Originally from the 18th arrondissement in Paris, Alice Vaillant spent her early life immersed in the ballet world. At a young age, she entered the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet where she stayed a few years before leaving her hometown to join the Grands Ballet Canadiens in Montreal, Canada. After a month and a half at the French-Canadian dance company, she decided to retire from her classical dancing career to pursue new endeavours. She decided to stay in Canada and reoriented herself towards a different artistic outlet—fashion design.
While studying Fashion Design at LaSalle College, in Montreal, Alice met the founder of the LIGNES DE FUITE talent incubator, Milan Tanedjikov, a teacher devoted to supporting promising fashion students and recent graduates by helping them develop their ideas. Although Milan’s mentorship program was not yet an established resource when Alice was at LaSalle College, she believes that Milan has helped her develop her vision and find answers to the multiple worries that floated around the mind of the fashion design student that she was at the time. “I was wondering if I was in the right direction and if my vision made sense, and it was quite reassuring to have a mentor like him who taught me so much.” She believes that having an incubator like LIGNES DE FUITE is a unique chance for students to show their work, obtain advice, and meet people from whom they can learn.
Upon graduating from the Fashion Design program at Lasalle College, Alice returned to Paris to complete a master’s degree and launch her career. After interning at Jean-Paul Gaulthier and Nina Ricci, she decided to create a collection to strengthen her portfolio. Through the development of this personal project, Alice realised that she was ready to make the big jump and create her own brand and that is how Vaillant Studio was born.
Each collection produced by Vaillant Studio is the result of experimentation with selected
fabrics, such as upcycled lace, which are deconstructed and reworked. The identity of Vaillant Studio revolves around the construction of a hybrid wardrobe and the amalgamation of daytime and eveningwear. Mixing inspiration derived from vintage lingerie to balletwear, Alice’s garments meet at the intersection of vulnerability, poetry, and sensuality. She designs clothing for modern women, who want to feel confident and who seek garments that will allow them to feel comfortable yet poetically sensual.
What are the guidelines for your creative process and for the brand in general?
I love to imagine myself and women around me wearing the clothing I design to try to understand
what women want to wear and what they are looking for. Most of the women who try on my clothes tell me that they feel like an enhanced version of themselves. Then when it comes to the technical aspect of it, I work a lot on moulding, draping, and symmetry on the mannequin. Afterwards, I work with the pattern maker to create the real product. I also work a lot with lace, which is a big part of the brand and one of our greatest challenges. We use lace from Calais– the place where you have the most beautiful lace in the
world. We collect deadstock lace and we make sure to develop patterns that can be adapted to the different types of lace we gathered. It is quite a difficult process to manage because it involves a lot
of handling for the small team that we have, but it’s also very cool because we are involved in making
things move in terms of sustainability in fashion. At first, the lace suppliers, manufacturers, factories, and even buyers didn’t understand our process so we explained to them that we can have different lace for each garment. All of this is a process that we are enforcing and it takes a lot of time and work but it makes us who we are. There is also a huge process of sourcing, we use materials that are OEKO-TEX®, which is another challenging aspect because generally those are available in minimal quantities.
Vaillant Studio is still a quite young brand, but you have gained a lot of attention in the last few years. What do you think has helped you gain visibility, which is quite an important factor for emerging brands and designers who want to make their work seen?
I think it is a bit of everything. There is obviously the magic of social media, anyone can come across the brand; sometimes, I receive messages from well-known people, and I wonder how that is possible. But it doesn’t mean that a celebrity wearing your clothing will suddenly bring a lot of traction because
sometimes famous people won’t even tag the brand. I also think that making a name for yourself is a gradual process that occurs as you grow and evolve.
(Currently at her 5th collection, Alice is preparing for her first fashion show
in Paris this fall, which will showcase around 25 to 27 looks.)
What would you say is the most challenging part of the preparation of your first fashion show?
A show is a lot of preparation because it’s not like a shoot where you can use pins and make touch ups on the clothing. For a fashion show, all the garments must perfectly fit each model. I predicted to not necessarily have models who are standard sizes and since castings usually happen 2 days before, we will have to find solutions so that the clothes can be ready in the right sizes given the fact that they will be meant for different body types. This means that there will definitely be a lot of last minute work. We also have to plan the shoes and the accessories, and find sponsors which is something we are currently working on. It’s a lot of work given the fact that we are such a small team, but it will be cool I am sure. Looking back at how your studies have impacted your work today, would you say that in your current position you spend more time working on the conceptual or technical aspect of your collections, and which one do you value more? I think the two are super complimentary, but I also believe that the technique used to create the garment is fundamental, even if there are brilliant designers who spend more time developing their concept. I know that in my case, learning about the fabric, the way it moves and reacts to transformation, and learning about draping has been extremely valuable for my work today.
What advice would you give to an emerging designer or a student finishing their program?
I think the best advice is to be curious and do a lot of work on your own, research fashion history to find your references, and most importantly, tell yourself that you must know everything. I think that if you’re
lazy, it’s not the job for you, but if you’re passionate and want to succeed, it’s going to be ok. I would
say that I advise you to take the time to do this work alone and to try to find your path on your own; that’s
what I started doing in Montreal. No one told me I had to do all the research I had done on my own, but I did it. Looking back, I think that my desire to learn and to have extensive knowledge about textiles, fashion history, and the work of notorious designers has helped me tremendously. Once you unpeel the layers of a subject, it opens up a window towards something else, and there is just this snowball effect of continual learning.
Image credits: Raphael Viens Originally Published in LIGNES DE FUITE Vol.3