For a designer just getting started, Charles de Vilmorin has already understood an important principle: never be where they expect you.
Known for his highly colorful creations, inspired by his fantastical drawings and the work of French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, the 24-year-old designer threw a curveball by making his second couture collection entirely black.
“I wanted to show a different facet of my work,” he said in a preview. “With this collection, I also wanted my brand to propose pieces that are more accessible and more wearable.”
Exit the hourglass-shaped, hand-painted wearable sculptures of last season in favor of a Gothic lineup that was somewhere at the crossroads between a pirate shipwreck and the wardrobe of Morticia Addams.
De Vilmorin showcased the pieces in a static presentation at Maison Baccarat, in what used to be the ballroom of art patron Marie-Laure de Noailles, as well as a short film directed by Colin Solal Cardo, the man behind music videos for the likes of Christine and the Queens, Charli XCX and Robyn.
It featured special appearances by rising French singer Joanna, who performed her song “Maman,” and Bilal Hassani, who represented France in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019 and has broken barriers with his androgynous appearance. Wearing a harness of dinosaur-like golden spikes on his back, he sang “Monster Under Your Bed,” an exclusive track from his upcoming album.
The video was shot in a sand quarry near Fontainebleau, not far from Paris — the perfect foil for the sculptural dresses, which combined graphic cuts with nature-inspired decorative arabesques.
A fitted, black long-sleeved gown with a pooling train came with a removable petal-like collar and cuffs shaped with metal wire, while a dishabille slip with cutout sides sprouted fronds of cock feathers.
Frayed edges added to the castaway vibe, though there were also hints of a newly commercial sensibility, especially in the calligraphy-print logo bomber jacket and floor-length skirt. De Vilmorin said he’d been taking notes at his other day job as creative director of Rochas.
“It really allows me to express my creativity with my own brand, but it’s also teaching me a commercial side that is super important and that I want to develop with my own label as well. So whatever the outcome, it’s incredibly beneficial,” said the designer, who is set to make his runway debut for Rochas in September.
In the meantime, he is one of nine finalists shortlisted for the LVMH Prize for Young Designers, just a year after launching his brand at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. With this volte-face, he has cleverly signalled that he’s not a one-trick pony.