The Importance of Transparency — In Conversation with Fashion Designer Marie-Ève Lecavalier
Marie-Ève Lecavalier is a fashion designer who recently caught attention with her Come Get Trippy With Us collection. Originally from the suburbs of Montreal, Lecavalier moved to Switzerland in order to complete her Master at HEAD Genève. In 2018, she won the CHLOÉ prize along with a Special mention at Festival d’Hyères.
We sat down with Lecavalier to learn more about her design process, the importance of storytelling and the space she offers to poetry in her work.
EL : Can you tell us more about your design process? How do you generally find the concept for a new collection?
MEL : Actually, regarding my collections, it’s really a question of feeling. It’s always linked to a general mood, developed through things I see and accumulate in the course of several months. These things coexist and eventually become a whole in my mind. For the collection ‘Come Get Trippy With Us’, I was in a period where I was listening to a lot of music from the 70s. I had plunged back into that. It’s always also very linked to the people around me. Everything around me kind of becomes a story. It’s a mashup of different elements that seem appealing to me and that end-up making sense together.
EL : And generally, when you have this idea — this mashup — does it come to your mind as an image, or as words and concepts?
MEL : It is rather vague in the beginning. Sometimes I do not have the words or the right terms, but I will see images and forms. It is really by doing it that it becomes concrete.
It is through research that the direction becomes clearer. And generally, these steps come with everything at once; the music, the mood, the art direction. But it’s gradual. In the beginning I really just have visions.
EL : You seem to be trying to tell stories using your visual sensibility. Would you say that you also approach storytelling in a multi-sensorial way?
MEL : Yes, I think it is important because in the world of fashion, even if the clothes are extremely important, what is amazing — for me — is the stories we can tell. When I conceive a collection, I see a story in front of me. I think it is important to try and share this story as much as possible. I think that this is what’s good with fashion: it has to be about more than just aesthetics.
“When I conceive a collection, I see a story in front of me. I think it is important to try and share this story as much as possible. I think that this is what’s good with fashion: it has to be about more than just aesthetics.”
— Marie-Ève Lecavalier
EL : I heard you mention many books relating to sociology in your interviews. How do you think your relationship to books and theory influences your creative process and designs?
MEL : Well I think that because of that, my designs seem to come a little bit from nowhere! In the sense that I am not influenced by designs around me. I am aware of what’s being made, there are designers that I love and admire, but I think it is important for a creator to dissociate completely from that and go toward something very personal. To create a story that is specific to each. I think it is the only way to distinguish your work from other’s. That’s why I go with things that are closer to my personal interest. I’m passionate about music, psychology and philosophy.
I always worked like that, and not everyone understands that. I think in school we do not really learn this technique, because we need concrete things. But I am more interested in things that are not tangible — and I try to share these things, visually.
EL : It’s interesting, the way your work seems to be close from those of contemporary artists. You inspire yourself from theory, and then you try to translate concepts into something new…
MEL : Yes, well for me that’s what design is, the real great design. For example, Hermès is really philosophical, it is really though the gestural aspect, it is full of meaning. And for having worked with Raf Simons, I know that he also is someone who gets inspired by everything but fashion. I also follow this way of working. For me, no matter the medium in art, it is important that there is research behind. And this research is my favorite part of the process.
EL : A lot of your work seems to come from ordinary things and daily life. Why do you think you have this tendency to transform things around you?
MEL : I think it really comes from my youth. I grew up in the suburbs of Montreal and I was really bored so I was amusing myself by distorting things I saw. I think it stayed when I grew older. And what is great with clothes, especially today, is that there are many codes that are easy to recognize. So for me it’s a way to use these codes and push them to their limit, without it becoming extravagant. For example, the jersey knit fabric made of leather, was a way for me to take something easily recognizable and transform it. It was invented for the army, for underwear. It was a way to take something common and to bring it to the luxury industry.
“I think that whether in art or any other field, it is really important to have this kind of truthfulness and authenticity. This is what makes the difference.”
— Marie-Ève Lecavalier
EL : I was really intrigued by your use of the word poetic in one of your previous interviews. How do you think design can be poetic and why is it important for you to put this at the forefront of your creations?
MEL : Well, I have to admit that I was pretty young when I did this interview! I think that ‘poetic’ might not be the right word, it would rather be sensitive or touching. I think that the more we are authentic in our work, the more we are honest and allow ourselves to tell something that is close to us, the more we are able to touch people. And I think that whether in art or any other field, it is really important to have this kind of truthfulness and authenticity. This is what makes the difference. Now I really am trying to share things that are rather personal, by being honest. In the end, the story is always very far from mine, but I start with things that are personal, and I am not shy to say it anymore. Before, it was something I did not dare to do. I learned to stop using the words of others, and rather use my own.
“I learned to stop using the words of others, and rather use my own.”
— Marie-Ève Lecavalier
EL : Do you think that your studies in Genève changed that? Or is it more related to the way you evolved personally in your work?
MEL : No, no, it really is in Europe actually. People found that I was trying to have too much control over my topic and that I wasn’t open enough. I was pushed by everyone. And in the end, it really did good. The projects we do, no matter what it is, are always personal. It comes from our imagination, our childhood, whatever… When I finally said that my collection “Come Get Trippy With Us” was inspired by a young version of me who was making herself auto-hallucinate in her bedroom at 5 years old, well people started to listen. We have to assume this part of the story. It is in Genève that I learned that there is no shame in talking about these things, even if it seems weird. In the end it’s what touches people.
EL : Yes, I guess it resonates. It’s a guess that you have to take…
MEL : No, in fact I think that we just have to assume what we do. What my tutor in Genève always told me is that, no matter what you do, not everyone is going to like it, but if you are 100% in it, no one will be able to totally discredit you. It is the best way to be heard. You have to be totally in it and spill your guts out.
“If you are 100% in it, no one will be able to totally discredit you. It is the best way to be heard. You have to be totally in it and spill your guts out. ”
— Marie-Ève Lecavalier
EL : What’s next for Lecavalier Studio ?
MEL : We are currently working on a new collection. It is also a very personal one, and I am very happy with that. This is a very enjoyable form of expression, the fact that you may start with things that were harmful or taboo in regards to your own history, and elevate them to become something unique.
We are also launching the brand in January. The collection “Come Get Trippy With Us” will be available on our website and at SSENSE. And then in March, we present the new collection in Paris.