As the speed of the fashion industry increases and production is globalised further, the modest but rich offering of independent designer seems all the more special. The appeal and savoir-faire of local design is reflected in a made-to-measure model, where individuality is key and the client is considered on a one-to-one basis. Perfectly encapsulating the importance and quality of ‘less is more’, Martine Gendrot designs for the individual and seeks to amplify differences and singularity, rather than erasing them as fast fashion might. Produced in partnership with her daughter Léa Gendrot, who heads up the creative direction, the very core of the maison’s design process – from a small workshop in France – is ground-breaking in its quality and care. With limited edition pieces and a made-to-order structure, Martine Gendrot launched early 2017 to reveal generous volumes and mellow shapes. Focusing on the volumes of textiles and the panoply of textures they offer, Martine Gendrot‘s designs are ergonomic and embrace the body. Talking to Schön!, the mother-daughter duo behind the brand reveal the importance of their creative bond, the love and attention behind “Made in France” and they discuss how offering an alternative to mass fashion is the future.
How did you come to found the brand?
It was my daughter Léa who pushed me to create an online shop, to sell my designs to reach a wider clientele, not only in France. We had already collaborated on some of her personal projects and several editorials and our duo worked well… We were complementary. Boosting my creative work thanks to the photographic skills of my daughter, it became an obvious path to follow at the beginning of 2017! It is a real chance for me and I am proud to embark in this adventure with my daughter Léa, a challenge we are prepared to meet together. Mother and daughter : that’s the ‘Martine Gendrot’ style.
What motivated you to produce limited edition pieces only?
I have been dressing women for more than 30 years: I like to listen to them, to draw and create unique pieces (often tailor-made) to enhance their silhouette and to reveal their individuality. With my creations, I want to create a “harmony of the image and the being” so the woman who wears my designs gains in confidence. In a mass production economy, where fashion is the same on all continents, I advocate difference, rarity: “couture” ready-to-wear in a certain way!
Do you think this is a future model of design and production for smaller, independent brands?
Unlike mass production, that is low cost and takes place on the other side of the world, we propose an ultra limited run, a hand-sewn series from a small workshop in France, because we believe that this type of production is a complementary offer that responds to the desire of women who wish to affirm their differences and their originality. Increasingly, we feel in more and more women a need to go beyond the norm, not to be like everyone else … but to be themselves.
What is the importance of Made in France for you?
For me it is an evidence, a commitment: I have always produced “Made in France” and I’m proud of it. It is a guarantee of quality and I want to believe that we can participate in safeguarding French expertise… I very modestly hope that our brand is up to our requirements and the reputation of French fashion around the world.
How does the dynamic between you both work? What does each of you bring to the equation?
Each one has its specificity: I create the collection and my daughter highlights my designs as a photographer and artistic director. Our duo is based on our mutual skills, on our complementarity but above all on our bond. We collaborate closely on all aspects of the elaboration of a collection : from the conception of the pieces to the creation of the visual universe around it. I like to have the view of my 23-year-old daughter on my designs. It allows me to go further, to dare more. We create together the spirit of each collection. It’s our dynamic, we’re a brand that has 4 hands, in fact !
What are your backgrounds? How did you both develop your interests in your respective fields?
Martine: I graduated from Esmod Paris school in 1984. I’ve always been a freelancer and I’ve always created exclusive models in my shop or showroom in Paris. I wanted to focus on direct contact with my clients. In parallel to my activity, I also turned to image and communication consulting. This skill seemed to be a logical sequence in my career in the world of fashion.
Léa: I’ve always taken pictures. At first during my holidays or with my dog, then I took my friends as models. I studied photography in a Parisian art school and started working with modelling agencies, young designers and for different magazines. Very quickly I knew that fashion was of particular interest to me. I’ve always liked fashion magazines; I looked specifically at editorials, at the expressions of models, the pieces they wore… All this seemed so beautiful, I wanted to do the same and work in this field of photography. With a designer mother, I think that my destiny was all mapped out.
The pieces show a strong focus on textiles – how do you work with fabric? Where do your source them? Are they a starting point for your collections?
The choice of fabrics but also colours is the starting point of each collection. I like to immerse myself in a textile universe. I need to touch the fabrics: I look for materials, and specific textures but also ranges of colours. I source them at the Marché Saint Pierre in Paris. I love comfortable and soft materials, and immediately imagine a pattern according to the fluidity of the fabrics, and I begin to draw and build the collection. I quickly move to the stage of sewing and of prototypes to give life to my drawing and imagine the woman who will wear, move and live in the design. Elegant comfort is for me primordial, the clothes must accompany the body and not bridle it, without losing in femininity and originality…
What can you tell us about the concept for the AW17 collection?
I create a constant combination of a structured and flowing aesthetic. I build my designs with a set of geometric lines associated with fluid lines, which undulate according to the curves of the body.
The range of colours of the next collection will be very different: mainly black in all its range (matte, glossy, smooth, embossed, openwork …) with a touch of white, silver and also a coral red and emerald green touch to energize the collection. It will be inspired by Japan, with different reinterpretations of the kimono. We have a strong family history with this country, my mother being an Ikebana Grand Master (traditional Japanese floral art), so I have naturally also been influenced by her art and Japanese fashion.
What are your ambitions for Martine Gendrot?
We hope that our 100% made in France brand will seduce and win the loyalty of some free and creative, uncompromisingly elegant women!
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