From her London studio, Pariser designer Camille Liu is crafting edgy and playful knitwear—a category of clothing historically regarded as functional, casual, and even utilitarian. But Liu is exploring how to redefine knitwear for a new generation; she does so by integrating jewels into the garments, thus giving them a jolt of fun. “I don’t really see [knits] used often in an innovative way,” Liu said on a recent Zoom call. “I’m interested in clashing it with new materials and bringing in different shapes. Knitwear behaves so differently and adapts to each particular body.”
Although the French and Chinese designer is just 26 years old, she’s already created pieces for artists like Celeste, Little Simz, and Jorja Smith (“Celeste was actually one of the first celebrities to wear my pieces,” Liu added. “Jorja commissioned me to make a little top for her next music video.”) and debuted her fall 2023 collection during Paris Fashion Week as a part of the Sarabande Foundation showcase. The collection, which was based around her own personal wardrobe and focuses on the various archetypes of a woman’s closet, fulfills the designer’s desire to design looks for a woman who’s sensitive enough to understand the emotional aspects of the pieces, both visually and on a tactile level. Craft is a central part of her design ethos: she utilizes a factory in Madagascar to develop fabrics and perform artisanal work, and will showcase her skills as an artisan during a trunk show at Sarabande during Craft Week. She was also recently sponsored by Preciosa, an ethical crystal supplier, where she will work on a special project.
Handcrafted, distressed, and frayed fabrics—along with decorative details—are among the many artisanal signatures of Pariser, which Liu launched in 2021 and named after an abstraction of the French capital, where she was born and raised. Liu believes that, while knitwear and hardware rarely go together, incorporating the two in a subversive way gives the clothing new life. She affixes decorative pieces such as chains, pearls, stones, and rhinestones to garments—and, in the process, extends her clothes into eveningwear.
A look from Pariser fall 2023.
The Central Saint Martins alum honed her couture techniques working for various houses including Chanel, Lanvin, and Alexander McQueen. Liu freelanced at Chanel’s Maison Lemarié—where artisans make feathers and flowers by hand—and got her start as an intern for the French house. “It was one of the most impactful and magical experiences,” Liu said of her time with the brand. “At Lemarié, Karl Lagerfeld invested money into these houses. They survived, otherwise the craft could be gone. There are not many places in the world that know how to work with feathers in that way. But these experts have been doing it since they were 17. It is this dedication and the idea of being an expert in the craft, which has survived for hundreds of years.”
Liu currently freelances for Alexander McQueen; just as she started at the British fashion house, she was asked to join the Sarabande Foundation last November. “McQueen is the brand that visually resonates with me the most,” Liu said. “When I do research for them, it just comes so organically, because we have a lot of common ground there. In a similar way to Chanel, there is a huge spotlight on craft and they have amazing teams just for embroidery.”
Here, Pariser’s black evening dress gets a dose of glam—and is made completely from knit fabrics (the same goes for the “jeans” shown on the right: take a closer look and you’ll see they were created with knits).
Fashion was always in Liu’s blood. Her parents met while studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology; her father once worked for Kansai Yamamoto as his personal assistant, while her mother was a pattern cutter at luxury childrenswear brand Bonpoint. Growing up, Liu remembers taking naps under a cutting table with a large pile of fabric. “My mother was my role model,” Liu added. “She inspired me not only to be in fashion, but also to do something technical within it.” The designer began taking on internships as early as 15 years old. “I was interested to see as many facets as I could,” Liu said. “I didn’t come from an upbringing where you see fashion as this perfect utopia.
“But I’m a maker,” she concluded. “Ultimately, making things with my hand is the thing that makes me the happiest.”