SARAH BRANNON AT TEN TON STUDIOS IN NEW YORK, MAY 2015. PHOTOS: HANS NEUMANN. STYLING: KATIE BURNETT. MAKEUP: CEDRIC JOLIVET AT SEE MANAGEMENT USING MAC COSMETICS. HAIR: KAYLA MICHELE AT STREETERS USING ORIBE. STYLING ASSISTANT: LAUREN PIVEN. RETOUCHING: TATIANA CHEBOTEROVA.
Before starting Koché last year, Christelle Kocher spent a decade in the fashion industry working for established houses like Emporio Armani, Chloé, Sonia Rykiel, Bottega Veneta, and Dries Van Noten. For the last five years, Kocher has also served as the artistic director of Maison Lemarie, a 19th century fashion house that crafts feathers, flowers, smocking, and ruffles for couture houses. Now with Koché, the Paris-based Central Saint Martins graduate has a label to share her voice and vision: a mix of haute couture and contemporary streetwear.
Here, Kocher talks to Sarah Brannon, a rising model and fan of the label. Though Brannon only has two seasons to her name, she has already walked for the likes of Chanel, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Tom Ford, and opened and closed shows for Givenchy, Gareth Pugh, Thomas Tait, and Sibling, among others. She also stars in Steven Klein’s Spring/Summer 2015 campaign for Alexander Wang.
CHRISTELLE KOCHER: After your bank holiday weekend, how are things going in New York?
SARAH BRANNON: Every thing is good. I was supposed to be in Paris doing couture week, but I had a little bit of a family emergency, so I had to skip it. But I came back and had a good Fourth of July.
KOCHER: It’s a shame we couldn’t meet in person. Hopefully we’ll meet in September.
BRANNON: I would absolutely love that. I’m just a model, I’m not super into fashion, but when I was modeling your clothes for the Interview shoot I must say, I loved it. There was one coat that I wore—this really long, beautiful yellow coat. I’m absolutely in love with it.
KOCHER: Thank you so much. It touches me to have people happy to wear the clothes. It’s a lot of energy that I put into this collection—trying to make it really couture, clever cuts, something comfortable, but something cool and hard and with an edge to it. The coat that you wore was a special cut with kimono sleeves.
BRANNON: It’s so beautiful. What made you become interested in fashion? Did you read fashion magazines when you were younger?
KOCHER: It sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s always what I wanted to do. Naturally, I would knit, do some crochet, draw. I was obsessed, obsessed with fashion—with magazines that I always buying. It was the time of Lacroix, Karl with Chanel, the end of the era of Monsieur Saint Laurent. From an early age, I was like, “Okay, that’s what I’m going to do” and I’m really lucky that my dream came true. I’m so happy and enthusiastic. I worked for many years in fashion for a lot of brands, and it feels really amazing to finally be able to cut your own vision—do it with your own team and meet people. That’s the good part, the fun part. You meet photographers, you meet models, you meet artists, you meet musicians; you meet so many people with whom you can share your own vision.
BRANNON: That’s so beautiful to hear that you’re living your dream. When I work with people in the industry—especially during fashion week—people get so frustrated. I haven’t heard anybody in the industry really say to me, “I’m living my dream and I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to be do.” It’s refreshing to hear that from someone.
KOCHER: I know some people can be blasé, but there is also a generation today with a lot of enthusiasm, and that’s what I want to communicate with my clothes. I have a great patience for cut and couture, but I have a great patience too for sportswear and everyday life. What made you want to be a model?
BRANNON: It’s kind of the same as how you wanted to be a fashion designer. Growing up, I always wanted to be a model. I was always that weird girl in school. I was always made fun of; I was never that beautiful. I was tall and skinny and I wanted to be a model always. I’m living my dream now and it’s amazing. It’s so refreshing to hear people doing what they wanted to do. It’s such a creative industry and so many people have kind of forgotten that. Now it’s all about marketing, which is how you sell your clothes, but it’s also a creative industry. Designing, modeling, it’s art and it’s almost like people have lost sight of that.
KOCHER: You just have to find the good people. It’s the same thing in cinema, in modeling. There are a lot of people still—and I do believe this—with a lot of patience. What is your plan for summer? Do you have a little break? Did you survive fashion week and are just going to get ready for the next one?
