There are people that you met through your life that will be beneficent to you in many ways. I always knew about the brand Bleu de Paname but didn't really heard about Thomas Giorgetti & Christophe Lépine the founders of French brand Bleu de Paname. I met in their offices and they kindly gave me a tour of their atelier, showed their past & new collections. We had a more than interesting talk about the future of "Maison De Confiance".
à Paris, une discussion avec BLEU DE PANAME
Interview & Photography Farade Nicolas (issue05)
+ editorial contents produced for Bleu De Paname aw 15.
How did you guys met ?
Thomas.G - We have a few things in common. We were born at the same year, came from the same town, we grew up together. It’s been more than thirthy years that we know each other. We share the same passions as well from vintage to sneakers and more... We learned from our own experiences by studying clothing in detail and also by buying it, trying it. It’s good to have an associate because you can always confront ideas. I was curious about the whole Graffiti scene and Christophe was attracted to the surfwear. It started with the deep inquisitiveness we had back then (and still today) from the interest we had for sneakers. We finally tried to build something conjointly!
Christophe.L - Well, Thomas shared with me his passion for sneakers so I eventually dived in it. It was a new phenomenon at that time. It grew naturallay from there. This project was a good way to step out from our comfort zone and start to do something alternative.
Thomas.G - There are plenty aspects in the Workwear that we find interesting, different variety, styles, silhouette. Each have their own historical authenticities and particularities...
Christophe.L - It is definitely more than important to know your subject perfectly well, to be aware of what you’re talking about. So, if you are conscious about this well, you can innovate without betraying this “true spirit”. All of those principles, knowledge of the evolution from the XX century would seem old-fashioned but, they represent -for us- the foundation of a long lasting creation.
Putting together a collection for the first time is a huge undertaking. What were the biggest difficulties for you when starting out? What was the easiest part?
Thomas.G - I would say in 2009, our very first collection. There were a lot of complicatedness but it was easy to deal with them compared to the ones we had in 2014. The problem is that you have to think about a turn over, how you could reinvent yourself everytime, everything can fall apart with one collection...
Christophe.L - The hardest part in my opinion, was to get the trust from our suppliers. You have to earn it. Nothing is giving. Contrariwise our friendship was the easiest part. We stuck together, we are in the same boat and got nothing to prove to each other.
Maison de Confiance is the statement that in short describes Bleu De Paname philosophy… In a few sentences, what does it stand for and how does this concept translate in the design and manufacture of your apparel line ?
T.G - « Maison de Confiance » could be the synthesis from our ethic of work. It became a brand on his own too. If you want to know a little story about how the term was born well it's time to take a sit! It came from a fortunate meeting whilst we were visting a small town in the south of France. While we were wandering in town, we stumbled on this slogan which was literally hung on an old house. We instantly knew that was something like this we were looking for. It was the perfect designation that could sum up our philosophy. As a result we took the logo, made tiny changes and finally put our mark on it.
C.L - « Maison de Confiance » represents what we are today. It’s all about human relationships. Those few words sums up our beliefs : our ethic of work, the fact that we produce everything in France, the respect we have in our suppliers and clients. We are trying to show “humanity” in what we’re doing and, if you take a closer look around you, it’s not a common thing.
Not many brands are working like we do. Since we have a small team we want them to shine as much as we do, we are trying to involve them as much as we could. It is a small family. It is the same thing with our suppliers, they know us well and are really proud to work with us.
Do you think people are more willing toinvest in products that are well made and welldesigned nowadays more than ever ?
C.L - Yes & No. It’s a difficult subject to talk about. It’s clear that people are willing to take a different approach in consuming. New movements are emerging with a desire to offer something fresh to the market. Some of us are looking for a moral value. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford what they want. I think there is a need. The biggest corporations are moving and showing the way. I hope that major brands will follow the step afterward...
How do you perform research on overseas artisans and factories?
Thomas.G - Since we are making everything in France we don’t look for any factories overseas. I remember that in 2009 everyone was laughing at us because we produced jeans and shirts in France. Between 2008 and 2012, this tag Made In France was only used by few people, you know, a microcosm. Then with politics, elections, the term became quite popular and politicians employed it a lot. Nowadays, it’s quite the contrary because factories are all closing...
It’s not the people fault, they wish they could do better. Nonetheless, the situation shows that it’s not really possible.
Christophe.L - First of all, we have to help the suppliers & craftsmans. They are dying slowly and in a few years there won’t be anything quite left. The industry is going down, those real craftsmen are now hard to find and, their skills are not well taught to the youngest. It’s near to the impossible to modernize the industry without them, the firms & the knowledge...
Thomas.G - It’s true, on the manufacturing side, our interlocutors are almost at the end of their careers. It is clearly not the same culture, there is gap between the generations. Who is going to take the hammer after them? Of course, they will always be young, aspiring & creative people around we are not pessimistic but, in reality it is just a small amount of them out there. The heavy industries doesn’t exist anymore or just belong to big firms and are not ready to work with small artisan like us. Still, we won’t give up. We are pushing forward. You just feel that sometimes you can’t do what you want in term of fabrication. We have a lot of ideas which are extremely hard to realize.
For example if we want to produce technical jackets, use advanced technologies we can’t. If we can’t reach our target what can we do next? Frustration will always remains and the market is moving fast.
