TALES OF COTTON: Walking up the stairs of the Hôtel de Talleyrand, a grandiose building overlooking the Place de la Concorde in Paris, guests suddenly found themselves surrounded by a field of cotton plants — an arresting sight not quite in keeping with the gilded ceilings and marble fireplaces.
The installation was put together by cotton organization Supima as part of the second edition of its Supima Design Lab, an event both celebrating innovative uses of cotton in garment creation and spotlighting young fashion talent.
Guests milled through the rooms to discover the looks created by five established fashion designers using Supima cotton. Guy Laroche creative director Richard René was one of the designers picked to take part in the project, alongside Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh of Botter, Lutz Huelle, Martin Grant, Rahul Mishra and Maison Chateigner.
“I chose to create a silhouette made of denim, which was something quite new for Supima,” said René, gesturing to his boxy denim shift dress in which gigantic holes were perforated. “I wanted something raw and simple, but when it comes to fashion, simplicity is actually harder to achieve than it looks.”
Buxton Midyette, Supima vice president of marketing and promotions, applauded this unexpected use of Supima cotton.
“We’ve seen an explosion of color since last season and Supima being used in more innovative ways, not just for shirting,” the executive said. “One thing that unifies all the designers today is the focus on sustainability. There is a real embrace of the use of natural fibers of good quality. There’s no secret — the better the fiber, the longer it lasts.”
In addition to the five designer silhouettes, the event showcased designs created by winners of the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography. One of these was Róisín Pierce, who won both the Chanel Métiers d’Art prize and the Public prize from the city of Hyères.
“I use a lot of cotton in my designs,” said Pierce, who hails from Dublin. Whereas for her Hyères collection she favored broderie anglaise to create a decorative aspect, the look the young designer came up with for the Supima Design Lab was a lot starker.
“I wanted to have a clean base to show the benefits of working with Supima cotton,” she explained. “It really accentuates the ruching and the smocking, fully showing it for what it is.”
Six months after the Hyères contest, it was a warming sight to witness this year’s laureates reuniting with each other under the benevolent eye of Hyères founder Jean-Pierre Blanc.
“I went to a small fashion school in Ireland and it’s hard to connect with the industry,” Pierce said. “But thanks to Hyères, my favorite stylist contacted me for pieces. The festival has majorly changed my life.”