INTERVIEW BY ALEXIA GEORGIEVA
Born in France and raised in Canada, Charlotte Deneux is a young fashion design graduate exploring femininity through an introspective journey. Driven by the spirit and the aesthetic of female artists such as photographer Petra Collins and rock stars Debbie Harry and Viv Albertine, she looks up to successful women in a male-centric world. Inspired by vintage lingerie, Deneux plays with the contrast of delicate and heavy fabrics to reinforce the disparities of the hyperfeminine universe that she has created. She is interested in challenging the denigration of the “girly girl” and the patronizing attitude associated with the definition of femininity. Deneux wants to re-appropriate her femininity throughout her collections and show that clothing does not change your capabilities as a woman. Currently based in London for her internship at Charlotte Knowles, we discussed her evolution as a recent fashion design graduate and her upcoming collection Strawberry Switchblade.
CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN FASHION AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR JOURNEY SO FAR?
For as far as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by clothes and the way that they allow you to enact so many different versions of yourself. I used to go through my grandmother’s closet and play dress up. She’s an artist, so she bought me my first sewing machine and taught me how to sew. We used to make garments for my dolls and I have always loved sewing, it is one of my favourite parts of the process. So fashion was always a very important part of myself when I was a kid and then I kind of forgot about it when I was a teenager, but at the age of 17, I moved from Magog to Montreal to start Fashion Design at Lasalle College. Eventually, I enrolled in the Fashion Design BA at UQAM, and at the moment I am in London for my internship at Charlotte Knowles.
HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR IDENTITY WITHIN THE INDUSTRY AND WHAT IS THE DRIVING FORCE OF YOUR WORK?
Finding inspiration that was authentic to me didn’t come naturally. When I started the Fashion Design program at LaSalle College, I was a teenager who just moved to Montreal from a small town. During this period, I was still trying to figure out my taste, and what I liked and myself. I struggled a lot, trying to “fit
in,” and I think it ended up negatively impacting my work and personal growth. The summer after I graduated, I did a mentorship program with Milan Tanedjikov, one of my teachers, and this is what brought my design identity to light. It allowed me to connect my work to my authentic self. I would say that the research process, mainly the sketchbook, is what guides my work. I love researching various subjects, such as social movements, art and fashion because I think that it’s a crucial part when you’re designing garments.
As a creator, you want your work to be relevant, relatable and reflective of the current contemporary cultural and social challenges. At the moment, I mainly focus my work and research around femininity, the denigration of the “girly girl” in a society that is based on a male-centric value system and the sexual complexity of womanhood.
Throughout her childhood and teenage years, Deneux has repressed facets of her feminine side because she realized that our society tends to patronize femininity. If a woman is too “feminine” she isn’t taken seriously because she is acting like a “girl”. Committed to her goal of incorporating discussions of our time in her work, Deneux wants to create clothing that allows women to re-appropriate their femininity.
Her first collection, Clafoutis, was the introduction of her universe, an exploration of what she likes. She was strongly inspired by the unique aesthetic of the 60s Czech surrealist film Daisies, which depicts the strange adventures of two girls. Despite the challenges and difficulties of creating a five-look collection for the first time, she is very proud of the final result. For the past year, Deneux has been working on her second collection Strawberry Switchblade, an introspective journey centred on repressed femininity, something she still struggles with today. She argues that her entire design universe is a strong reaction to this.
I’ve always been very organized, and I have a rational and structured outlook on most things. In this collection, I am trying to escape this very logical side of myself. It’s like I am creating clothes for this alter ego, this woman that I would like to be. I wanted to showcase clothes and accessories that are very symmetrical and precise while being exaggerated, almost absurd, and draw a lot of attention. It’s a form of rebellion, I want to show that the way you dress doesn’t change your capabilities as a woman. Strawberry Switchblade will be composed of five looks, mostly dresses. Her interest in lingerie will be transposed in this collection where the details are very much lingerie-inspired.
WHAT TECHNIQUES DO YOU USE TO CREATE YOUR WORK?
I am a very detail-oriented person, so everything I do has to be thought through. I can spend hours working on one tiny detail, which can be a good and a bad thing too. There is a lot of hand-works incorporated in my collections such as embellishments and accessorizing the clothes. In the last one particular, I’ve been including hardware, like purse handles and vintage watches to contrast the more delicate fabrics. I love sewing and always have for as long as I can remember. It brings me a lot of peace and it’s the part of the whole design process that you see your creation coming to life. There’s something very satisfying about that.
WHAT FABRICS ARE YOU PRIMARILY USING AT THE MOMENT AND HOW DO YOU PLAY WITH THEM?
I love going fabric shopping, that's one of my favourite activities. When I was in Montreal, I used to source my fabrics from two stores that are carrying high-end fabrics from Italy, mostly end of rolls from fashion houses. They have beautiful silk and organza. I also get some materials from vintage stores like lace trims or online on Etsy. I like creating contrasts between delicate lace fabrics and thicker fabrics.
I KNOW THAT YOU ARE IN LONDON RIGHT NOW, CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE THERE? HAS THE CHANGE OF SCENERY IMPACTED YOUR WORK WHATSOEVER?
I moved to London almost 4 months ago to start an internship at Charlotte Knowles. I feel very lucky because usually during fashion internships you're running errands all the time, but I am doing some sewing and some pattern making.
We're working on the new collection right now and it’s great because I am working on so many different things and I have learned a lot. So this has been fun but overall, I would say that my experience here has been quite weird due to the pandemic. Everything is pretty much closed at the moment, so I haven’t been able to have the real “London experience”. But I am enjoying it here, and I think it’s the best decision I could’ve made for myself. It feels so nice to have a change of scenery and it will have an impact on my future work. It still feels a bit surreal at times, moving to London has always been a dream of mine and I somehow always knew I would end up here, but I never thought it would happen so quickly. I am excited to see what London has to offer me.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF EVOLVING IN THE INDUSTRY? ARE YOU WORKING ON SOME PERSONAL PROJECT AT THE MOMENT?
I am currently taking a year off, both due to the pandemic and also because I recently moved to London. I want to gain more experience in the industry in the next year mostly by doing internships. I’ve been to fashion school for the last five years and I think that I needed to go outside of the educational system for a bit to see what the real industry is like and what it’s like to have a brand. When you’re in school, you’re in this tiny bubble and I think they don’t prepare you for the real world.
I am currently still working on the same collection, Strawberry Switchblade, which has been in development for the last year. The pandemic slowed down my work, but I am continuing to work on it and to build a stronger portfolio to put my work out here in London. I would like to be able to enter an MA in Fashion in London, or somewhere in Europe when I am done with my placement year. It’s always been a dream of mine to go to university here and now since I moved to London it has become a real possibility.