He’s been hailed as the next Yves Saint Laurent, Alexa Chung is his biggest fan and his puff-ball skirts and tailored coats can be seen on the silhouettes of practically every member of the fash pack. There’s no doubt about it, Carven’s Guillaume Henry is having an It moment.
With four seasons under his belt, the designer who single-handedly revived the couture house started by Mme Carven in 1945 is rapidly expanding his empire with a new shop in Paris and a pop-up store at London’s The Shop at Bluebird, which boasts the broadest selection of the spring/summer line on our shores.
We sat down with the super-charming and tres handsome designer to quiz him about his latest plans and how on earth he manages to know what we want even before we know we want it...
How have you modified the Carven aesthetic for today’s woman?
Basically by forgetting about the archives. A brand is not about a dress, it’s about an essence. The spirit of the house is to be both shy and seductive. Basically we have taken the essence or ‘perfume’ of Mme Carven’s designs and transferred the idea for today’s lifestyle. In the Fifties Mme Carven used a lot of crinoline – who today would wear crinoline? So we’ve updated the fabrics and shapes but still kept the couture feeling.
Which is your favourite piece from the spring/summer collection?
They are all like my babies so it’s hard to choose, but I would say I love the colourful printed dress (pictured) because it is the epitome of Carven – covered up at the front, bare in the back, printed, feminine but not too much. Restrained but sexy.
Do you design with a particular woman in mind?
I started designing for my friends and I continue to do so. I am inspired by real women and non-fashion people. I have so many different women in mind when I create. For instance, I love old ladies. I love how they mix colours, how they need a comfortable shoe and how they don’t even realise when they’ve made a fashion mistake. I also love kids – when they’re outgrowing their clothes and the sleeves are too short, how they are neat on Sunday morning and by the afternoon they are so messy and how they wear shorts and their knees are always red from falling down.
Alexa Chung loves your clothes – what do you like about her style?
I love that she is elegant and cool without trying. She is fresh, just like Carven.
How do you know what we want even before we want it?
Although I am not a woman I like to design clothes for women that other women like. My aim is not to be a conceptual brand but to make attractive and charming clothes with a bit of soul. In the 18th Century, dandies used to ask their butlers to wear their new clothes in for them. I like the idea of clothes you discover over time and that have a lived-in feeling. That was the essence of my winter 2011 collection.
Which fellow designers, past and present, do you admire?
Of course I love Yves Saint Laurent. I really admire designers who have achieved a vision – like Sonia Rykiel and Agnes B. Alaia is amazing and I am a big fan of what Miuccia Prada does with her main line and Miu Miu.
Your pieces are covetable but remain at accessible price points. Is this likely to change?
I don’t think so. Over the last four seasons the collection has grown so there are more expensive pieces but there are also more affordable pieces to choose from. I started designing for my friends and I continue to do so and they don’t have more money now than they did then!
What are your future plans?
We just opened a new store in Paris and next season we are launching menswear – although it will be a very small collection at first.
By Maria Milano