The French menswear brand Icosae challenges us to look at what we hold to be important in today’s social-media-driven world and who our new gods are
Without constant development, fashion wouldn’t exist. But a continuous transformation can be challenging, too. For many fashion brands, young or established, a question arises: how do you react to the current trends without modifying the DNA that is essential for success? The answer might be to embrace the concept of evolution and make it the core of the brand. This is what the young Parisian label Icosae does. Its design process involves a sort of evolutionary circle of a physical painting: the artwork is first transformed into a digital print and then printed onto garments. When worn, it becomes something semi-physical.
We met Valentin Glémarec and Dounia Merabet, the sharp minds behind Icosae, at their showroom in Paris, where we got the chance to see their work in all its stages – from the paintings made by creative director Glémarec to the ready-to-wear garments. For the AW18 show, boys paraded in cool streetwear looks through the solemn surroundings of a Parisian church. Along with the theme of the collection – the younger generation’s obsession with celebrities and its almost religious reverence of them – it was a slap in the face for anyone who thinks that fashion is superficial.
Glémarec launched Icosae in 2013 and it has been on the official Paris Fashion Week calendar for three seasons. He studied art at Les Arts Décoratifs du Louvre and Olivier de Serres and, during his final year of school, started working with luxury fashion houses such as Givenchy and Valentino, which he still does.
Merabet is in charge of PR and business strategy. She worked on commercial development at Lanvin and Givenchy for almost 10 years before joining Icosae. The two met at the showroom after the SS16 show. “I really liked the clothes, especially the tailoring and quality of the pieces, and I really wanted a new challenge,” says Merabet. “Now it’s been two years. I’m mainly responsible for brand strategy, but when you work in a small house like Icosae, you end up doing way more.”
We chatted in depth to Glémarec about the evolution of the brand, its DNA and that AW18 show.
Please tell us more about your latest collection.
“We wanted to talk about how celebrities are worshipped nowadays, how they’ve replaced God. The inspiration comes from my background as a painter and my observation of several paintings at the Louvre, some religious. Naturally it was interesting to compare what people believe in nowadays with what people believed in during previous decades. Maybe God is too abstract for people now. It’s easier to relate to celebrities because they can follow them, yet they can’t reach them.”
What were people’s reactions to the show?
“Our idea was to create a contrast between the venue and the collection and to show mainly streetwear pieces in a church. It was shocking for some, but even church representatives were positive about it. The characters on the prints are our ‘muses’ – a black African muse, an albino child muse and one with a covered head. It’s all about being receptive and connected to the real world.”
Why did you work with streetwear this season? Is it an answer to a global and continuous trend?
“There is a business side to everything [Laughs.]. In our previous collections we were making a lot of tailored pieces that we couldn’t sell. So we decided to respond to the current demand and make a streetwear collection mixed with tailored jackets. We didn’t change our DNA. It just evolves with every collection.”