Stéphane Ashpool Created Couture for Chanel’s Galerie du 19M

PARIS — Chanel’s Galerie du 19M is shining a spotlight on the couture creations of designer Stéphane Ashpool with a new exhibit titled “Figure Libre” that lands just ahead of the Olympics.

19M, Chanel’s hub for its métiers d’art workshops in the north of Paris, gave Ashpool carte blanche to work with its ateliers. The designer conceived a collection that unites all his influences — from the culture clash between the gritty Pigalle area where he grew up to the refinement of the Palais Garnier, which served as bookmark for this neighborhood, to his mother’s and father’s work as a ballet dancer and sculptor, respectively, plus his love of basketball and Japanese style.

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Ashpool, who is also the creative mind behind France’s Olympic uniforms, spent four months working with 19M’s ateliers to craft unique pieces for the exhibit.

He worked with Maison Lesage, Maison Lemarié, Ateliers Lognon and Studio MTX on embroidery, pleating, floral appliqués, millinery and building what he called “neo-tweed,” a 3D-printed plastic exostructure woven into a traditional jacket. He used a similar structure on metal removable sleeves as well as a stole that references traditional religious garments.

“I bring a new state of mind into these houses that need to be pushed,” he said of experimenting with new materials.

The "neo-tweed" look inside Stéphane Ashpool "Figure Libre" at Chanel's Galerie du 19M.
The “neo-tweed” look inside Stéphane Ashpool “Figure Libre” at Chanel’s Galerie du 19M.

In some ways, the exhibit brings his work full circle. Ashpool received mentoring at 19M as part of his Andam grand prize win back in 2015. He has long nurtured a relationship with the craftspeople there, and has been mentored by Chanel president Bruno Pavlovsky.

“I’m a very spontaneous person, and then when I come here and you have the all the freedom and the craft working together, I really enjoy the discipline,” he said of the precision of the ateliers contrasting with his free spirit. “It’s a different state of mind. I feel it’s my place, actually.”

The exhibit walks visitors through pieces from his early collections under his Pigalle Paris label, the flashy moto-inspired suits and streetwear that marked the brand, highlighting his evolution as a designer. That he became known for his sportswear is somewhat of a surprise to Ashpool, who noted that his first collection in 2009 was tailored suiting.

Growing up in the Pigalle neighborhood was a very masculine, tough environment, while at home his parents were eccentric artists. “This is bringing together both sides of me. It’s not easy to separate someone’s sprit,” he said.

The exhibit plays to both these influences, with the couture pieces circling a mini basketball court.

Japanese style meets Opera influences inside the exhibit at Chanel's Galerie du 19M.
Japanese style meets opera influences inside the exhibit at Chanel’s Galerie du 19M.

He took his team to Japan when he began to work on the exhibit pieces, which is most evident in the Opera section of the display with minimalist tie-front tuxedos that recall a kimono, pleated button downs that read as sculptures of origami. Mannequins are topped with headpieces that reference opera costumes, while he reinforces the relationship between stage and street and recreates the shapes in baseball caps elsewhere.

For the pieces, Ashpool started construction from looking at fabric and thinking about how it could give new structure to the body, instead of thinking about creating a “look.”

Inside Stéphane Ashpool "Figure Libre" at Chanel's Galerie du 19M.
Inside Stéphane Ashpool “Figure Libre” at Chanel’s Galerie du 19M.

Several of the couture pieces in the exhibit are labeled as Langhofer, his mother’s surname.

Ashpool said the constant churn of fashion shows is no longer how he wants to present his work, and he has pulled Pigalle Pais from the calendar. The designer hinted that this moniker could be a new direction for his work.

“Potentially yes,” he said. “As I’ve been known and my name is always related to a part of me that is more related to Pigalle, hoodies, the street and basketball, the real me is like the two of it together. So as people spotlight more one side of me than another, I want to have a name where I can express another language,” he said of the Langhofer label.

After Paris, Ashpool would like to take the exhibit to Japan, and then potentially put some of the pieces into production.

“I never overprepare what I have in mind, I make sure I can create first of all,” he said.

The exhibit will run until June 16, taking the Galerie du 19M into summer when it will inaugurate a new garden and public workshop space.


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