PARIS — The annual fourth-year students’ exhibition at the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne highlighted the growing technical focus of the fashion academy, as it seeks to turn out skilled workers that meet the needs of the industry.
This year’s edition, supervised by designer Lutz Huelle, is split on two floors between students that have to present a creative concept alongside their graduate collections, and those that are more skewed toward interpreting sketches in three dimensions — what is known in French as “modélisme.”
The latter — eight in total — were offered a choice of photographs picked by Huelle and tasked with designing specific looks based on their chosen image. Each student was assigned a single color to work with, in order to increase the visual impact of the presentation.
Anne Jeannin and Perle Vuillaume both selected a 1986 photograph by Nick Knight showing a model in silhouette, wearing a Yohji Yamamoto coat with a red bustle, but their interpretations were vastly different.
Jeannin worked layers of scarlet tulle into designs including an artfully constructed dress spliced with a jacket in a millefeuille construction. Vuillaume, using a forest green shade, interpreted the bustle as ruched sleeves on a plain shirt or a whorled cowl neck on a sleeveless jersey jumpsuit.
On another floor, the remaining 11 students customized their stands and presented their designs alongside portfolios charting their creative process.
Etienne Conan, for instance, was inspired by the Seventies palette of German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder for his collection, which contrasted utilitarian garments with feminine elements, including a jacquard produced for him by silk manufacturer Sfate & Combier that was used as a removable lining on a bomber jacket or a lab coat.
Stéphane Wargnier, who runs the master graduate studies program with Céline Toledano, underlined that since the school is linked to French fashion’s governing body, it is particularly attentive to the requirements of member houses.
“We are fully aware that there is a real need for ‘modélistes’ on the market because there are very few good ones,” he said during a private preview of the installation, which will open to the public on Friday.
Even the design students are well-versed in making prototypes. “A lot of artistic directors today are unable to make a decision based on a sketch,” Wargnier explained.
He believes the approach is in step with the times. “After having been obsessed with design for a couple of decades, suddenly everyone is much more interested in know-how,” he said, noting the proliferation of events staged by luxury brands to showcase their skilled artisans.
“You can teach design anywhere in the world, but handing down these techniques relies on learning a set of gestures, and you can only do that if somebody shows you. You only get that in Paris,” Wargnier concluded.