Christophe.L - For the moment it’s difficult to think about what’s happening next. We do think a lot but, there are risks. It’s just about taking the right step at the right time.
Do you get any inspiration from your travels around the world?
Christophe.L - Completely, we didn’t want to limit ourselves to France. It’s vital for us to stay aware of what is happening overseas. It’s true that since we launched the brand our time is counted and we aren’t travelling as much as we did before. That’s why Internet is a great tool, you can always know what’s emerging, it’s easier to get into new things, new experiences if you are curious. You have to be open-minded. The inspiration could come from the classic American Workwear to the Norvegian Army just to give you a quick example...
Is there any materials you are obsessed with right now?
Thomas.G - Yes, many stuff like knitting, mesh, jeans & indigo treatments... Knitting is what we used the most in our past collection...
Christophe.L - Workwear clothing among all especially with our upcoming line « Maison de Confiance ». There is always something to do, to improve.
Are there any items created using bothtechnologies and handmade skills?
Christophe.L. - Of course! We don’t work with robots. We are at the opposite of these brands who produce jeans at less than fifty euros. We take pleasure in working with artisans. Our clothes have small imperfections, that’s what we love about it.
When are you the happiest with your work?
Thomas.G - Simply by seeing our stuff worn. It’s the only real answer. Having your clothes in retail places and shown by the Press is important but you can’t be fooled by the consumer.
Christophe.L - I will say the human side, our team. Thomas is right, it’s pleasant to see people buying & wearing what we made. It’s even better if they knew the brand, have bought it before...
Bleu De Paname is growing constantly, you’re selling the brand in a lot of places around the world since a while now. What kind of feedback do you get from stores such as Dover Street Market in London or Opening Ceremony in New York?
Christophe.L - We have great feedbacks. We share a particular relationship with Dover Street Market. It’s important to be as much human as we could with our foreign friends.They notice that we are a team who do things seriously and meticulously. Hard work is definitely paying. When you’re going to a fashion salon there are only a small amount of brands who are doing great work and, that is quickly noticeable.
You have already collaborated with some of the well known & established brand in the industry like,Clot, Pointer, Pf Flyers, Comme des Garçons.. Do you have any personal guidelines orprinciples based on how you choose your collaborative partners?
Thomas.G - Yes, we did several collaborations. We are still receiving emails from brands here and there to do things with them & it’s difficult to say no because people sometimes feel offended if you decline. However, we obviously try to do a specific selection, we examine very closely each requests. It’s not just about putting your logo on a jacket just to make people happy you know. You have to think about the market, how your product is going to be distribute, what kind of people would be the target, think about the prices, how much it’s going to cost you... We don’t want to work on any collaboration projects just for the hype it’s not interesting at all.
you... We don’t want to work on any collaboration projects just for the hype it’s not interesting at all.
Could you go in further details about how the collaboration with Comme des Garçons in 2011 came up?
Christophe.L - As I mentionned before we maintained a good relation with the guys from Dover Street Market. The real story of how it came up well : one day, Rei Kawakubo - creative director of the brand - was lookingfor moleskin to produce some stuff for her collection. The thing was that this material wasn’t produced in France until we launched back the production for our own needs. So the Japanese label got in touch with us quickly and the husband of Rei Kawakubo, Adrien Joffe came in our showroom to define the project & partnership...
Thomas.G - We worked with them between 2011 and winter 2012, we made three seasons. It was hard at the beginning because we had to show them that we were able to fulfill our agreement. It was an interesting challenge because it gave us the opportunity to raise. Obviously by the exposure you get from this but also, with the trust from our suppliers and buyers.
You finally open your first retail shop, it must have been a long road for you guys. And we must say that it looks marvellous! Congrats to you I think you did a marvellous job!
Christophe.L - Thanks! Well, the space belonged to a friend so when he wanted to leave, he just asked if we wanted to take the lead and move into the store. It is a very good place, the location is perfect, the neighborhood has a sentimental value for us since we used to hang out there a lot back in the days... Even if we loved the space as it was we wanted to left our own signature.
Did you knew what you wanted to do or did it grew organically?
Christophe.L - Not really, but we knew quickly what would be the good thing to do. We have our ideas, our images & references in those kind of situation so it’s much easier to get the job done.
Thomas.G - The scheme was done briefly. We took inspiration from a few things mainly from the Parisian culture, old apartment... The floor is composed with cement ect...
Christophe.L - Like our product we wanted to reintroduce things that didn’t exist, where there is something missing. You can see that we’re doing things that no one else offers in the market. It was significant to construct something major, just stand out for our customers & our clothing line in general.
What would be your other hobbies or profession if you would not become a clothing designer?
Christophe.L - Electrician! I think I will get back at it one day. It’s where I came from, the manual side of it fascinates me.
Thomas.G - I guess Art. Be payed to be a painter!
What are you listening to when you want to relax?
Thomas.G - Coltrane, reggae, dancehall, rap from the 90’s. When I’m excited, I like to listen trap music (laughs).
Christophe.L - I’m always looking for new stuff to listen at. I enjoy listening old music from movies, Morricone, Francis Lai or Michel Legrand for example. I had enough of hip hop music, beats and samples for the moment so I started to dig for melodies and where they came from..