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The wonderful Julien Fournié

4th June 2018

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He received the haute couture label in 2016 and since then, his popularity has been rising among high fashion clients like Cheikha Mozah, the former first lady of Qatar, who wears his dresses divinely, nicknamed him "mon petit Jacques Fath". Over the years, he has refined his historical references and illuminations, until he reaches the essence of what it is he wants to show. He speaks gratefully of those who trained him and those whom he admires. This former medical student graduated in biology, has worked hard to obtain this label, his Grail. Interview. – Isabelle Cerboneschi. Backstage pictures: Michèle Bloch-Stuckens.

When it comes to interviewing Julien Fournié, it's easy: you press the "on" button on your recorder and you leave it running. He is likely to answer questions not yet formulated, as passionate as he is by the subject of haute couture. He also happens to digress, talk about other couturiers, his models, those who have reached out to him, those with whom he has learned, those who have achieved a career of lightning, those who have imposed their style, he like it or not. He knows how to recognize the price of work and the value of the award.

Falsely extravagant, armed with real kindness that he simply receives in his workshop. Unlike other fashion houses which have huge anti chambers, at Julien Fournié, when you push the front door, you arrive directly into the workshop. We say hello to Mrs. Jacqueline, at the front of the workshop then to the other seamstresses before seeing him.

After a few years of "off" during the week of haute couture, Julien Fournié was invited to officially go through the Federation of haute couture and fashion in 2009. Over the seasons he has managed to evolve his style: his collections "story of the costume", beautiful but not adapted to the life of a woman of the twenty-first century, have been purified. "I gradually divested myself of many superfluous things in which I hid," he says, "all the illuminations. The more I am in adequacy with my work and more the women there are recognized. "

The couturier admits to love the failures. A way to integrate the concept of serendipity in his work. "It's nice not to lock things up and miss sometimes, because that allows us to transform. And often, these are incredible dresses that come out of an accident! "

What's the Julien Fournié style today? Dresses in X or close to the body, small shoulders, his famous long dress with a deep V neckline, and his classic suit, fitted at the waist, often belted, which gives the woman who wears it allure, a posture, without restraining. "For the next collection that will run in July, I will remove even more, I refine, I expose," he says.

Julien Fournié received his official nomination as a fashion designer only in 2016. "This name was a quest," he says. They are fourteen in the world to be in possession of this label. "Those who gave it to me knew that I was going to be a guarantor of the ancestral tradition of embroidery, plumassiers, while projecting it into the future. "

La rue de Paradis, where his workshop is, isn't the avenue Georges V but as a client's secretary said: "Your strength is that you will move, draw at home, take care of her, that's the essence of haute couture"

Who are his clients? He has a duty of confidentiality with regard to them and does not give any names, nor does he Cheikha Mozah, the former first lady of Qatar, who allowed her to do so. We also discover his outfits signed Julien Fournié on his official account instagram. In another register, he dressed the actress Audrey Fleurot who played the role of the President of the French Republic in " La fête des mères », The moving film of Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar. He also designed his costumes for Molière's Tartuffe, where she plays Elmire in a bilingual French-English version at the Royal Haymarket Theater in London, until the 28 in July.

I.C.: More than two years ago, you received the haute couture label. Has your life changed dramatically since?
Julien Fournié: We have sold a lot, which means that we can move up in rank, use more beautiful materials. We can also develop fabrics with new ways. And we especially have new clientele.

What kind of woman dresses in Julien Fournié haute couture?
These are women who have been watching me for a while but who needed me to receive this haute couture label to come to me. They are women of power, in representation. I cannot quote them because I have a duty of discretion. Because of the labelling, I was able to access many personalities of the Middle East, but I also acquired a very beautiful American clientele, accustomed to haute couture. This allows us to employ more people, do training and transmission. This is also haute couture: a handover.

Is it important for you to relay knowledge?
If I didn't have the chance to work at Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy or Dior and not been allowed to understand how it works inside the houses and If they didn't reach out to me, I could not have that desire and I probably would have thought of another way.

We begin to see men parade in premium line clothing. Do you ever create for men?
A French-American client asked me to make him three outfits. I asked him why and he said, "I'm at my 250th couture dress bought for my wife. You can imagine that I attend all its fittings: I love it. But I want to understand the creative phenomenon. And this gentleman, who is a billionaire, spent a whole day with us, had lunch in our little neighborhood restaurant with the whole team of the workshop, because all he was interested in was the process of research and development related to the clothes he will wear in the end. This is the haute couture experience.

