French designer Christophe Guillarme (center) posing with two models showcasing his designs during the Kuwait International Fashion week 2019 in Kuwait. — Photos by Thierry Marsaux

There are five main fashion events in the world – Paris Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week and Kuwait International Fashion Week, that was proudly able to be recognized on the global fashion map, positioning the region as a significant market for the international fashion industry and further establishing a main pillar for the creative economy in the region.

Kuwait International Fashion Week, was supposed to open for the fourth year in a row on March 21, 2019 at the iconic heritage building Beit Al-Bader, sponsored by Karman Line Company and featuring local and international fashion designers from around the globe. But it was shut down half an hour before it started for unclear reasons and shocking fashion lovers including royalty, ambassadors, social media sensations, bloggers, attendees and the media. However that sad incident did not stop Kuwait Times to take the chance to have an exclusive one-on-one interview with one of the most talented French designers who was supposed to showcase his vibrant designs during the event, Christophe Guillarmé.

Guillarmé obtained his degree from the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Appliqués Duperré. He initiated a fashion artistic approach and gave birth to collaboration with an artist, making his first fashion show a real artistic installation. He had various experiences with Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Dice Kayek and Stella Cadente, before launching his first collection as a young fashion designer in 1998. “My style is noticeable at first sight. I’m a real keeper of traditional creative approaches and exquisite finishing. My gowns are a mix between glam rock and couture. My ultra-feminine style shows the contemporary way of creating glamorous icons,” he said, describing his amazing style.

Guillarmé has been invited many times worldwide to fashion weeks of Dubai, Marrakech, Monaco, Bangkok, South Korea, Kazakhstan and Kuwait, as well as Cannes. This led the young fashion designer to generate more fame and compliments on his style and collection. Some excerpts.
Kuwait Times: This is the second time you have come to Kuwait to participate in Kuwait International Fashion Week – why did you decide to visit Kuwait for the second time?
Christophe Guillarmé: I actually decided to come for the second time to Kuwait because the first time was really amazing, where I had a great moment at Hotel Jumeirah and Kuwait International Fashion Week was a huge success for us. I would like to thank the CEO Rabab Hamadi, who invited me for the second time this year.

KT: What really attracts you the most in Kuwaiti women’s style?

Guillarmé: Compared to other Arab countries, I think Kuwaiti women are a bit more sophisticated, more into the details, less of showoffs and less bling-bling, I would say.

KT: What was your main inspiration for this season? Can you tell us more about the collection and all the related details?

Guillarmé: I am still with my inspiration of all time – a mix of dolce vita and glamour and that arises from where I originally come from, which is Cannes in the south of France. Since I was young, I used to see all those girls walking and coming down the stairs without shoes, with dresses billowing in the wind and disappearing in the Riviera. It was a great image in my mind. Then I mixed it with couture, which I learned in Paris for three years. So this is actually a mix of couture that has exquisite finishing, refined tailoring and shape aspect of the pieces. It is then mixed with the Riviera, which adds more colors and embroidery with a little oriental touch as well.

KT: I realized that you are trying to mix eastern and western taste in your designs – in which direction you are working to satisfy the taste of all ladies in all regions at a wider level?

Guillarmé: I am working with some stores in Kuwait and Dubai. I need to actually offer them some style that they really want to wear and not only for the runway. I am really somebody who is trying to be real, so it is more interesting to dress a real lady than to dress a model. It is more challenging, so I think it is really important to know what is the actual style that the ladies want and adapt to it. Therefore, changing your style accordingly is where you will find creativity – when you find something that works for everybody.

KT: Inform us about your color palette for this season, the in-style accessories and tips to mix and match different styles together. Do you do bridal dresses?

Guillarmé: The colors are nude like beige, and scarlet, which is something strong and gives a strong attitude to the ladies when they wear it. Also, there is navy blue mixed with fuchsia pink. All these colors were inspired by the forest under the sunset. As for accessories, I am always collaborating with the same company – Carmen Steffens – for clutches and shoes, which creates exclusive pieces for my runaway in Paris. As for jewelry, I work with Charriol, which also creates exclusive jewelry pieces for my collection using real diamonds and emeralds. I have to mention that I collaborated with them as well during my participation at the Cannes film festival and runway in Cairo. We did a photo shoot in front of the Pyramids, which was really amazing. I do not do bridal for the runway; I however accept special requests.

