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Photography Hannelore Knuts, courtesy of Pallas

Hannelore Knuts for Pallas

The Belgian designs tuxedos for Paris' best kept secret, shooting herself for the lookbook

Pallas of Paris might not mean a lot, but that's because they've kept it that way. It's the atelier known for its 'Petite Couture' tailoring know-how that has created prototypes for the likes of Balenciaga, Karl Lagerfeld and Céline over the last 52 years. Now, for AW13, Pallas steps into the light with a signature capsule collection of women's silhouettes based on the tuxedo, realised with enduring model and polymath Hannelore Knuts, who also shot herself for the lookbook (Knuts studied photography before being scouted). The clothes won't be industrialised for production, either: the entire collection will be developed by Parisian petites mains, with each of the designs cut by hand and assembled by one tailor from start to finish. We caught up with Hannelore to talk (le) Smoking.

Dazed Digital: What excites you about tailoring?
Hannelore Knuts: I was lucky to be introduced to Azzedine Alaïa and spent some time at his atelier as a fitting model, including in the evening while he would be making his patterns. Seeing him work was pure poetry for me. I was fascinated how a complex 3D-piece like a jacket would be transformed in a 2D pattern. Before all that I took something as simple as a button, hemline or zip for granted. At Azzedine's I realised how much thought and work go into the details. After, I met Haider [Ackermann] and there I really learned to love the 'game' of fittings and finding realistic solutions for creative ideas.

I think our collective fashion memory automatically visualises the YSL woman shot by Newton. It's the same story in my brain. That woman is a big part of my idea of the modern woman; strong, mysterious and feminine. Of course Bianca Jagger in her white tuxedo for her wedding is not to be neglected!

DD: How should it be worn best?
Hannelore Knuts: It should be worn how you feel best. For me a tuxedo frames my internal woman and within that frame I feel safe to bring that woman to the forefront. So if you wear it with or without heels, lipstick, a shirt or not, it doesn't matter. It is your personality that finishes off the look.

A tuxedo is something precious. Always related to evening wear and that for sure is what it is but nowadays we have the freedom to take that look to the street so there isn't (to me at least) any limit or rules. A good tuxedo is a classic and a classic is a classic because it is smart and clever. It will help you to look good.

DD: Would you like to see men in your Pallas collection, if they can fit? Or is this strictly girls-only?
Hannelore Knuts: Go for it! We have super feminine cuts but also simple shapes and lines that might work on men too. I was happy that we as women could have the same handmade tailoring for tuxedo just like men have had for years and years. If men now want to come shop Pallas, a petit-couture house… Who am I to say no? Can't wait to see Pallas on the street or gala. May it be men or woman. I'm proud either way!

Daniel and Veronique Pallas are well-trained craftsmen with a big history. They are/have been making the 'piece-manches' for top houses like Balenciaga, Céline, Thierry Mugler. This past summer they wanted to not only execute designs but also create; tuxedos are kind of their signature skill, with a love for the beautiful fabric crepe de laine. So that's where I come in, to help them make a collection and tell a story. To be honest I had never thought of designing tuxedos but when they asked me, my close family/friends and I were like 'of course'. It made so much sense in a weird yet natural way, when I met them in their atelier in Paris we all felt immediately it was a match made in heaven. They showed me what they had and with equal passion we talked about what we liked, resulting in a full story. With their craft and skills fittings were a joy, during the week I would be researching cuts, shapes, volumes and finishing and by the next fitting my endless emails would be transformed into a beautiful pair of pants, waistcoat or jacket. My French got so much better too! We all know now it is a bow-tie and not a boa-tie like Google translate told us. I felt honoured that I could be the woman introducing the house, representing the image of Pallas.