A few days ago, the OC team had the pleasure of speaking with the infinitely charming Guillaume Henry, the man behind Carven’s renewal as a Parisian house. During the buying appointment for the j’adorable spring collection, Humberto and I took a moment to have a chat with the enthusiastic and winning Guillaume in the atelier.
Humberto Leon: We’re really excited about the brand. It’s exciting and refreshing. Looking at what we’re doing this year with French designers, the timing was so perfect.
Guillaume Henry: Good. What I like about Opening Ceremony as well is that it’s not intimidating. It’s the same for me. When people are looking at the garments, I want them to feel comfortable with the piece. People sometimes ask me, “Who’s your muse? Who do you want to dress?” But it’s all about my best friends. I'm really working for the girls I know.
HL: That’s how we buy for the store.
GH: Exactly! I love that.
Rory Satran: You’ve been here for a year now?
GH: It’s the third season, so a year and a half. I started in March two years ago.
RS: And where were you before that?
GH: I used to work with Paule Ka, it’s a French brand. It’s maybe, like, the ideal of the elegant French woman. And before that I was with Givenchy for three years.
RS: How did you connect to the heritage of the Carven brand?
GH: The idea wasn't to look at the archive. Carven is more about the mood, the atmosphere, the feeling. I thought about what it's like when a girl leaves a room. What is the smell that stays? What is her perfume? I looked at pictures of Carven herself, not at the dresses she was doing, as super good as they were. I was more interested in who she was friends with, and how modern she was in her private life. She was really good friends with Cocteau and Lartigue. She was all about car racing. She would have picnics overlooking the sea with her friends, who were artists and movie starts. She was the first one to dress movie stars in France. She was cool at that time. So it's about the brand feeling modern - it's about freshness, elegance.
RS: What did she dress like? I’m curious.
GH: I will show you a picture. She would wear a Bensimon - you know, the sneakers from the forties - with white socks, shorts of the best quality, a white poplin shirt and bangles.
RS: It sounds amazing.
GH: And in the evening, a cotton evening dress. And the hair is perfect. It's the French Parisian feeling that I adore. It smells like wine, people are laughing, and it’s all so chic.
RS: What were you like when you were a kid, and when you were a teenager? Were you into fashion then?
GH: I was a bit of a freak because I come from a small village in the countryside that has about 400 inhabitants. At the age of 9, I already wanted to be a designer. At 13, I was writing to Christian Lacroix, because I was a big fan. I spent my time drawing. I wasn’t really playing with G.I. Joe. I remember my parents gave me a really beautiful fireman’s car, and I cried because I wanted beads. [All laugh] And as a teenager, I was a late bloomer. At 15, I was at home reading books. And then at 16, I met amazing friends, and it was all about smoking cigarettes in the hidden parking. It was completely contrary… and trying to be cool at the time.
RS: Was that during the Grunge in the nineties?
GH: I would cut my jeans and, actually, I hated fashionthen. But I loved the looks, the attitude - Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. But at the same time I loved singers from the forties, but I wouldn’t tell my friends.
RS: And in what year did you come to Paris?
GH: I arrived when I was 18 years old. But first I was in Trois, which is a city just between my village and Paris. When I first arrived in Paris, I had my own flat, and it was about not sleeping at all. It was about partying, and walking during the night when everyone is sleeping. I adore Paris. It’s such a nice city.
RS: So it’s an inspiration on your work…
GH: It is, it is. It’s not only about what Paris is now, but what Paris used to be. It's something in the wood and the stones that’s really inspiring. Just ask me to sit in a café looking at the people crossing and I’m going to have a thousand scenarios going through my head.
RS: It’s completely true. Where do you live in Paris?
GH: In the ninth arrondissement, which is a mix between really popular and qyitea cultural scene, which is good. And Carmen de Tommaso (Carven herself) lives in Paris, too. You know, she is still alive. She's 101 years old. And she was still working when she was 80.
HL: That’s incredible. It must be so amazing to carry on her legacy here.