An interview with graduate fashion designer Louis Gabriel Nouchi

This year’s La Cambre Mode[s] graduation show featured Louis Gabriel Nouchi’s impressive 3rd year menswear collection, a clever mix of intricate craft, tailored shapes and urban cool. It’s put him on the map as one of the school’s most promising students and we recently met up with the young designer, a charming and hardworking Parisian, to talk about life in Brussels, interning at Vogue Paris and why 90s fashion was so much better.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Paris and moved to Brussels when I started studying.

How old are you?

I’m 24.

Why did you choose La Cambre Mode[s]?

The school was highly recommended by people I knew who had studied there, and it also has a very good reputation. When I interned at French Vogue, I was given a list of the best schools for studying fashion and went for La Cambre. We often travelled to Brussels when I was a child. My mother is an architect and loves coming here for design and art events.

What is it that you like about Brussels?

Although it’s close to Paris, I like the fact that it’s totally different. The atmosphere is laid-back and more open-minded here. You hear many languages on the street and it feels very European. I appreciate the Belgian mentality. The great thing about the school is that students from different disciplines get to meet and work together, which helps you broaden your horizons.

What is it that you enjoy about the teaching here?

There’s an emphasis on technical knowledge, which I find very important. There are high levels of creativity as well, making the school an inspiring environment.

Tell me a bit more about your last collection.

In 3rd Year, you have to design a menswear collection. It was a highly enjoyable process for me. I didn’t want my collection to be too conceptual, as I find that a bit pretentious. With menswear, you really need to think about movement and comfort. I got to try the clothes on, which helped me understand more about the fit. I worked with the idea of a tribe and imagined guys who would hang out and know each other well. Even though I used pastel tones and delicate fabrics such as lace, for instance, the result was not feminine.

I spent several weeks on certain pieces, approaching embellishment in a new way.

Your clothes looked rough, but they were refined at the same time.

I spent several weeks on certain pieces, approaching embellishment in a new way. My theme was destruction and I handled fabrics in an aggressive way, burning, bleaching and cutting them. I used the idea of damaging materials in order to add value to them. I guess I did not want them to look obvious.

Have you always been into fashion?

Since I was a child. It’s the ultimate cliché, right? (laughs) I remember watching Yohji Yamamoto‘s shows, which were a complete shock. Fashion was incredible at the beginning of the 90s. I remember my mother wearing Kenzo at that time and I was obsessed with Japan and Manga. Grunge influenced our generation, too, which is something teachers don’t always understand because they grew up in the 70s and 80s.

I guess the 80s never went away. Designers like Issey Miyake, Comme des Garçons or Azzedine Alaïa are still influential today.

True. Look at Helmut Newton and the sexy, vampy YSL woman. She’s still here and keeps on inspiring designers.

What was it like interning at Vogue Paris?

It was a great experience. Carine Roitfeld was still the editor-in-chief  at that time and was friendly to everyone. She greeted people when she saw them in the office and had incredible style. I couldn’t say the same about other people who worked there. I interned there for 5 months in 2008. I was drawing all the time and one day Carine came to me saying she liked my drawings. She even wrote my recommendation letter for La Cambre, which was very nice of her.

Any funny memories you’d like to share?

I was assisting a stylist who worked for the magazine. We had to present our selection to the editor for an upcoming shoot. When she saw the rail, she basically threw everything on the floor, saying it was crap. I just couldn’t believe it. We had worked like crazy to get these clothes and she dismissed everything within a few seconds.

Would you like to get into styling?

Maybe. I like the idea of taking clothes and recreating something new with them.

What about launching your own brand? Is that something you would consider?

I’m not sure about that one. It seems a risky move given the current context, and there’s a lot of pressure to get it right.

Do you think fashion is too commercial now?

Probably. When you’re a young designer now, there’s this expectation that you should sell straight away, have your own PR team and show in a great space. That’s a lot to take for someone starting out.