In this regard, the rules defining what haute couture is were laid out in 1945 (read below) in a decree. Is this definition still relevant?
The rules have evolved since the end of the war. But when I design a collection, I always ask myself this question: what is haute couture? Is it a mental structure that pushes me to look for the right fabric to make it? Is it the material and its intrinsic nature that will generate the cut? Is it creating a fabric to have the right harmony between the material, the drawing and the cut? The fundamentals of haute couture are not the same as fifteen or twenty years ago, but what will make a client invest a large sum in a garment? Of course there is notoriety: a customer will buy a dress Chanel, Dior or Jean Paul Gaultier, whatever its price. But the new generation "silver", able to afford a single click on the internet a dress between 15'000 and 20'000 euros, is growing. What will make her turn to a fashion designer rather than luxury ready-to-wear? These are questions I ask myself ...

If you had to change something in the haute couture system, what would it be?
I would better protect the haute couture appellation. We are only 14 houses in the world to have the right to claim this label. But some designers who parade off, self-define their collections as being "haute couture". This creates confusion in the public mind. They have their pieces made abroad, they obviously do not have our social charges, and they sell their dresses at a price unbeatable to customers who do not have the culture of haute couture. And even if there is work on these dresses - and sometimes very nice work - I find that the approach is dangerous. The customer does not know what is the real haute couture and suddenly, it does not include the prices practiced by the real couturiers.

It's a marketing approach: haute couture makes you dream and therefore sells ...
Yes, of course. But some clients do not realise it. A young girl is very happy to have her princess dress for 4000 euros. But haute couture is not that! It's not just a dress that shines with embroidered crystals with a volume that is four meters wide! Haute couture is extremely free. We start from a vision of the creator, drawn and orchestrated by a name. The brand must be embodied: take Alexandre Vauthier, he embodies his house, as well asAlexis Mabille. I give these examples voluntarily because they each have a unique identity, whether we like or not, chapeau! They are faithful to their world, and I also love to see the collections ofIris Van Herpen, although she is only a guest member and has not yet acquired the label. Embodying a house, that's haute couture, for me.

We could add Karl Lagerfeld to the list ...
Yes, absolutely. Madame Chanel, it's Karl. He was lucky enough to have the Wertheimer family in front of him who believed in him, and convinced that he would be able to rectify the imagination of the house. It must be remembered that when Karl Lagerfeld arrived in the house, 1983, the brand was just a series of stencils for ladies! He has defined the Chanel of these last 35 years, and it is the greatest achievement in the world. If this family had not believed in that star Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel would never be here today.

Is it true that you never sell the same dress twice?
My clients buy dresses exclusively. That dress will not be re-made. If another client wants to have the same one, I will offer something that will come close to it. In any case, the high fashion models that I show on the podium do not literally sell. It's always a reproduction. No client has the same body as a mannequin. And if they buy a haute couture dress, it is for representational matters. They need certain volumes. It's the best job in the world to make women beautiful!

Was that what you wanted to do when you were young?
I always told my parents that later on I will be a fashion designer. It was the height of it for me. But you have to go for it. I started with medical studies, which I followed for four years. I completed a degree in biology in parallel, then I stopped everything to do fashion and follow the formation at the union chamber for 3 years. I came out of it in 2000. I absolutely wanted to go into big fashion houses, both to be amazed, but to also understand how it works and how to define myself. Our whole life is a definition of ourselves. And if, through this, we are lucky to be able to transmit the passion for this profession, then we can close our eyes in peace.

The haute couture appellation: a French exception

"Haute couture" is a legally protected name that has been defined by a decree of 1945. The conditions for receiving this label have evolved over time, in particular because of the changed economic conditions.

Each year, a commission made up of fashion professionals, will establish a list with the names of the houses that will be able to parade during the fashion week in Paris. This list will be validated by the Ministry of Industry.

There are three types of members: the permanent members, including Julien Fournié, the corresponding members from abroad such as Valentino, Armani, Elie Saab, and Viktor & Rolf, and the invited members, who parade under the name " couture "and are not entitled to the" haute couture "label, legally protected.

In order to obtain this label, fashion houses must meet several criteria.

The work must be done entirely by hand in the workshops of the house. It must present two collections per year, the first in January, the second in July, during the week of haute couture in Paris. Each collection must have at least 25 models. The house must make unique pieces, tailor-made and count at least 20 employees.

The criterion of the number of employees has been lessened in 1992 in order to allow young talents who can not afford to hire as many people at the beginning of their careers to enter the ranks.

- IC