Friday 3 July 2020

Paris Haute Couture Profile: Julien Fournié

Diaphanous silk billows behind a model at Julien Fournié's SS20 haute couture show in Paris. Cover picture and all photography by Elli Ioannou for DAM
The French fashion federation has created a special digital platform for designers’ new collections for Paris Haute Couture Week instead of holding live shows. We profile couturier Julien Fournié and his spectacular last haute couture collection, when we didn't think twice about sitting at a crowded runway. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou

A beautifully-tailored creation
from Fournié's SS20 collection
FRENCH couturier Julien Fournié's Spring-Summer 2020 show was held at his favourite locale, the atmospheric l'Oratoire du Louvre. This historic church on the rue Saint-Honoré, in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, built across from the Louvre when it was a palace, was originally the royal chapel of Louis XIII in the early1600s.

This evocative space with its chiaroscuro light, was the backdrop to the designer's collection, inspired by enterprising women explorers, ethnologists and archaeologists. Julien Fournié imagined clothes that could be worn travelling, from crossing the wilds to dancing in a ballroom.

“Haute Couture and female explorers do share a taste for challenging experiences, pragmatism and different encounters,” Julien Fournié explains. “I am convinced that the search for freedom is our common point in order to imagine the world off the beaten track.

"Whether these women were discovering South America’s pre-Columbian civilizations, Africa’s tribes or the Sahara’s Berber and Tuareg arts, they gave up nothing, neither rejecting the society from which they came, nor turning away from the new worlds they were exploring. Far from the masculine values that led to predation, via colonizing or evangelizing, their conquests advocated discovery, acceptance of differences, aid but sometimes at the cost of their own lives."

How did these ideas translate into the couturier's SS20 collection, called First Conquests? Fournié has a genius for creating razor-sharp, tailored silhouettes combined with a sense of poetry that allows him to also design fluid, filmy gowns that flow around the body in delicate swirls. This season, the theme of travel was evinced by embroideries inspired by talismans and amulets, strap belts, including braids, bags and bandoliers symbolizing movement and new lands. The aim of the collection was to mix elegance with treasures found on faraway journeys.

Fournié has a genius for creating razor-sharp, tailored silhouettes combined with a sense of poetry that allows him to design fluid, filmy gowns 

Bold colour & pattern
combined with brilliant cutting
& drapery are Fournié's signatures
The wonderfully cut dress (see above) is the colour of desert sands and hugs the body, an exquisite look for a luxurious train trip on the Oriental Express. Bold fabric designs combined with voluminous sleeves and skirts (right), all pulled together with a wide belt, gave a sense of freedom of spirit and ease of movement.

The froth of an electric blue skirt that kicks out with every step in a dynamic way made a strong contrast to the beautifully tailored, shimmering jacket worn with it (see below). Other dresses had layers of semi-transparent organza floating as the wearer moved, combining style with an easy comfort made for travelling.

The couturier draws his designs directly on to a special electronic pad and this allows him great freedom to test out varied colour palettes, fabrics and textures as he works and also allows him to send the image immediately to his atelier or to individual clients.

Founded eleven years ago, the Julien Fournié fashion house is built on what the designer describes as his 'laboratory of couture'. He decided to found the label in 2009, inspired by the virtuosity of Parisian couture, with its mix of traditional sartorial skills and new innovation.

His new collections are shown in Paris during the Haute Couture Weeks in January and July. The First Pieces collection launched in June 2009 demonstrated the Fournié signatures: beautifully draped fabrics in silk, muslin and organza plus experimentation with new materials and his masterful ability to cut.

Founded eleven years ago, the Julien Fournié fashion house is built on what the designer describes as his 'laboratory of couture'.

A frothy electric blue skirt
contrasts with a shimmering
fitted jacket 
In 2010, the couturier was awarded the Grand Prize of Creativity by the City of Paris. The following year, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the governing body of the French fashion industry, granted Fournié guest member status in 2011, which allowed his house to show at Paris Haute Couture fashion week. At the same time, the designer worked with Dassault Systèmes to create FashionLab. Fournie has been developing different projects using 3D digital technology for clothing, footwear, materials and for use in retail.

Six years after being made a guest member, the Julien Fournié House was officially given the Haute Couture imprimatur. In January 2017, Fournié was granted full official status as a Haute Couture label, which is protected in France and which only fourteen houses can legally use. The French government is rigorous about its selection of who is on the list. Designers must show superlative creativity and design ability plus unsurpassed skill in the way the garments are made in their ateliers.

The couturier says he started drawing from the age of three years old and sketching has always been central to his work. Although he started out his career as a medical student, he ended up switching to fashion design and went on to the study at the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. Demonstrating his skill and talent, Fournié was able to work as an intern at the top fashion houses in Paris, including Christian Dior, Givenchy under Alexander McQueen, Celine and Nina Ricci.

In 2017, Fournié was granted full official status as a Haute Couture label, which is protected in France and which only fourteen houses can legally use 

  The couturier in Paris at the finale of
his show at the l'Oratoire du Louvre
After he had finished his graduation runway show in 2000, the future couturier received the Moët et Chandon Award for best accessory at the Paris Fashion Awards. By the time he was an intern at Céline, Jean Paul Gaultier had asked to employ him as an assistant in his Haute Couture studio. This was an important experience for his later role as artistic director of his own house as he was in charge of researching materials and embroidery. Fournié was also able to collaborate designing some of Madonna stage costumes for her World Tour.

Claude Montana, a starry couturier of the time, who was known for his brilliant ability to cut and tailor clothes, also wanted to have Fournié on his team. When he was a designer at Montana Creations in 2003, the young couturier was appointed by Torrente Haute Couture not only as creative director for its ready-to-wear lines but also for the entire brand, including haute couture.

Three years later, in an unusual move for a Parisian designer, he collaborated with brands in South Korea, where he was keen to explore other fashion worlds where the industry was just starting to take off. After working on the creative direction at Ramosport back in France, known for it's iconic travel coat, and designing accessories at Charles Jourdan, he decided he had enough experience to launch his own label. It turned out to be his best move yet.

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