The man behind Balmain's meteoric resurgence in the '00s, on the fashion of tomorrow
The rockstars of fashion tend to hail from its creative fold. They're designers — your Rafs, Hedis, and Demnas — whose midas touch are at the core of conversations about a brand's success. No different a decade prior, the frontman of Balmain's homecoming in the mid 2000s was Christophe Decarnin, a lead creative lauded for transforming a house underwater into fashion's undisputed headliner of its time. But while the brand's much sought-after grungy, skin-tight glamour was all Decarnin, few are privvy to the left brain who prepped his stage: Alexandre Allard (pictured above); the man who, together with Balmain's then-chairmain Alain Hivelin, opened the couture house's doors to ready-to-wear.
You see, Allard, founder of investment company Groupe Allard, is a bit of a renaissance man. By its traditional definition — his endeavours span the fields of art, hospitality and fashion — but also, in the sense that he too possesses a midas touch to the names he deems worth resuscitating. His resume reads of the aforementioned Balmain, the refurbishment of Paris' Royal Monceau Hotel, the once abandoned Matarazzo Hospital in Brazil and, the return of yet another down and out Parisian brand as one of fashion's most interesting names today. Faith Connexion.
Faith Connexion — first born in the 2000s but better known for its newfound streetwise code of cool in the last couple of years since Allard's involvement — has sparked chatter for a handful of reasons. First, that Decarnin has made his long-awaited return, together with the ex-Balmain team, at Faith Connexion. And second, that Decarnin was not to be the brand's kingpin this time around. Instead, Faith Connexion was to be structured and known as a creative collective, with even an open invitation on its site for the like-minded to join their circle and collaborate — something Allard has a hand in and strongly believes should be the future of fashion given today's high demands and breakneck speed.
"Creative directors are often tasked to produce collection after collection with hundreds of pieces, and in time, they begin to lose their inventiveness. By partnering with 10 designers, we are able to prevent that from happening."
It's not just the traditional anatomy of a brand's inner workings that Allard has been keen on disrupting. It's too, how a designer looks at his next creation; Faith Connexion's collections are rooted in repurposed garments, metamorphosing the old into the current and covetable. It's too, the re-writing of retail's brick-and-mortar blueprint; the brand's newly minted first retail store (in New York) invites organic experiences in-store by encouraging customers to express themselves through the help of artists who spray paint the clothes on-site.
It is the belief that the art of fashion should be alive not just behind closed doors or exclusive to a chosen few, but for all to engage, experience and create. Allard, at that helm, discusses such a way forward for Faith Connexion and, the fashion industry at large.
What potential did you see in Faith Connexion?
It is an iconic brand with a proud history of being Parisian. Paris is close to my heart as I spend a significant amount of my time working there. The brand's robust creativity and ability to step outside of the boundaries while remaining luxurious, drew me in. Faith Connexion is always seeking fresh inspiration and renewed energy to inspire its designs, while keeping true to its diverse roots.
In what ways do you think you and the brand — with its unconventional flat structure on the creative side — set precedence for the future of fashion?
Faith Connexion aims to create a laboratory of young talent experimenting in art, fashion and street culture. We understand the millennial demand for unique pieces. From working with local artists to spray paint a garment or a seamstress embroidering a jacket, guests are invited to customise their pieces on-site. This experience differentiates the brand, allowing consumers to express their individuality. [In its structure], open-source fashion gives the designers freedom to create from passion. An astounding variety of collaborations generates fresh inspiration for both designers and clients. Creative directors are often tasked to produce collection after collection of hundreds of pieces, and in time, they begin to lose their inventiveness. By partnering with 10 designers, we are able to prevent that from happening.
Do you think this is why luxury brands have started collaborating with other labels (e.g. LV x Supreme, Burberry x Gosha Rubchinskiy)? What will this evolve into?
For today's savvy, demanding generation, co-creation is the best way for brands to survive. Consumers want to connect with something unique, something that succeeds tradition. Collaborations allow brands to explore new territories and authentically stand out.
Is the fashion industry in need of change? How do you see yourself having a hand in this?
Faith Connexion believes in reusing pieces that previous generations have left behind, giving them new life and creating positivity energy. There is a beauty in this movement, just like renovating old buildings rather than erecting new ones. I believe all brands have a responsibility to do their individual parts in sustainability.
Do you attempt to create synergy between projects spanning different fields?
Yes, at Cidade Matarazzo in São Paulo, we are creating a vibrant green oasis amongst a concrete jungle. The modern haven will house a six-star Rosewood Hotel & Suites, a unique retail destination bringing together the most exclusive luxury brands alongside nanoshops of crafts designed by Brazilian artisans. Ingrained in creativity, it will feature a cultural center aiming to inspire the community. The project will be the largest historical landmark restoration in Brazil's history. With Matarazzo, I am able to create a beautiful synergy of luxury, culture and nature.
What or who are you keen on working with next?
I want to work with the next Yves Saint Laurent; the next best designer. Fashion is dynamic, and I am always seeking my next endeavor.