INTERVIEW: The Men Behind Carven – Adrien Caillaudaud and Alexis Martial

Carven Autumn/Winter 2015

Ever since it was relaunched in 2010, Carven has quickly found success among women around the world thanks to its unique DNA.  Unlike many French fashion brands which focus on high-end luxury, Carven is unique in that it broke away from its haute couture roots and pioneered a new category with its affordable price point. In just five years it has grown into a successful business with stores all around the world.

Earlier this year however eyebrows were raised when the brand’s creative director Guillaume Henry, who has been there since the relaunch, stepped down. During Paris Fashion Week in March, it was announced that two young designers Adrien Caillaudaud and Alexis Martial would be replacing him. Three days later they showcased their autumn/winter 2015 ready-to-wear collection unveiling a new side to the brand.

Taking inspiration from chic London girls living in Paris such as Jane Birkin, the duo showed new silhouettes including sporty high-waisted trousers, trench coats and mod 1960s mini skirts with frilled hems. Even the fabrics seemed more luxe with sleek eel skin coats, textured knits and lace and tweed separates.

A few days later I met with them to chat about their new vision for Carven and redefining luxury in a modern age. Read on to find out more…

Interview, Carven, Paris, France, Designers, Adrien Caillaudaud, Alexis Martial, Autumn/Winter 2015

You aren’t just co-workers, you are best friends and have known one another for over 11 years. How did you meet?

Alexis Martial (AM): We both went to the same school [Atelier Chardon Savard] although I started [my training] even earlier because I studied at an atelier where I learnt how to stitch, pattern making, etc. We spoke on the first day and started to work together since then. We loved the same spirit about fashion but had different visions. Working together was like an exchange for us. It came so naturally – either you gel or you don’t.

How did the job at Carven come about?

AM: I had a long chat with the CEO about the image of the brand and what I could project for the brand. After the discussion I went to Adrien and told him about the project and how we can work on it together. We did a proposal for Henri and it came together.

What message did you want to send with the first collection?

Adrien Caillaudaud (AC): It was exciting because the brand is already hot and famous around the world. At the same time it may be 70 years old but it’s still quite young. It has this couture background but then you have this cool brand that popped up five years ago with the ateliers of couture house. We wanted to respect this heritage but we knew we needed to propose our own vision of fashion which is young and fresh

It wasn’t about a building from a clean slate. It was important for us to understand the DNA and keep things that we think is Carven girl. From there we made it it more electric – we gave it a twist with this urban city feeling. We also wanted to bring a couture feeling that is part of the history of the brand. It’s also very much about attitude – a Parisian girl today is not necessarily French.

Who is the Carven woman in your eyes?

AM: She has to be young, fresh, but also real – living in our time. There is this active, playful attitude that she embodies.

Was it challenging working for a brand that’s priced in the contemporary bracket? Does that limit you in any way?

AC: Contemporary [fashion] is relevant for today. Fashion is something that can be affordable – if you want it, you can get it. But while contemporary fashion is a great concept it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a luxury product into the brand itself

AM: We have done some real research into fabrics and we also have an atelier we can work with. We can create what we want and then a team thinks of how to execute it within the Carven price point. It’s not about setting a price – Carven is firstly about fashion, creating a creative twist and then we give the right price.

Where do you want to take the brand moving forward?

AM: For us we didn’t want to do too much. The mission for the first year is to really push the creativity, and tell a story for each collection and build step by step this new image.  Some people say Carven is very French but our vision is global. Being Parisian today is more of an attitude, but she can go anywhere, that’s what makes it exciting.

An edited version of this interview first appeared in the South China Morning Post

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