BRANNON: Pretty much. I just finished my second season. I think in August I’m going to go home for a week or two and then stay in New York. Right now, I’m trying to work as much as I can. I want to get everything going and get established. Vacations can be for later.
KOCHER: We’re almost on the same page. It’s also my second season, and I’m happy to say I was selected for the official calendar of the French Federation, so I’m doing my first show next season. I just heard the news two days ago. I’m really thrilled.
BRANNON: That’s so amazing.
KOCHER: My two last look books, I worked with a couple of artists and we tried not to use models. I’m much more interested in using girls who have personality. [This time], we really want to do a mix of models and also people coming from art, dance, actresses. We want to do an interesting mix between models and different personalities. I’m so looking forward to my first show.
BRANNON: Do you come from a creative family?
KOCHER: Not at all. My parents didn’t really have a connection with the artistic world. It just came to naturally me. I was a bit—like you say—the weirdo of the family. A bit obsessed with my drawing and art and a bit living in a fantasy world, reading biographies of Monet, Picasso, Frida Kahlo. All those great artists when I was really young. Are you from New York?
BRANNON: No. I’m from Memphis, Tennessee. I’m a Southern girl. But I absolutely love New York. I used to live in Los Angeles and I’ve traveled around, but New York is the only place that feels like home.
KOCHER: New York, I find, is really addictive. When you’re there, you have lots of energy. It’s a bit like you’re on drugs—you feel so great, you don’t want to stop. You do so many things; you meet so many people. You get so high.
BRANNON: When you’re designing, do you ever get blocked? Do you have a hard time trying to figure out what your vision is?
KOCHER: I don’t really draw anymore; I just take fabrics and embroidery and I start to drape. I work like a sculptor. I really work in three-dimensions. I always find that if I take a fabric in a color I like or embroidery I like, things come along naturally. If I start a dress, I think, “What kind of coat would I like to wear with it?” If I do a top, “What kind of trousers or shorts would I like?” It always comes with the fabrics, with the colors, with the mood. Whenever I get stuck and stressed, I have to take my pins, my needles, and my clothes, and things come unblocked.
BRANNON: Do you have any inspiration or a muse when you start?
KOCHER: For me, the best inspiration is the street and people with attitude and creative people. People who do their thing in their own individual way inspire me: strong women, artistic. But it can be in different fields, not even art. I don’t really use them as a muse. I think this is always a starting point, but I don’t like references—I never like to watch movies. It always the Paris mood, people, menswear, sportswear, colors from exhibitions I see and maybe put into my work. But I would never do a “[Piet] Mondrian” collection. I like to mix layers of things.
BRANNON: So when you make your collection, you don’t have a theme?
KOCHER: No, never. It doesn’t really feel natural for me to work like that. Of course it’s always a mood; it’s a mix of couture—people I really like, like Balenciaga, Madame Grès—with sportswear, hip-hop, rap music, maybe more classical things that I mix also, contemporary art, strong women, menswear. I would never make it a theme.
BRANNON: I love how you keep mentioning menswear. When I go shopping and buy stuff, it’s always menswear.
KOCHER: You have this boyish look that I love. I think you have a really strong attitude and it looks really powerful when you mix [things]—male clothes become yours. You need a lot of character and identity and personality to do that. I always like to mess with these kind of boundaries. It’s still feminine. But I’m the same—for the tailoring, for the jacket, the coat—
BRANNON: It’s more of a men’s fit.
KOCHER: Yeah. Like t-shirts. I love sportswear t-shirts- big baggy stuff. It’s so much more relaxed. For me, to be strong and confident for girls, you need to be comfortable and be able to move, and I find it so much more powerful and sexy than to be tight and so on.
BRANNON: I agree. I like the way men’s jackets are cut. When I go shopping for a jacket to wear in the fall, I always look at men’s. It looks better on me.
KOCHER: I like this attitude a lot. Last season, we used a lot of bombers, and we did a big parka—oversized. I think today, anyway, you don’t really care; you mix your wardrobe with your boyfriend’s.
BRANNON: I wear some of my boyfriend’s clothes, too. What do you think the point of fashion is? If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?
KOCHER: I don’t know what I would change. I do think now is a great moment happening with a lot of young brands starting again. I find it really refreshing to see New York—a lot of new labels arising. In France it’s the same. I think you should send a personal message with fits you, and I think fashion allows that and it’s really powerful. I think it’s a great freedom.