Franck Sorbier is the only fashion designer to hold the distinction of Master of Art. If he is the only designer to have obtained two honours, it is not by chance.
In addition to over 30 years of expertise in the world of fashion and design, Monsieur Sorbier sees his collections as a platform for the arts to merge and express themselves. The many committed themes that have been put forward through dance or other forms of artistic expression have become the fibres of a brand DNA that is recognisable at first glance.
An artist but also a craftsman, Franck Sorbier puts French savoir-faire at the forefront of his collections – between ethical research and aesthetics – reinventing the richness of French heritage and culture with each presentation.
This year, on the occasion of the Paris Haute Couture week, Monsieur Sorbier was no exception to his values by delivering a unique collection, bathed in the House’s iconic signatures.
For its first presentation in physics since the pandemic, we witnessed in the sublime courtyard of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers a real live show between equestrian dances, poetry and melodies from another century.
An invitation to travel between eras and references, always very polished by Mr Sorbier – giving a superior dimension to the creations so recognizable by this great couturier: compression, bustier underlining the feminine curves, tailored jacket or even tails …
Through the presentation of his Haute Couture Maître d’Art pieces on the one hand and the renewal of his “prêt-à-commander” – rightly called Atelier Sorbier “He for Her / She for Him” with very androgynous looks on the other hand, Franck Sorbier transports us into a world bathed in insouciance and lightness where personalities and talents meet.
Who better to reveal the secrets of this collection than Mr Sorbier himself? Icon-Icon brings you an exclusive interview with the most artistic of the Grand Couturiers!
To begin and introduce this interview, could you come back to the theme of this collection called “Street performers”?
We are currently in a period that I find extremely rigid.
So the theme of this collection was a way to get out of this somewhat austere atmosphere, where the shows almost look like military marches.
The idea of “Street performers” therefore refers to people who are different, who are on the margins of society. I thus reused the May 1968 slogan defending the right to be different. Here, more than a right, this difference is a duty, even a vocation. In my opinion, one is born an artist and one does not become one.
If we have to take the side of a category of people, I think we will take the side of those who make us dream, who transport us.
I took Marcel Carné’s film Les Enfants du paradis as a reference. Paradise’ are the seats at the very top of a theatre, which are the cheapest. Finally, the message I wanted to get across was that this whole world is not necessarily a varnished one, but it is not unhappy either.
They are young people having fun and I think it is also a way to relive a certain carefree and light-hearted youth.
Could you tell us a little about the different characters in the collection?
The entire couture represented artistic professions: there were evocations of Sarah Bernhardt, a classical dancer, a phoenix (the bird that rises from its ashes as soon as it is consumed) and a page that evoked a troubadour.
There are also periods that telescope together. In particular, there was a gang of small-time thugs inspired by Brassaï’s photos from the 1920s. So there are some photos in which we see this gang of thugs – what we would call gangs today, but which at the time were described more as gangs (the apaches). So I thought it was interesting to bring this up to date, especially as it’s still a current phenomenon. On this theme, I was also thinking of Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.
Another part of the collection represents a return to prêt-à-porter – or rather a prêt-à-commander to which the name Atelier Sorbier has been given. There is a women’s suit inspired by Marlene Dietrich, with a Humphrey Bogart hat, with a detective film look, a typically French trend for detective films, although there are some American representations in The Untouchablesor Frank Miller films.
Finally, there were two figures of gypsies, a working costume around the large coal miners’ smocks.
Finally, the different characters presented in the collection include petty thieves, small-time thugs, representatives of different trades or gypsies who mix with people from the “high society” and show business.
You inspired a lot by literature, cinema or art in general, especially in terms of colors, I think about red and black to refer to Stendhal, Could you tell us a little about your creative process, from the idea to the garment?
We would like to highlight 2 colors : red and black.
Apart from the West, where red has a diabolical, bloodthirsty connotation, in the East it is more of a lucky colour (in China), representing energy (in Japan), life (in India), something very bright, especially in the Middle East.
On the other hand, I always had in mind Stendhal’s novel – Le Rouge et le Noir – one of the novels I read as a child and loved. It is ultimately like a reminiscence, just as the “Tree of Life” coat is a reminiscence of the Indian era.
On this mantle there are two trees: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. On this mantle there are two trees: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. The tree of life is still something very light, positive, and the tree of knowledge something more complex.
Could you tell us more about the huge “Tree of Life” coat and its great embroidery work?
It’s a bat coat, which evokes an after-show dressing gown around something very enveloping, like a cocoon.
The whole tree part is made of hand-dyed silk organza. All the birds – all different – the bees, flowers or leaves have been sewn by hand.
We thus find the metaphor of the tree that gives life, a real support for life.
Some of the looks are quite androgynous, reminiscent of Sarah Bernhardt or Marlene Dietrich, could you tell us a bit about them?
We have made the same coat and jacket in men’s and women’s sizes. Today, women like to wear men’s clothes, and men also like to take a few pieces from the ladies’ wardrobe.
We also focused on the trousers – rather suit trousers – and the sleeve piece. If you look at Marlene Dietrich, she was often very sophisticated on screen, but in life she almost exclusively wore the male suit. So the idea was to capture this notion of an avant-garde woman, like all those great Hollywood film legends such as Greta Garbo, Catherine Hepburn etc.
More than a simple fashion show, you deliver a real interactive and even playful show with the presence of different artists. Do you consider fashion and even art as a global expression?
This season, we were lucky enough to have a dancer who had attended the Opera’s dance school to represent the phoenix on the one hand and a second dancer who had attended the Conservatoire – to play the role of half harlequin half pierrot – on the other.
The large red skirt with the cut-out lace evokes the world of the gypsies. It is important for me to have a representation of a diverse world. In fact, for this collection, we chose to represent people who exist, who live, breathe and express themselves. In short, the opposite of a one-sided, flat world.
This is not the first time that horses and equestrian art are present in your presentations, why this animal?
At our last parade, there were indeed horses present as it was a tribute to Maria Felix.
For our first parade, at the Rotonde de l’impératrice at the Grand Hôtel Scribe, the bride was also on horseback wearing a cape embroidered by Lesage. The collection was called “The Velvet Epic”.
If I like the presence of this animal, it is also because it is always said that the most beautiful conquest of man is the horse. There is this notion of an animal that is racy yet domesticated, and that has a certain freedom in the imagination.
In the end, it is a very elegant and sensitive animal.
What would be the highlight of your collection?
I think it’s the “Arbre de Vie” coat. It’s the one that gets all the attention because this background brings out these touches of ochre and brown that come together. There is colour but it is not flashy. There is something very lively – vibrant.
If we can identify the Sorbier DNA – recognisable in the face of the uniformity of many other houses – what would be the signature of the House, if our readers were to choose one?
First, there is the compression
Then there are the cuts which very often emphasise the bust, in something very feminine, following the woman’s silhouette.
Do you have a clarification, a word to add, a particular piece to present to Icon-Icon readers?
One example is the red jacket from the last collection. For this piece, the idea was to put this jacket with a long evening dress in order to change the silhouette and to convey contrasting proportions.
Finally, there was this little girl in a little ruffled cape who looked like a gypsy princess.
Interview by Sébastien Girard and Saskia Blanc
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