Fashion Week SPACE

SPACE Brand Koché: Feathers, Sequins and the Walk of Life at Paris Fashion Week

When Chloé alum and current CHANEL atelier artistic director Christelle Kocher debuted her own brand, Koché, one year ago, she did it in the subbasement of Forum des Halles, a shopping mall that “could not be more central to all of Paris.”

It was nighttime; everything was closed, and the mood was both egalitarian and individual. No air of privilege, no sense of the elite—but something sort of secret and utterly uncommon just the same. It set the perfect tone for the brand, creating just the right kind of buzz and energy.

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All images by Jessa Carter

Last season she took over an alleyway in an obscure neighborhood, expressing her mission to bring “poetry to the street” in a loud, gritty and thoroughly exhilarating way. And then earlier this week, during the first days of Fashion Week, she returned to Les Halles at the mall’s suggestion, this time setting up her version of a runway on the newly renovated, futuristic ground-floor level.

“The show, the brand, the story, the collection—these are all the same thing for me,” she told us a few days later when we met for tea near her studio. As a group they tell a story, and the story is about togetherness and hope despite the city’s recent traumas, and it’s about using the beauty of craft to uplift the ordinary. 

And it’s also about feathers, sequins, track jackets and a cool footwear collaboration with SPACE brand Adieu.

Because Les Halles is a very public place, all kinds of curious people gathered in the hour or so before the first look emerged. The fashion people—those who had invitations and knew what was going on—slipped around one side and made a makeshift runway area, while the others took seats on a broad staircase.

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This too was what Christelle wanted. At the café a few days later, she spoke quickly and excitedly about “upper class, middle class, families, young people” and the “fresh light of the city.” She told us that downstairs, out of sight, they used Paris’s first hip-hop dance studio as a backstage area; next door was a film archive that shows obscure art films. She’s delighted by the high/low, gender-free, ageless mix of it all.

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The models were also an eclectic blend. Lindsey Wixson (above) led the pack but soon after came Carine Kelly (below), a friend of Christelle’s who’s a DJ, photographer and member of a feminism-focused radio collective. Model and Gurls Talk founder Adwoa Aboah (following image) was also in the line-up.

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So far we’ve said very little about the actual clothes—but remember, for Christelle, the collection and the experience are one in the same. Still, the couture lace and crystals, fluttery feathers, patchwork slipdresses and cool, bright digital-print T-shirts need their own airtime.

At Chloé, Christelle worked on the construction of blouses and dresses. When she was asked to take over embellishment at CHANEL, she actually had no experience with that specialty, but they believed in her and she proved to be a natural. And more than that, details became her passion.

“I am fascinated by the craft and excellence of couture,” she told us. With Koché, she takes the French tradition and gives it a modern arc. “I cannot only do things as they were done in the past. I have to think of what is new, and what do we need now.

Her studio, like everything else, is a commingling of nationalities and backgrounds. She speaks English, the common denominator, every day, and hires as many art students as fashion grads. (Her overall philosophy has spread at CHANEL’s embellishment atelier as well; when she started there were 16 people there, now there are 100—many of whom are young and eager to expand the practice.)

What comes of all this are delicate dresses with bold adornments, track jackets with lace patterns, and rigid, canvas-like workwear silhouettes—Christelle’s father worked in factories, she has memories of coveralls and uniforms—with ruffle-like turns.

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“It may be naive, but I believe we must have poetry in every day,” she says. Especially now, in a world so troubled by unrest. “We have to stay together, we have to keep doing what we believe in, we have to believe in love.

In the show room a few days later, we’re able to see the lyrical moments up close, and the practical, purposeful shoes made in conjunction with Adieu. They’re all part of the same message.

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Isabelle Guédon from Adieu watches the Koché show.

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As we parted, Christelle told us that she and eight members of her team are going to Tokyo to produce a runway show on October 19. The collection will march through the Harajuku neighborhood—spreading love, refusing fear and refracting light and beauty. 

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—Laura Cassidy