KT: Due to the recession and what is going on politically in France – I am speaking here about the yellow vest movement that started a few months ago – did you take into consideration the financial situation in making the collection’s prices more affordable for your clients?

Guillarmé: Actually the yellow vest movement is a big problem for us, because I am based on Champ Elysees and for almost 20 weeks in a row, there weren’t any Saturdays – everything is shut down. For example, the Fouquet restaurant was completely destroyed weeks ago, which was really crazy, because three weeks earlier there was the Cesar awards and my dress was on the upcoming best actress entering the Fouquet. Then we see it all on fire – I was about to cry. I know that the situation is quite difficult and there are lots of conflicts around the world. With globalization, everyone is price conscious.

KT: The perception to fashion is changing due to what is happening in Paris, since Paris is the main city for fashion week, and this is scary for everyone; how do you see the future concerning the fashion week?

Guillarmé: Actually at the last fashion week, we had less people attending, because some of them did not fly from abroad due to the current situation. They were scared of what was happening. But at the same time, we have to be really price conscious because everyone now knows that they can check your work on Instagram. They can check the store and send you a private message asking about the collection and the prices. Due to social media, everything is changing, so we just have to follow the trend and check what will happen next. All the prices are going down. We are still trying to do amazing creative stuff but less expensive, because this is not really the time to spend that much money.

KT: You worked with many celebrities and we saw you at the Cannes film festival as well. Which celebrity would you wish to work with if you have the chance to choose and why?

Guillarmé: I have an obsession with Halle Berry, because she was the first black American to win a Best Actress Oscar. I love her style, especially when she had short hair. She has something unique which is a mix between being savage and at the same time being exquisite and very polished. I really love her! Who knows, maybe one day I will be able to dress her.

KT: Tell us more about dealing with celebrities and how they differ from dealing with VIPs, princesses and regular women. What are the steps you have passed through from your experience?

Guillarmé: It is a very interesting question – actually when I dressed Paris Hilton at Cannes for “Fashion for release”, it took me five years to actually strike a real friendship with her. We met each year in Cannes and bit by bit got to know each other – we used to have a lot of fun. After five years, she told me ‘I am picking one of your dresses for the red carpet in Cannes’. I also loved doing this with Lindsay Lohan when I dressed her for the amfAR in Cannes. It was a huge success – she asked me about a dress inspired by Grace Kelly in the movie and this was really a nice moment, because we didn’t really know what she was doing and she just appeared looking flawless and cute. This was a strong moment for her. I really like to be close to the girls and get to know them personally, where something is built in the relationship – a friendship and collaboration. It is really very interesting. It is not only one shot; it is much more valuable than just wearing my dress and giving it back to me.
This is what I also did with American actress Blanca Blanco, who I dressed recently for the Golden Globes; she then appeared at the Oscars in my dress, and after two days, was opening my runway in Paris.

KT: What do you take into consideration for conservative ladies and veiled women in your designs? What is your advice or tips to ladies in Kuwait who are huge fans of yours?

Guillarmé: This is what’s happening at the Gallery Lafayette in Dubai – I have some Emirati customers who ask me to customize the pieces for them as conservative ladies. I know that in Muslim countries, we have more modest dressing, but still looking edgy, fashionable and glamorous. They need to combine all these aspects and that’s I think is the challenge.

KT: It is a big challenge? Does this motivate you more?

Guillarmé: Yes exactly – it is really more interesting to do something for real life and not only for the runway. It is easy to put gowns on skinny models and take pictures, but that’s not the truth. The truth is the real ladies – those who will actually feel amazing in your dresses. Size doesn’t matter.

KT: What are your upcoming projects?

Guillarmé: The next big step for me after Kuwait will be the Cannes film festival in a month and half. I have already started to have my first nightmare over the opening ceremony because of the preparations.

KT: So now your main focus is Cannes?

Guillarmé: Yes, because it is a big challenge. All the big brands are there and there is a lot of competition. I am not a very big brand there is no comparison; but if I have someone looking good in my dress, getting pictures, attracting the media; this is enough for me.

KT: Do you compete with yourself and not with others?

Guillarmé: You have to compete with everybody now I think. Because of social media, everybody knows what the others are doing. Now you cannot avoid people; you cannot pretend that you do not know. It is more like a competition.

KT: What is your fashion quote for this season?

Guillarmé: I hope that everyone will love my golden gowns in Kuwait.

  • Contributed by Suzan Moussa.

By Sahar Moussa