Couture has long existed on a rarefied pedestal, but Christelle Kocher is determined to bring it back down to earth. "People mix Chanel with jeans, with a T-shirt. That's what I like. That's how you wear clothes," the Paris-based designer remarks between sips of tea on a recent visit to New York. Kocher, 36, takes the transatlantic trip often, crashing at a friend's Chinatown apartment while scouting inspiration for her line, Koché. Founded last year as a luxurious proposition to the reality of everyday dressing, Koché blends a global streetwear vibe with top-tier French heritage craft.
The latter is something Kocher knows well. Since 2010, the Strasbourg-bred Central Saint Martins grad has served as the artistic director of Maison Lemarié, the 135-year-old artisan house known for engineering Chanel's signature camellias, feather work, and other fripperies. Kocher routinely taps Lemarié and other historic maisons such as Lesage and Montex for Koché's embroideries, beading, and embellishments. But despite the fanatical attention to detail, Kocher's work is not precious. A self-professed art and music obsessive (she's currently taken with videos by Grimes and Ryan Trecartin), Kocher has proven extremely adept at filtering the casual, thrown-together urban uniform of real women through her own painterly sense of high-energy color and pumped-up proportions. Her fall collection features a fluorescent pink suit, ultra-wide culottes, patchwork knits, crystal-flecked frocks, and a multicolored fuzzy fur coat, all designed to be worn with a pull-on ease. It's no surprise Kocher styled her lookbook models in quotidian sneakers, creepers, and slouchy beanies. "It's about being beautiful, really practical, and really comfortable. It's a lot of contrast," she explains.
Kocher began her career at Emporio Armani, followed by stints at Dries van Noten, Sonia Rykiel, Bottega Veneta, and Chloé, where she oversaw the delicately draped flou garments. A brand of her own has been decades in the making, and Kocher is taking full advantage of the moment, putting plans in motion for accessories and a jewelry collection in collaboration with Goossens (a nomination for this year's LVMH Prize didn't hurt either). "I'm really independent," she says. "I'm happy to start this adventure."