NEW YORK — Don’t expect a nostalgia play from François Girbaud.
The legendary denim designer, who has been creating innovative styles and fabrications for over half a century, is back doing what he loves most.
Last year in honor of its 40th anniversary, Closed tapped Girbaud to design a special collection for men and women, using specially created fabrics and silhouettes that speak to a modern customer.
Closed was actually created in 1978 by Girbaud and his wife, Marithé, and purchased by a duo of German businessmen in 1990. Girbaud had not been involved in the line since the sale, but the company brought him back last spring to design a line that will hit specialty stores in the U.S. in April.
On Thursday morning, Closed invited Girbaud to its New York showroom in TriBeCa to host an intimate runway presentation of his fall collection for the brand. The streetwear-infused offering for men and women included oversize “trenchcoats” with zipper details and carrot-shaped denim with circular waistlines in fabrics that speak to the oft-used phrase of blending fashion and function.
While small, the collection is filled with innovative ideas such as two-piece denim jumpsuits, button-down shirts with ruffled drawstring collars and stirrup pants in “Barcelona stripes” or corduroy, some of which include closures that attach to Closed’s knit sneakers. There were also reversible bombers in denim and padded satin, laser-cut pinstripe pants, while much of the corduroy was paneled with the fabric in different directions. Knitwear included sweaters with frayed bottoms, and nearly all of the collection offered stretch to provide comfort and movement.
“I’m not interested in doing what I did before,” Girbaud said following the presentation. “There’s no room for that. I’m interested in what people want tomorrow.”
While Girbaud was a pioneer of bringing street-inspired designs to the premium denim world in his brand’s heyday in the Eighties and Nineties, he believes he still has a vision that is relevant today.
The denim offering in the Closed collection, for example, offers a focus on the fly in bottoms as well as quilted options in jackets and coats. Jeans include both zipper and button closures with designs on the button that are intended to be used in the brand’s social media efforts. And both T-shirts and heel tabs on the sneakers are printed with the Instagram-able phrase “Likes” Closed.
Asked for his inspiration, Girbaud said he strives to stay current in order to address the needs of today’s generation. He said a visit to Coachella two years ago where he saw young girls in swimwear and HotPants was a true eye-opener and made him convinced that “living without stretch is not possible” today.
Although he admits to being “seventysomething” years old, a big part of Girbaud staying current includes his work with factories and fabric producers to create innovative offerings. “I continue to invent treatments and fabrics,” he said. “I may not be an influencer anymore, but I continue to be a visionary.”
And he also continues to love the business, even though it’s not the same as it was when the Girbaud brand accounted for some $900 million in sales worldwide.
At his age, he could easily call it a career, but Girbaud is not interested in that.
“If I stop, I die,” he said. “And I’m not such a fan of that.”