J.MENDEL AFTER SCHOOL: Gilles Mendel’s decision to stage his fall presentation at Ladurée’s SoHo location was more than a matter of a French-born designer supporting a Paris institution.
Before walking editors through his newest designs Wednesday afternoon, the designer explained why the setting really takes him back to his childhood. Each day after school in Paris, his mother would take him to the legendary patisserie in Paris not far from where his father, Jacques, ran the family’s fur boutique on Rue Saint-Honoré. The mother and son got to know the owners during their frequent visits. Disappointed that the shop’s croissants were long gone by the time he arrived for an afternoon snack at 3 p.m., Mendel said that he once asked the owner why that was the case.
“He told me that the ovens could only hold so many croissants. In those days, the ovens only had so much space.” Mendel said. “I feel that that is a lot like how I approach my clothes. As long as you keep true to yourself and do what you are really good at, you will make the most amazing things. I feel like this is like my oven,” he said, motioning towards the tea room showcasing ultrafeminine J.Mendel dresses displayed with all sorts of sportier furs. A gray nutria collared coat, for example, was paired with a gold embroidered semisheer dress. Mendel said of the combination, “This is how women dress now.”
Inspired as he always is by the ballet, Mendel said this time around he gave the ethereal a whirl but with featherweight fullness and more of a modern edge. Last season, the company took a break from New York Fashion Week, opting to feature model Ondria Hardin in a short film that was inspired by “nature in shadow.” Stylist Melanie Ward did her part for that spring production and Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan pitched in, too, with an original soundtrack. Corgan in December 2015 had a son with Mendel’s daughter Chloe.
“I’m a grandfather now,” said Gilles Mendel, with a laugh.