With a collection full of nipple-baring corsets and deeply sacrilegious cassocks, the French fashion label Egon Lab appears outré to the extreme. But to hear designers Florentin Glémarec and Kevin Nompeix tell it, their two year old brand is really all about family. “We are together, in business and in life,” says Nompeix, chatting via Zoom from the couple’s apartment in Paris. “And Egon Lab is our baby.”
Adorable? Absolutely. But if you think their story couldn’t get any sweeter, you clearly haven’t seen Egon Lab’s muses-cum-brand ambassadors: a pair of white-haired, proudly punk octogenarians named Marie-Louise and René Glémarec, who happen to be Florentin’s grandparents. Dressed in Egon Lab’s studded leather, knee-high combat boots and gender-bending bondage tartans—she (a former postal worker) wielding her floral-print cane, he (retired from the French navy) sometimes in a skirt—the couple have emerged as darlings of the Parisian street style scene, showing up at fashion week to swarms of photographers eager for a viral shot. And their sartorial choices are not just a publicity stunt. “Actually, they are really punk,” says Glémarec of his grandparents, who, he says, have been his biggest supporters since day one. “We have photos of them from the late 70s, with my grandmother having blue hair and spikes.”
“For us, that was an inspiration,” says Nompeix. “And for the grandparents, it was nostalgia. They were super happy to have these kinds of clothes. We said, ‘Are you sure you want to wear this?’ And they said, ‘Yes! We love it!’”
Courtesy of Egon Lab
Glémarec and Nompeix, who are often labeled menswear designers but consider their creations truly “genderless,” first collaborated in a different facet of the fashion world. Before Egon Lab, Glémarec—who entered the industry via a teenage modeling career—had a short-lived menswear label with his brother called Icosae. Nompeix, who started his career as a model agent and continues to work in that realm in order to keep Egon Lab self-financed, helped the Glémarecs book their runway show. “Afterwards I said, ‘Ok Florentin, I need advice because I really want to have my own brand,’” says Nompeix. “And he said, ‘I really want to work with you.’”
Their first collection, for spring 2020, was inspired by the “concept of resistance” and mixed graffiti-inspired zebra stripes with finger-length metal spikes and trench coat suits in Marie Antoinette’s favorite pattern: toile de Jouy. In the short time since, they scored the Pierre Bergé Andam award, were named finalists for the Woolmark Prize, launched a collection of crystal-covered Crocs (auctioned off as NFTs), and debuted carbon-capturing clothing in conjunction with the French luxury car company DS Automobiles and the sustainable design research studio Post Carbon Lab.
This past January, after several pandemic seasons confined to the virtual world, they were able to present an IRL fashion show. Entitled “Egonimati”, the collection—boasting full-body puffer suits, priestly capes and, for the first time, two couture gowns—was described in the program notes as “a secret society responsible for establishing universal happiness.”
“I think we have the responsibility to fight for our generation, to create a strong message through our garments,” says Nompeix, who, like Glémarec, is still in his mid-twenties. “We want to give our community a tool to express themselves. What’s avant garde in fashion now is to use clothes to talk about society.”