Photographer: Sonia Sieff
Stylist: Elodie David Touboul
Fashion can be an awfully tough business, so it ____helps to have someone who has your back. Since the day Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud met at Paris’s Atelier Chardon Savard fashion school, when they were both 18, they have been each other’s sounding boards, creative partners, and paramours. Now, after 12 years of working under the same roof at Alexander McQueen and Givenchy and separately at Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, and Iceberg, where Martial was creative director for two years, the pair have finally made their alliance official as the new artistic directors for the women’s collection at the Parisian It label Carven. “When Alexis was contacted by Henri [Sebaoun, Carven’s owner], it was finally the moment to propose ourselves as a team,” says the boyish Caillaudaud, sitting in the duo’s office in Carven’s sprawling Saint-Germain-des-Prés headquarters. “We always wanted to work like this.”
The two of them take the place of Guillaume Henry, a fashion darling who injected the formerly sleepy couture house with cool-girl appeal before decamping to Nina Ricci last fall. Though Martial’s specialty is knitwear and Caillaudaud’s is accessories, they don’t divvy up the workload. “We just exchange and ping-pong everything,” says Martial, whose long locks are pulled back in a haphazard ponytail. The couple spend most weekends trawling flea markets and museums, inevitably finding inspiration for their collections. The mood board for fall 2015, their debut for the house, included images of Jane Birkin in her garçonne glory, with bangs and a peacoat; a photo of Jean Shrimpton crowned in flowers—clearly the genesis, along with the artist Nick Cave’s “Soundsuits,” for the happy array of floral prints—and the artist Olafur Eliasson’s sun installation at Tate Modern, in London, which accounted for the brass disc necklaces that gleamed on many a model’s neck during the runway show.
But context, above all, is key for the designers, whose office shelves are loaded with vintage design magazines, including Taschen’s 12-volume reprint of Domus. Before their girl can come into focus, they need to develop a sense of her surroundings. This season, she inhabits a tony 1970s pad—all shag rugs and curved lines—but her wardrobe is more difficult to peg. Her high-waist slim trousers bring to mind the stirrup pants that drove us all so crazy during the Reagan years; her block-heel lilac patent leather slides scream ’90s; and then there are those large, round sunglasses, shown at their resort 2016 presentation (swimwear is in the works). Change is clearly afoot, but Martial and Caillaudaud have no intention of fixing what isn’t broken. Existing hits like the boxy boyish jackets, crisp shirts, and miniskirts still anchor the collection. “We never want to break what Guillaume did,” Martial says. “Rather, we want to translate it into our world.”
Hair By Karin Bigler at Jed Root; Makeup by Mickael Noiselet for Lancome at Calliste; Model: Heloise Giraud at Viva Model Management.