He is the creative brain behind some of the the truly show-stopping catwalk couture looks seen over the past three years at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. For 2015, he once again worked his magic for the runway and somehow managed to find time in his busy schedule to tell us about it. Don’t miss the show: it’s being aired at 10pm EST on Tuesday December 8 on CBS!
I’m the only designer in Paris specializing in corsets and feathers. I’ve been practicing my craft for twenty years, which is the only way you can develop the level of technical perfection it takes to be a couturier.
I met the Victoria’s Secret team three years ago. We spoke about crystal, corsets, couture techniques and looks, and I left the meeting a bit confused; I didn’t immediately understand that they were inviting me to create looks for their iconic fashion show! My first chance to design for Victoria’s Secret was in New York; the following year it was held in London; this year it’s in New York again, and we’ve used almost a million crystals on 21 looks. Working with Victoria’s Secret and Swarovski is a collaborative dream come true.
Creating all the couture pieces was a massive challenge. They were huge and they involved so many beads, embroidery, crystals and paillettes, as well as really complicated techniques. And I made everything in my tiny atelier. But voilà, now I’ve a bigger atelier, so it’s easier!
The initial work is done in Paris, and then I send everything to New York for the fittings. It’s completely crazy, because I get around fifteen days to do all the adjustments, correct the garments, come up with fresh ideas, make new wings, and change the embroidery. Fifteen days to do everything!
I make the Victoria’s Secret pieces with my own hands in collaboration with Swarovski in Paris—no machines. The Fireworks corset, for example, took one month to complete the base, two weeks to make the fringe, and another month to do the embroidery. I adjust my mannequin to match the model’s measurements and then I make it at my atelier in Paris. It’s fitted in New York by someone else, which means the costume yo-yos between the two cities until it’s ready for the final pre-show fitting in NYC, which I attend. By then, I'm very excited to see how my work actually looks on the Angel.
Comfort is important. That’s why the challenge this year was to create the perfect corset that precisely matched the shape of the person wearing it. You have to know who you’re dressing: the models all have perfect bodies, but they are all different. This is why haute couture requires a garment to be made on the actual person. This is what defines ‘bespoke’—ultimately, it’s the most comfortable garment you’ll ever wear, because it’s cut to fit only you.
The idea for the Fireworks corset came to me from an image of the Eiffel Tower ablaze with light at a July 14 fireworks show. I proposed it to Victoria’s Secret, and they said, “Wow, that’s amazing. Can you do it?” Then it was a process of trial and error, rejecting and trying new ideas endlessly.
My relationship with Swarovski began at thirteen – okay, it was a one-sided relationship at that stage! I was living in Belgium, and spent hours trawling the flea markets looking for old Swarovski stock. Then I worked for Jean Paul Gaultier for four years from 2007, so I got to know Swarovski more personally. Now I’m going for it on my own. What I love about Swarovski crystals is their quality—each product is consistently, perfectly identical in shape to the others in its assortment. This is essential for my type of work. Today, my partnership feels like being a member of their family, because they are with me every step of the way, whether it’s for my collections or for a big show like Victoria’s Secret.
I describe my signature style as glamorous, sexy, sensual. Of course, everything is Parisian haute couture, and each piece is completely different—you won’t find it anywhere else, because the knowledge, the Parisian savoir-faire, resides here in this atelier. My hands are the secret ingredients, because they know how to make dreams come true. I love it that customers come here, gasp, and say: “How do you do that? How is it possible?”
Video: Courtesy of Swarovski.