Michel Desjardins: Of Tweed and Silk + Giveaway

Dec 5, 2013

My Interview with fashion designer Michel Desjardins

It's not every day that you meet someone who has studied fashion design in Paris, nor it is everyday that you meet a designer who was taught by Hubert de Givenchy. Michel Desjardins is one of these rare individuals.

I first discovered the work of the Montreal-based designer at an event a few months ago. I had heard of him before but had not yet seen his work. Made with precious and sumptuous fabrics, his latest collection is a modern day fairy tale for the eyes. It's not surprising that Desjardins uses "to seduce, not to provoke" as his motto since his beautifully tailored creations are all finesse and subtlety. I knew right there that I had to meet the man behind such mind pleasing aesthetic. 

Here is what I learned about him when he recently invited me to visit his atelier: 

What was your dream career when you were little?
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to design for women. I have always enjoyed drawing sketches. I was also greatly inspired by what the women wore during the holidays or at weddings.

How would you define your own style?
I design fashion for occasions, for special occasions. I don't think I design fashion for everyday life. That being said, I think every day can be an occasion, it all depends on what you make of it. I find it disappointing when people say: "But, when will I wear this? I don't go to the concert nor the opera." Elegance is about dressing up for ourselves in the first place, it's an attitude. It's not only about dressing up to impress others or for special occasions. And it's also about being spontaneous in everyday life and celebrating something out of the blue. It could be the middle of the week and you decide to wear a beautiful dress at night with your husband simply because you feel like it. You dress up because it makes you feel good about yourself. It's important to be spontaneous because one should never stop to seduce.

What brought you to study fashion design Paris?
After my fashion training in Montreal, I was more confident in my abilities to create, but I was not entirely satisfied. I felt something was missing. At the time, Paris was the only emblematic place to study fashion design. I felt I had to live there for a while to get my fashion benediction, to use a religious expression! In my mind, Paris was a mandatory stepping stone in order to perfect my trade. So I eventually moved there and knocked on every door with the hope of getting an internship. But without good connections, it was quite a difficult thing to achieve. At that point, I decided to pursue my technical training at L'École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, which is specialized in haute couture. I learned a great deal about le moulage, which is the technique used to tailor garments on the mannequin. It is the essence of tailoring.

How did you end up working at Givenchy?
At the end of the school year, one of my teachers heard of an opening at Givenchy and submitted my name. And thanks to her recommendation, I was selected. So after a year at L'École de la Chambre Syndicale, I went on to work with Hubert de Givenchy on ready-to-wear and haute couture collections for a year. I was one of the many stylists who had the honor of working closely with him. I remember there was a German man, an Italian one, a British lady and many others from different parts of the world. We were all there to support him in his endeavour and to bring him various perspectives. We would draw all day long in the same room as him. We would see him draw or answer the phone right next to us. By the end of the day, we would hand over our sketches to him while hoping he would pick one of our ideas. I was lucky enough to see some of my inspirations turn into real clothing. It was quite a thrilling experience!

Sketch from the Michel Desjardins 2013 Fall-Winter Collection

What is the most important thing you have learned from your experience at Givenchy?
My internship at Givenchy made me realize the importance of being true to what you believe in. When you are in Paris, a place where fashion is made, where the latest styles come to life every day, it is easy to get lost by following every single new trend. One day, Givenchy reminded us: "You are at Givenchy, you make Givenchy". That is how I learned how important it is to follow the fashion codes, the tradition established by a Maison de couture otherwise you will loose the essence of it. Isn't funny to think that the purpose of studying fashion design in Paris is to learn all the latest trends while, in fact, the most important lesson when designing fashion is to stay true to what you believe instead of deliberately following all the trends? In the end, it's about defining your own style, it's not about following all the trends. 

Who had the most influence on your thought process as a designer?
I would say, Giorgio Armani. He always comes up with simple yet striking details. It's never flamboyant, it's very subtle and chic. At the beginning of my career, I visited an Armani boutique in Milan and I had a major revelation. Suddenly, I understood that style was about selecting gorgeous fabrics and creating clean lines with very little detailing. That was a pivotal moment in my career.

What is the wardrobe essential every woman should own?
A strapless little black dress that Grace Kelly would have had in her wardrobe. It's chic and timeless.

What advice would you give to a woman on how to wear your clothes?
Don't be shy to mix the elegant with the more casual. For instance, you should try wearing a lace skirt with a black turtleneck or a tweed jacket with a great pair of jeans. This way, the chic piece will stand out much more. 

What are your favorite fabrics?
I enjoy working with a texture that is why I love tweed, silk shantung, organza and chantilly lace.

Who are your favorite designers?
When I studied in Paris, I was a major fan of Claude Montana and Karl Lagerfeld. And nowadays, I admire the work of Alber Elbaz at Lanvin and Raf Simons at Dior.

Where would you like to go on your next trip?
I would gladly return to New York City, Paris or Rome. I need the energy, the enthusiasm, the architecture I find in these cities. Put me in the wood or in the country and I will be completely lost!

What is your guilty pleasure foodwise?
Chips! But more seriously, I have as much pleasure eating chips than I do eating foie gras.

What are you most grateful for in life?
To be doing what I love every day. I see so many people from my generation who are anxiously awaiting for their retirement and I find it so sad. My work is my passion, I wouldn't see myself doing anything else that designing beautiful clothes and to make women feel elegant and stylish.

Giveaway Details:
Michel Desjardins was gracious enough to offer three readers a chance to win a luxurious shantung scarf (a value of $125 each) from his latest collection paired with a private visit of his atelier. Here are ALL the rules to follow for a chance to win:

1. Leave a note in the comment section below or send me an email at pearlsandcaramel@gmail.com
2. Follow Pearls & Caramel on Facebook
3. Follow Michel Desjardins on Facebook

The winners will be announced on December 17th. The draw is open only to Quebec residents. Good luck to all!

Catherine xo
9 comments on "Michel Desjardins: Of Tweed and Silk + Giveaway"
  1. Wow Catherine ! Moi qui adooooore Michel Desjardins ! J'aimerais bien gagné ! Merci.

  2. Thank you for sharing your discovery with us ! I will certainly look into Michel Desjardins' work. I hope to win one of these luxurious scarf as a first piece of my collection. Estelle L.

  3. Bravo pour le concours et ton blogue!

  4. Wow! Very good post! I've never had heard about Michel Desjardins until now and it is so refreshing to read about someone you don't know. From what I read here, I can say that he really is a talented designer.
    I'm crossing my fingers to win the giveaway!!!! :)

  5. What a great opportunity this was Catherine! Congrats on the interview, lucky girl! Would love to win the scarf and visit his atelier; what a great addition to my wardrobe that would be as well!

  6. Lovely designs, great interview!

  7. By research, I found this great interview. Nice to hear about Desjardins life-lessons in fashion. An inspiration and something to think about and hold on to. . .

    -There is enough of distractions around, so a good reminder!


Your comments make my day! Thank you!

Catherine xo