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Charles Anastase Spring 2009 Pre-Collection

Charles Anastase's First London Show

Boombox promoter and Ponystep founder Richard Mortimer speaks to the Paris/London designer.

Designer Charles Anastase has won the hearts of girls who like their clothes on the right side of girly with his series of memorable shows at the Hot Crillon in Paris. I spoke to him during preparations for his first show at London Fashion Week in September.

Richard Mortimer: OK, Charles. We have to be properly serious now.

Charles Anastase: Do you mind if I keep my sunglasses on?

RM: Yes, you can keep your sunglasses on! Tell me how you would explain your label to somebody who didn’t know about it?
CA: It a very independent label of clothes. That’s very important because there’s not so many independent or small labels that are doing demi-couture at the moment.

RM: So you would consider what you do almost couture?
CA: Yes, because the clothes are made in such small quantities and we spend a lot of time on the details and you don’t find that everywhere – it’s only in very selected shops. It’s quite special and exclusive.

RM: So how did you get in to fashion - you were initially an illustrator, right?
CA: It was by accident. I’ve always been interested in fashion. I like the shows, the adverts, the magazines, but yeah, I started as an artist doing drawings.

RM: Did you study to be an illustrator?
CA: No. I’ve always done drawings. The first people that asked to publish my drawings were fashion magazines, and then I started doing drawings on t-shirts, and one thing led to another…

RM: How did the fashion magazines become aware of your work?
CA: It was all through friends of mine. Some of them worked at Self-Service in Paris. We were a little community of people around the same age working in fashion, assisting, and it was like a small family in Paris. I was doing my personal drawing and my some friends of mine introduced me to the magazines.

RM: And then you started with the T-shirts.
CA: Yes. I initially started life wanting to be an artist, then I started doing the T-shirts, then I wanted to do some styling… A bit of everything! I was hard to define.

RM: So how did your first collection come about?
CA: I won the ANDAM prize. It was a lot of money but I hadn’t actually done a collection before I entered. They asked me to do the contest and they gave me the prize because they thought I should do fashion. They wanted to push French creativity and they were interested in my illustration, my embroidery, and my installation. They were interested in a "multimedia" designer. They asked me to do a show so I was kind of forced to do a show.

RM: You showed for 8 seasons in Paris. Why did you take a break from showing last season?
CA:  Because in Paris there are so many established designers its just madness! By the time people get to Paris, they have generally been travelling for a month and everyone is exhausted. They just don’t have the time to see the smaller shows. So for the past three seasons in Paris it was so difficult to organise the show. It’s a tough business because you’re competing with such big names.

RM: And this season you’re going to show in London?
CA: Yes because I’ve lived here for the last three years and I feel really comfortable in London, I like the fashion scene here. There’s a lot of energy.

RM: Do you feel you’re going to make more of an impact in London than you would in Paris?
CA: I don’t think I will make an impact - I’m too old to make an impact! I’m 30! When you are 30 you just want to find the most comfortable place to do your work. London is just the best place to show for young, independent and creative labels. People like Richard Nicoll and Giles are showing in London and I’m very happy to be showing alongside them. It’s a quieter fashion week but the quality is very good.

RM: Where are you stocked worldwide?
CA: In France, in London, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Korea, Hong Kong, the States and of course the Arab countries like Qatar! I love Arabs! Of course, I am French, we’re very used to Arabs!

RM: I see a lot of print designs in your clothes. Do you design the prints?
CA: Yes. I’m very surprised because people are always shocked that we do the prints as well. I’m a total control freak! I have to do everything myself – the pattern, the print, even the stitching… I do everything myself. I think I need to let other people help me.

RM: So who is the typical Charles Anastase woman?
CA: Very, very precise. This is why the label is so successful. The last girl we had in the magazines was Emma Watson. I think she loves Charles Anastase. I don’t even need to send her the clothes as she’s already bought them. Very girly, very young looking - but independent. She would be a little intellectual at the same time. Christina Ricci, Winona Ryder (they both wear lots of my clothes).

RM: Who makes the accessories? Who makes the shoes?
CA: We’ve collaborated with Repetto the very famous ballerina shoemaker in Paris. When I did the first show it was flat shoes and everyone was complaining because they thought a designer should show women in high heels. Now a lot of people are doing flat shoes, but now we are doing very high heels for the next season – 14 inches like a drag queen!

RM: And you’re potentially going to be collaborating with Paul and Thelma of Bernstock Spiers?
CA: Yes. It’s nice in London. So many people going to the George & Dragon and they’re all so motivated! In Paris there’s so much attitude where as here it's much more friendly.

RM: What’s next for Charles Anastase? Tell me about your licensing deal?
CA: I’m very happy because after five years when you do a business on your own without any financial backup – I always just made the clothes, sold the clothes and used that for the next collection. But now we have so many clients it’s starting to get difficult to find the money for the production. Without a financial backer you just can’t do it and just at the right moment a company from Italy, which belongs to the Diesel group, came to me and offered to help me make the collection. I have control of everything but they help develop the label, which is amazing. They do production for Alaia, Chloe…

RM: Who have you been working with in terms of make-up, hair, styling…
CA: Lyndell Mansfield. She’s my very good friend. We did the first everything together. She is amazing! Doing the show together is like Christmas! She has always been passionate about styling and fashion. The fashion industry can be a very tough place because it’s such a big industry. Its not always a place where you’re having a laugh so when you can keep your family with you its amazing!

RM: You seem like you want to keep your clothes quite personal?
CA: Yes. This is why people buy my clothes. They wouldn’t like me to do three lines of bags, loads of shoes and advert. I think people like the very specific design. I don’t think a very independent label can grow too big, too fast. It just doesn’t work so I have learnt from other people’s mistakes. You need to keep the integrity based on the client.

RM: So for now, you’re just going to continue to make clothes the Charles Anastase woman would like to wear?
CA: The good thing is in terms of the licensing company wanting to develop the label - they do not want to develop quantity. They want to develop quality - like an evening dress that I have never been able to do before.

RM: Or fur? Would you work with fur?
CA: Of course! I love fur!