Interview with Ilan Chétrite, creative director of Sandro Homme

Interview with Ilan Chétrite, creative director of Sandro Homme

Spring/summer 2016

Text: Norman Tan

A candid conversation with the menswear purveyor of Parisian cool

Sandro, the French brand renowned for its understated approach to Parisian cool, has just opened a new boutique at The Shoppes in Marina Bay Sands in addition to its existing store at Ion Orchard. What does this mean? That covetable French insouciance, as flaunted by Paris denizens hiding behind shades and casually fingering cigarettes, is now even more accessible.

Seated backstage at Paris men's fashion week — amongst sample racks and fidgety models getting ready for the SS16 presentation at Palais Tokyo — we speak to Ilan Chétrite, the creative director of Sandro Homme, about his personal approach to design, Asian taste preferences, and the curious dynamics of working with his mother.

It's all about the volume and mix of fabrics this season... It's just like music; a collection has to go well together

If you had to choose, what's more important to you: Aesthetics or construction?
Both. You can't choose one. They come together. If you had the most beautiful clothes in the world but they aren't nicely cut, it doesn't work. I think that's what's most important for me: The blending of aesthetics and cut to create clothes that will be worn on the streets.

Talking about the streets, menswear is currently going through a real 'casualisation', so to speak. There's a fusion of street and sportswear into designs. Do you consciously create pieces to capitalise on this trend?
There are two sides to our collection: The technical and tailored garments, and then the more chic, more Parisian cool and relaxed pieces. Whatever your style, I want men to feel like themselves when they put on our clothes. Our collection allows guys to mix-and-match, to dress down their look with sporty pieces, or to dress it up with a more structured blazer.

Is that your competitive advantage over other brands?
I think that we have — and I hope you feel the same — the quality of the high level brands in a space that is really cool and current. That's what I like about it, our contemporary concept.

Talk to me about SS16. Was there a particular type of man you had in mind when designing the collection?
Actually, it came very spontaneously you know. We thought about guys like Chet Baker; guys that have this nervous and soft, slightly unconfident side to them, and then created an aesthetic that reflected that vibe.

Sandro Homme SS16

Sandro Homme SS16

What are some key pieces or key looks that you love?
The really cropped leather jackets paired with wide pants. It's all about the volume and mix of fabrics this season. But, I do like everything. Nothing works without the other. It's just like music; a collection has to go well together.

Sandro just opened a new store in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Do you think the Asian clientele has a different taste preference compared to European customers?
I think that Asian customers used to like logos and that they weren't used to consuming understated fashion. But I was in Asia six months ago, and I noticed that their taste has changed, and they want brands just like ours. No logos, just the aesthetics of the brand. It's part of the globalisation of the world, you know. There isn't much difference in the taste preference between Asian and European consumers nowadays.

Sandro is a family brand...
Yes, my mother designs the womenswear collection.

So, how much does your mother influence what you do in menswear and vice versa?
I've grown up in a family that's in the business of fashion. And in a way, that has some bearing on me perhaps. She might have had influence over me when I was younger, but not anymore. We do have natural common inspirations though. But we work in two different studios.

When you're not confident, that's when you tend to get angry at constructive criticism

Can you give an example of a common inspiration?
It's more of an abstract thing. We can agree on whether something is chic, or if we love it, or if it's too much.

Does she ever go, "Ilan, I don't like what you've done there"?
Yes, she does. When I was younger I used to get angry. Afterwards, I noticed she was right most of the time, so I started paying more attention to what she said.

But you listen to her less now? You're more confident in your decisions?
I'm definitely more confident in my decisions. But when you're more confident it's actually easier to listen to what others have to say too. When you're not confident, that's when you tend to get angry at constructive criticism.

That's true. What's the most important thing your mother has taught you, from a design perspective?
Humility. To design with humility. 

To see the full Sandro Homme SS16 collection, click on the slideshow below.

For all our coverage of Paris men's fashion week SS16, click here.