Sleeping Beauty awakes
And who is her Prince Charming, her knight in shining armour? None other than smitten young Parisian designer, Guillame Henry. The damsel awakened from her slumber was the Parisian fashion house, Carven, which has slowly drifted from sight since founder Madame Carven left the business some years ago.
Founded in 1945 by Madame Carven, Carven was a trendsetting haute couture house with a difference. At a time when most haute couture houses only dressed more mature clients, Carven balanced femininity and sportier fashions which appealed to women and girls alike. The House of Carven, also famous for it’s signature scent, Ma Griffe, was bold and at the time, very cool, much like it’s namesake and founder.
"She was the first to dress movie stars in France. She was cool at that time…she would have picnics overlooking the sea with her friends who were artists and movie stars"
Mme Carven is still alive at a grand 101 years old, however left the fashion business when she was in her 80s.
Guillame (Which is the French equivalent to William, don’t you know) was born in a small village where his talent for drawing and designing was certainly unusual - at thirteen he wrote to Christian Lacroix because he was such a fan. After admiring so many of the great designers from afar, he himself is now being heralded as someone very special, with Natalie Massenent, founder of Net-A-Porter calling him “a young Saint Laurent”
At 18, he moved to Paris where he had his own flat and he recalls ” it was about not sleeping at all. It was about partying and walking during the night when everyone is sleeping. I adore Paris”
He worked at Givenchy and then Paule Ka, the brand which he describes as ” the ideal of the elegant French woman”.
It was in 2009 when he was at Paule Ka that he recieved an out of the blue phone call, asking his opinion on Carven. He simply responded that he thought that it should stop doing couture and dress real women instead. Carven’s owner like the answer, and in the same year, young Guillame was appointed Creative Director. The House of Carven became simply Carven, and moved from haute couture to ready to wear. Guillame explains the move, ” I wanted to create a look that was less evening, less cocktail, more girl next door; that’s the girl I know”.
Unlike many brands these days that focus on studying their brand heritage and adapting their original pieces, Guillame took a different approach. He explains, “the idea wasn’t to look at the archive. Carven is more about the mood, the atmosphere, the feeling. I thought about what it is like when a girl leaves a room. What is the smell that stays? What is her perfume?”
He also looked at photographs of Madame Carven herself. ” I was interested in who she was friends with and how modern she was in her private life. She was really good friends with Cocteau and Latigue “
But who is the Carvin woman? Rather than create an ideal customer or woman, Guillame designs for the women in his life.
"The pieces can be worn all day, from early morning to late evening…Nothing is frozen. Everything can be mixed, it’s a puzzle for everyone."
I have tried to create pieces with real honesty, pieces that focus on a woman’s needs…I want the woman who wears my clothing, regardless of her age, lifestyle or financial means, to feel beautiful and sexy but not deguisee (costumed).”
He also takes a mysterious and eternally chic approach to dressing, imploring “At Carven, we love to feel sexy by hiding as much as possible “
His first Winter collection for Carven was a huge success, leading the collection to be picked up by many new distributors, such as Opening Ceremony and Net-A-Porter. As for the future direction of the brand, he intends to stay and focus on the quality and increasing creativity, but without rushing. ” I respect the brand so much and it has been a sleeping beauty for so long that I’d like to take it slowly.” The house and designer both seem to have a very rosy future ahead, with further praise from Massenet “I’m really looking forward to watching this man blossom and seeing what he becomes in 20 years time”.
And so do we.
Pictures courtesy of Opening Ceremony and Net-A-Porter.