Edited by Roxanne Ouellet-Bernier
Co-Edited by Jasmine Gamache
Réinitialiser la connection
The studio’s setup was so cute. A little table with her
sketchbooks, the couch was bootleg Versailles, and
the fridge had tattoos. In the far corner: an old Singer
machine, a rusty overlock, and a stubborn mannequin.
The walls have ears, they say, and the ones of her
atelier echoed Depeche Mode, which her mother
would play in the car, when driving her to school at
“You find this very embarrassing?”—Said the subtitled screenshot of a smiling shirtless young man with his hands behind his neck. “It’s from a gay porno from the communist times.” This phrase would be the parting point of her collection Réinitialiser la connection. And that is precisely Clarisse Bessard’s destination: reconnection.
“I’m always drawing from my roots.”— She explained as she leafed through the first pages of her research sketchbook.
As far as Clarisse can remember, she only ever had her own interpretation of the world. She vividly
recalls the first time her mother gave her a pencil and a paper. Instinctively, she introduced the pen to the empty canvas and wrote in an inverted manner, from right to left, as she thought she should to express her first written thought. This would later be diagnosed as dyslexia, a learning disorder, undermined and overlooked at the time that she now embraces as a strength.
“It’s as if I had binoculars that showed me where no one was looking.”
She found her voice in her abstract way to perceive and interpret things, a discomfort she chose to trust in her creations.
She was born in Paris, to a French father, and a mother of German descent. Her maternal
grandmother left East Germany during the political conflicts of the Cold War, an era that is very visible in her references. The pages of her sketchbook are filled with images of East German folklore, cemented memories and dualities, juxtaposed with rebellious youth at the fall of the Berlin Wall and of today. It is clear from her extensive research that she is in constant efforts to build a bridge from
her family’s past to her present here in Montréal. Looking at the worn picture of her grandfather, a dandy man holding a beer, wearing a tailored sky blue jacket adorned with silver medallions, Clarisse places herself between times to reveal a modern melancholy.
Photography : Kaven Tremblay
“The fact that we were locked within ourselves.” She spoke of the walls that restricted us, in regards to our recent reality: quarantined in a health, socio-political, and economic crisis. In these claustrophobic times, she felt it was an opportunity to reconnect with herself and find clues in her DNA.
Back in Paris, during her early studies, Clarisse explored different creative fields. Dipping her toes in visual arts developed her creativity and enriched her critical thinking, and her ventures in graphic design and architecture gave her valuable tools of aesthetics and construction. However, it was in fashion design where she found solace as a creative, as she found it contained elements of them all: the relationship of suggestive beauty and architectural structure, the detailed precision and stylistic understanding of graphic design, and the limitless playfulness but hands-on spirit of visual arts. Clarisse moved to Montréal to pursue her studies, and as a personal challenge to leave her comfort zone. She enrolled at Collège LaSalle, where she acquired the technical skills of garment making. The application of this newly gained knowledge onto the human body accented her fascination with anatomy and movement. In her latest research, it is apparent that she is not only conscious of beauty and theory in her designs, but also of the relationship of one’s body, the durability, and different utilities of the garment being worn.
Although some aspects of her designs appear harsh at first sight as they aesthetically derive from uniforms of labour, one would notice at a closer look that she intervenes in this rigidness by opening up the patterns to allow more air for motion. Some trousers become skirts, some jackets resemble dresses, and angles become curves here and there.
Photography : Kaven Tremblay
As she explores this trade of expression, Clarisse’s ability to connect tactile memories to emotions works as a sixth sense when conceptualizing and developing her collections. Running her fingers across pieces of devoured velvet fabrics and crumpled printed cottons, she illustrates how textile transformations are allowing her to translate the definition of discomfort and manipulate its meaning. The desire to communicate a relatable message and provoke a need for reflection is at the core of her creative process.
This hybrid of contrasts is also prominent in her selection of fabric, an activity she compares to a puzzle and she finds crucial in the early stages of her projects. She roams the aisles of fabric shops in the pursuit to build an eclectic harmony of noble and technical materials through the investigation of texture and colour to prepare a dissonant array of media that would echo her insistence of breaking with the expected.
In Reconnection, her first explorations of colours and shapes are worn by an army of young men donning strong squared shoulder blazers combined with wide raver-like pants and enormous dolllike bows. A curious contrast of rigid masculinity, workers’ uniforms, and the fluid liberty of a dancer with a burning heart letting loose in the underground tunnels of a bossy regime. They all come together and drown in a beautiful palette of bright industrial blue, striking orange and yellow, muted green, aged white and soft lavender. There is a sense of brutalism perfumed by the sweet smell of a hopeful flower in the early spring.
A humoristic tone in the spirit of her research reveals her way to cope with adversities, a correlation she found with her friend, classmate and roomate Élisabeth Atchadé. They met at Collège LaSalle, where they began their studies together, and they now live together and attend L’École Supérieure de Mode de l’ESG UQAM, which became the birthplace of their collaborative project SOCIAL JETLAG. In this collection they imagine what it would look like if there was a flood in the Montreal subway and the passengers were wearing their utilitarian designs.
“During this pandemic, all our vacation flights were cancelled and the closest thing to a collective trip we could take was the Metro.”
Bessard explained that the idea had sparked from a photography book of car accidents by the Danish visual artist Nicolai Howalt that she had in her library and had showed to Élisabeth, who in response shared a book on the history of Montréal’s subway system. In this marriage of inspiration, the collection was born. Their research, packed with pages of iPhone photographs taken by the duo while taking the metro, explores the visual diversity and fast paced movement of the underground travellers of Montréal collated with a detailed study of a car’s airbag and the products of a souvenir shop.
Photography: @emelinemorellet and @justalexwh
“I ♥ MTL” says one of the designs, while another is a voluminous waterproof cape that you might need in case your beach plans get ruined by a storm. In all, one gets a sense of versatile technical garments, portraying an hypothetical cityscape. A world where we tend to take things for granted. “It seems each
time society moves ahead, we end up repeating the same mistakes.” Clarisse finds observing the chaos around. It seems like no matter how prepared one seems to be, one never knows what’s going to hit. Another storm, another crisis, another war... Wall after wall is being built and torn down, conflict after conflict continues to spark, and yet no way to avoid accidents, no way to control chance. Humanity has a way to inflict order within and around and anytime Liberty gets her turn, another wave of chaos that sweeps her away.
Direction artistique & Photographie: @emelinemorellet
Daily lives and history are recurring cycles of attempts, suggestive successes and brutal failures. As you delve deeper into the perspective, it truly makes one wonder...
Do you find this embarrassing?
Originally published in LIGNES DE FUITE Vol. 3