Carefully drawing upon the codes of work and uniformwear, Wilfried Lantoine creates clothing for a generation that—now more than ever—is fighting for diversity, liberty, and free expression. Prior to launching his eponymous label in 2016, the Parisian-based designer studied at the National School of Visual Arts of La Cambre in Brussels before fine-tuning his craftsmanship at labels such as Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga, Matthew Williamson, Alexander McQueen, and Nina Ricci. Now in his third season, the he enlistsed César Love Alexandre to shoot this lookbook/music video hybrid featuring friends and models dancing to “Bleu Pétrole” by French DJ Maud Geffray. Debuting exclusively here, both the piece and the collection homage those willing to claim their remaining freedom.
Benjamin Gutierrez—Although titled “Collection 2,” Spring 2017 will actually mark your third season showing as an independent designer. How has the label evolved since you began in 2014?
Wilfried Lantoine—Before launching my own line I produced one-off pieces for private customers and two unisex capsule collections that were distributed through a retailer I collaborated with. Those capsule collections weren’t presented in showrooms or distributed through regular channels, they were just a way for me to do some research and define the identity and the product positioning I wanted to adopt for my brand. Today the brand evolves towards something more open, a shared wardrobe. The question of gender is always present and the gender-related codes of the conventional wardrobe are broken, but the woman can be feminine and the man masculine.
Benjamin—In the video for the collection, directed by Cesar Love Alexandre, models can be seen dancing to “Bleu Pétrole” by French DJ Maud Geffray. Where did you first hear this song, and how does it encapsulate the energy of the collection?
Wilfried—Maud was the resident DJ alongside DJ Chloé in the iconic club The Pulp. I followed her work after it closed, especially with the collective scratch massive, and I discovered her short film “1994,” made of forgotten images from rave parties from the ’90s. “Bleu Pétrole,” the logic sequel of “1994,” inspired me as soon as I heard it. We met with Maud and discussed our shared interests for the nostalgia of those Pulp years, the French touch movement, and the light and melancholic carelessness of French youth. It appeared evident that “Bleu Pétrole” would be the soundtrack for my collection, and we decided to collaborate on this video.
Benjamin—Aside from the runway, it’s rare to see a collection really moving, which is strange considering that is exactly what the garments will do as soon as they leave the rack. Was the decision to shoot a music video for the collection a conscious choice—to see your clothes “embodied” as opposed to simply “modeled”?
Wilfried—The intent was to bring my collection to life in the must realistic way possible. Openly inspired by “The BUZZCLUB” from Rineke dijkstra, we requested that the models get drunk on the music, in order to capture the most spontaneous movements possible. Each of the models from the video—friend of the directors or of mine—had only one instruction: to live in the moment and not play. The styling was also left to the models, so it would be the most natural possible. Our aim was to produce something that would be the closest possible to a documentary without sticking to a written scenario. For me, it was the best possible way to show that while being creative, my clothes are anchored in real life and advocate the freedom of movement.
Benjamin—Your designs appear to be heavily inspired by work and uniform wear, both of which suggest—among other things—formality, sameness, and utility. And yet, as evidenced in the video, you are after quite the opposite with this collection. How are you attempting to reinterpret the uniform as a garment that promotes free expression and creativity?
Wilfried—I’ve been interested since my earlier experiences in uniforms and suits, but more as part of a heritage as well as timeless clothing. I am more drawn to the codes of the uniforms and the sense of belonging they give off than the formal part. I reinterpret those codes, this legacy, and let my instinct speak, in order to draw a generation that tries to break free from them. The utilitarian and practical is very important, as we all have to adapt daily to multiple situations and settings. I’m just trying to offer a creative wardrobe, where each person will feel at ease while retaining their individuality.
Benjamin—You worked under several impressive labels. Was there any one house or designer that particularly influenced your design aesthetic or that served as a mentor?
Wilfried—All the designer houses I’ve worked for have left a mark on me in one way or another, but working for Alexander McQueen was my goal as soon as I decided to work in the fashion industry. I’ve always been fascinated by his career path, and the way he shaped his own history, starting from scratch. Unfortunately he wasn’t there when I worked there, but it was an important step for me to strengthen my determination and my future choices.
Benjamin—At what point in your career did you decide to make the transition from working for an already-established label and designing for private clients on the side to launching your own line? Was this the goal all along, or did you see yourself working your way up the ranks within a fashion house?
Wilfried—I’ve worked in very different fashion houses, as much in their sizes as the universes surrounding them, and I worked in very different positions, designing for men, women, and working on fine details such as embroidery. My aim was to learn as many different skills as possible, in order to be fully prepared when the time came to start my own brand. I needed to understand how they worked and why they succeeded in order to maximize my chances when the day would come to set sail on my own.
Benjamin—The collection features a custom print by artist Chloé Julien, who works with photo and watercolor to create large-scale collages depicting fragmented body parts.
Wilfried—Chloé is a longtime friend. We both have an obsession with the body, as much for its crudeness as for its poetic side. This print is composed from pieces of mouths from different people. We also have a similar way of working. We tear apart (almost literally), in order to rebuild something new and original.
Benjamin—Many of the pieces in the collection include multiple and, some may even say, contradictory fabrics—a velvet and mesh coat, for example. What was your thought process behind this blending of materials?
Wilfried—For this collection, I drew inspiration from the Parisians who can go through different neighborhoods in the same day, the diversity of those influences being the guiding principle for my collection. Confront street wear influences, with more traditional, bourgeois influences, with a touch of ethnic. I wanted to reinterpret the iconic pieces of Parisian fashion by mixing them with the influences of the new generation of street wear and the generation Z. The very contrasted, almost antagonizing fabrics, have an obvious narrative role in this collection.
Benjamin—Perhaps more than in any other city, in Paris there is a very real sense of mixing of old with new, of upholding tradition and, at the same time, making room for innovation. Does this influence your design practice?
Wilfried—I studied in Brussels and worked in London, and what drew me was the experimentation and the hunt for innovation. I decided to come back to Paris in order to work and launch my brand, and I think it has a strong impact on my style, especially the diversity of populations in this city. The lookbook for the latest collection has been shot in the Belleville area, and I’m constantly impressed by the quick pace of change in this area, when some others remain unchanged. You can jump from one realm to the next in a matter of meters, and that’s what I love. The contrast of movement between different districts and the weight of all this cultural past is what drives me to look even further all the time. My designs would certainly be different if I lived somewhere else, but I am convinced that I haven’t exhausted the inspiration sources provided by Paris.