« When you want to be sold next to Marni, Jil Sander and Proenza Schouler, it's not the same. They buy ad spaces in Vogue, they have 40 people in their studio, they are guys who went to Stanford or Harvard and I’m alone with my collections, in my small office. »
Tell me about your background ?
I am 25 years old. I launched BWGH (Brooklyn we go hard) when I was 20 years old, which was a pretty interesting success. But I wanted to clear my name from this streetwear trend to do what I really love : contemporary fashion. So I separated the two things. Instead of taking off to BWGH its street DNA, I launched Harmony, another brand of real fashion for real people, for real life. I am completely self-taught.
How about this new Harmony collection ?
The collection is called Monochrome. For this second season, the collection is true to the brand identity : simple, minimalist and monochromatic. I love stripes so there are a lot of tennis stripes but there are also single-colored silhouettes. The Harmony woman is intellectual, confident, a little cool and tomboyish. The Harmony man is a Parisian who wants something casual but wants to be well-dressed, no more, no less.
You're defined as a Parisian designer ?
I think so. There is now a generation of cool kids who have actually done quite a few things, like a lot of people I know or competitors. I have never seen so many talented brands : Etienne Deroeux, Coperni, Jacquemus, AVOC, Jour/né... There is room for everyone and everyone's identity. Mine is very simple, very inspired by designers from the 90's who advocated minimalism.
Streetwear is now inevitable. Dis you get bored ?
The only background I have is my job with Stéphane Ashpool from Pigalle, for 1 year. I love streetwear and how it evolves, but when you love the real fashion, you do not like streetwear. I like the energy that represents a street brand and communities at large that are affected. A fashion brand is not cool but a street brand is. However, it does not really know how to make clothes and I think I do. Well I hope so.
Can you create for BWGH and Harmony at the same time ?
Have you ever dreamed of working for big brands ?
Honestly, I’m thinking about it right now. I’ve been offered positions in big houses but I love to direct my boat and follow my course so for now, I did not accept the positions of Creative Director. Although, it would be simpler. Today, my work is 50% CD and 50% entrepreneur, which I hate. I would like to spend my day creating clothes from scratch. But when one is a nano-brand, one must get his hand dirty like chatting with his PR, his business agent, his banker, etc. I do have expertise in that stuff at all but this is my home, this is my life.
What is for you the hardest part when you launched your own brand ?
At start, with BWGH, I was very careless and I was a no-brainer. But streetwear competition is simpler. In contemporary fashion, I compete with people who do not have the same financial, human abilities and who have maybe more experienced and more talented employees. So it is a huge battle and the only thing I have for myself is my energy and vision.
Why competition is not the same ?
I do not want to be a hater but competition is easier. When you want to be sold next to Marni, Jil Sander and Proenza Schouler, it's not the same. They buy ad spaces in Vogue, they have 40 people in their studio, they are guys who went to Stanford or Harvard and I’m alone with my collections, in my small office.
Competitors like Nike must not be simple either ?
We are not competitor with Nike but Bleu de Paname or small houses, so these are little guys like us. I want to put Harmony on the same floor as Louis Vuitton at Barney's or have a retail store at avenue de Montaigne but we are light years away from that. Our competitors today have press officers in every country. When we managed to get Robert Pattinson, they have the cell phone of Pattinson. It's more complicated. Some say I'm a little crazy but the only thing I like is fashion. I'll take it slowly but surely even if the path is a little difficult.
Why did you say that you were a no-brainer with BWGH ?
At first, I was very pushy when a shop did not accept me for instance. Now I'm more peaceful. I let people do it for me. I understood that harassing the store a thousand times will not make them accept me. It's like a girl: if she wants to come back to you, she will. It is useless to insist, otherwise you will put her off. I realized that a real designer need to have an identity and stick to it. I am surrounded by very smart people but I’m the only who can create this identity. I have my vision. If they love it, great. But if they don’t, too bad. At first, I thought, "oh I'll listen to this, listen to that." But every designer whom I admire, have an idea and go for it. We talked about Stéphane Ashpool : initially, he was taken for a fool and look ! The Harmony woman is accused of being too tomboyish or my Harmony man is too intellectual or pretentious. But this is what I stand for. Without any pedantry. Fashion can make me very unhappy because it is sometimes very difficult but I have immense pride.
Is competition too difficult ?
This competition will clean up very organically because only talented people remain. Unfortunately, few people have the have the entrepreneurial spirit. You need that spirit and have talent and be very strenuous. All designers that I know who succeed are crazy. I may be a little crazy too so I can follow the path. Applying for a trademark, having a business registry and draw two or three sketches are not very complicated. This is a long distance race. In a few years, we'll see if I'm still there. Initially, I wanted to run fast now I take my time. I am less frenetic. If Barney's does not want us right away, I know they will come later, because I have the talent and energy and I am surrounded with good people. The big houses that I admire has a long history, as Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren. They have a real longevity.
You’ve had several collaborations with BWGH. Did you plan some with Harmony ?
We have had fairly impressive collaborations with Kitsuné, Opening Ceremony, Bon marché. But I see Harmony like a real art and real houses have simple collaborations that make sense, with artists, so that there is also an artistic intention. For now, we must learn to walk alone. I was offered a ton of collaborations but there will be none. First, we will be ourselves. And if there is a collab, it will be with a painter, a sculptor, an artist for there to be a creation. I do not care to say "I'm friends with so and so, he brought me into such or such shop."
You imagined BWGH as a label. You made video clips. Do you see Harmony in the same way ?
Yes. I always make the video. This is a good medium for communication. It stages the brand identity. The idea of Harmony is to work with people I love and the same filmmakers who followed me when I was absolutely nobody like Julien Soulier and Adrien Landre Partizan.
Do you create womenswear and menswear the same way ?
Chronologically, I always have a collection plan, the moodboard but then as we have different deadlines with men and women because the Men fashion week is earlier than the women fashion week. So I always start with the men collections. But as we are a small house, I still consider the two lines with the same range of material and the same colors. They are simultaneous and designed at the same time. They have a real link. They tell the same story.
Do you pay attention to what the others are doing ?
I think all those you interview will say no. The aim of creation is to be out of the box. I pay attention to art or architecture, more than fashion. My mother works in the art industry and I grew up in exhibitions, paintings. I read a lot of books on that.
Do you think the designer sell more an image than a garment sells today ?
Totally. I need to become better in brand content. When we buy an outfit of a particular designer, we want to belong to the community. This is obvious.
What is the most stimulating aspect of my work ?
Creating. The hard part is the duality designer/ entrepreneur. It is schizophrenic. I have trouble. I hope that talented people will join me to clean up the business. It is not simple to have a meeting to analyze my operating background and just after that to make a collection. For me, the CD in big houses are in a glass prison, with rap music with people who simply create and upstairs, just people who do business. Today, is a bit difficult. I fantasy perhaps, but I want to be on the floor where we create. It is going to be another 5 or 6 years.
The upcoming opening of my shop rue de Commines in Paris and soon another on the Left Bank. Then of course my next collection.
Learn more about Harmony on its official website.
Interview by Aurore Hennion.
Photo Yulya Shadrinsky.