For Fall Winter 2021, Longchamp’s Artistic Director Sophie Delafontaine draws inspiration from the iconic Longchamp racehorse logo and French interior designer Pierre Paulin, whose iconic body of work revolutionised Parisian apartments in the second half of the 20th century.
In this exclusive interview with Fontaine, she tells us what she likes about Paulin’s work and what she thinks the future of fashion holds once the pandemic is over.
The Spring Summer 2021 collection for Longchamp was an ode to Parisian femininity. How has this conversation continued for Fall Winter 2021?
It’s still about the Parisian woman. We talk a lot about Parisian women and their styles. Very often, I notice that it is simply an ideal version of what people think she should be, and not the one in real life. What I want to express this season is to show the authentic Parisian woman—what kind of personality she has, as well as her true character.
We are all not identical. That’s why in this new collection, some of the clothes are very feminine, some boyish, while others are sporty, casual, as well as elegant and sophisticated.
Also, the collection is not meant to be worn as a full look. Just because you are in a pair of jeans doesn’t mean you have to wear sneakers; and you don’t have to wear high heels when you’re wearing a dress. Why not pair that long dress with rain boots or high heels with jeans? The Parisian woman breaks codes—she’s not always what we expect of her, and I like this idea.
Also, I was inspired a lot by the work of Pierre Paulin, a French furniture designer who loved working with neutral tones and mixing it up with colourful pieces too. What he produced were sharp and very well defined, but with a lot of volume too. It’s really what I wanted to work on in the collection.
Has the pandemic affected how you design?
I won’t say that it had affected how I design. With the pandemic, everyone is talking about being more authentic and sincere, to have more respect, as well as pay attention to quality and detail. But we have been working like that at Longchamp for many years, because as a family business, we are conscious of every detail—from the materials we use to the people we work with. That’s why my style of working hasn’t really changed because of COVID-19.
Having said that, the pandemic has changed the way we present. For a live show (and we have done several in New York), it is exciting because we only have that moment; the second the models are out on the runway, there’s noting we can do.
I was more anxious about how to express the energy and emotion as well as to show the details and material via a digital format. But it has all been great because I can do even more for a digital presentation. We still have the music, the girls and the images but we also have control over the rhythm of the the presentation.You can go slow or you can go fast;, you can also choose to move or stay. I love the experience and I was super happy to also work with different people in different ways.
What do you think Fashion Week will look in the future?
The world we live in today is wildly connected and I am not sure that fashion presentations have to stay within Fashion Week. What I do know is that we need fashion; we need creation and we need to dream and to be inspired. And this is definitely going to stay. More importantly, it is how we convey our emotions and tell a story. There are many ways to communicate — digital shows like today allow us to touch a lot of people, but it’s also nice to have the eyes of the press to interpret and explain things in a different way.
You mentioned earlier that you also drew inspirations from the designs of Pierre Pauli. What was your motivation behind this?
I’ve known Pierre Paulin’s work since I was a child—my father had a Pierre Paulin desk. What I like about Paulin is that he effortlessly introduced different cultures, just like how he was inspired by both the Scandinavian and Japanese styles. My father was very inspired by the Japanese origami when he created Le Pliage.
I like this creative curiosity that Paulin and I share. I also like the kind of acute attention that he paid to proportions, lines, and materials, something we have in common. He was super innovative with the materials he used, something that we’re very strong at in Longchamp too. Of course I love his aesthetics and continue to be inspired by him.
This interview has been edited for clarity.