fashion photographer colleagues. This is how the label was born. We recycle, inventing new items made with nylon from unsold tights,” said Walleck as he showed his creations, a series of flesh-coloured tops and bodycon dresses.
The clothes are made patchwork-fashion, using a series of nylon swatches stitched together with visible raised seams. Tran takes care of the dyeing, using natural colours she obtains by pressing fruits like blackberries and pomegranates.
Tapping the idea of “facilitating styling”, the trio created larger-than-usual trousers whose sides can be folded forward, or a shirt with a gathered back, looking as though the designer put a pleat at the back to tighten it up. A pair of trousers is assembled from three used pairs, but seems to have been put together back-to-front, with the back pockets on the sides and the front pockets at the back.
Of Sphere’s four new labels, Blue Marble was undoubtedly the best-known, since it is already distributed via a dozen multibrand stores in the USA, Asia, France and Dubai, and it also operates its own store in Paris.
It was first launched as a streetwear label in 2017, under the name OneCulture, each of its collections inspired by a different place or city. In early 2019 it was re-christened Blue Marble, a reference to the first image of the Earth taken by the Apollo 17 space mission. Its concept and the founder and designer, Anthony Alvarez, remain the same. For next winter, the Blue Marble collection was inspired by the Scottish city of Glasgow, and it features four different characters: a pop star, a football fan, an aristocrat and a schoolboy.
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