After a lengthy career in fashion working for luminaries such as Hermes, Jil Sander and Chloe, and a stint as editor of Vogue Homme, in 2005 Thierry Colson decided to launch his own eponymous label. Inspired by a recent trip to India, Colson set out to create unique Indian block-print designs with an emphasis on hand-crafted embroidery and artisanal pleating work. His creations offer relaxed, oversized silhouettes with a luxurious contemporary edge – garments that evoke the mood of languid holidays in Portofino, Capri, and Colson's own beloved Patmos, Greece.
'The clothes never overtake the woman wearing them, they simply accompany her.' Thierry Colson
STIL: Can you tell us a little about the essential elements that define your new collection?
TC: This collection, due to the Covid situation, has been made long distance between France and India. It required me to be more precise and perhaps more coordinated than usual. Two masterpieces of the collection are the WENDY dress, both floral and white, and the blouse version WALLIS: a modern revival of an Edwardian nightdress and so easy to mix and match. I particularly love the Wendy in crisp white poplin, with all the handcrafted smocking detail. The details bring a lot of soul to this shirtdress. It’s the best summer dress ever when it gets warm, but also easily workable with a half season wardrobe – effortless, with a little drama and allure! With respect to colour, for the fist time I worked a cappuccino tone into the stripes (the fabric was made in Italy, crafted in France), a “biscuit” beige into the heavier poplin – variations on a neutral palette. Then in the prints I used mandarine and orange tones. Blues are always there, ultramarine to petrol. All the prints are hand-block-printed in Jaipur by a woman I’ve been working with for 15 years. She understands perfectly my ideas and how to execute them. I wanted something light and happy but gentle at the same time. As always in every collection, you can feel the inspiration of Greece (where I spend most of my summers), England and India.
STIL: I have always wondered how a man can create the most exquisite and perfectly cut clothing for women. Can you share with us a little about the process? Do you design with colours in mind, or perhaps more intuitively, according to the mood you wish to engender?
TC: I was a lonely child but passionate about history and aristocratic portraits. My mother and grandmother both loved fashion and had many theatre/ballet costumes. I had my own little theatre where I played all the roles. If you grow up in solitude, you create your own world and your imagination is always growing. I also know a lot of wonderful women and girls, of all ages. I always try to bring sensuality to the proportions and drape of my clothes. My feminine side as a man is very much engaged for sure! A collection starts with the feel of the fabric. I use an Italian gentleman’s sense of discernment: touch, sensuality, colour are hugely important. The feeling is always crisp and fresh. And the colours…. the colours I have to fall in love with and feel an emotional connection to. I am always looking to achieve a sense of harmony and balance.
STIL: You mix tradition with modern – which comes first?
TC: I'm obsessed with period costumes, especially Elizabethan and Jacobean. From English fashions at the French Court (Marie-Antoinette at Le Hameau) to Josephine with the fine neoclassical cotton chiffon high-waisted dresses. Then the Edwardian – for all the allure, drama and poetry of it. I always pay attention to the sharpness of the volume. Then modernity comes into it: garments have to be practical and comfy, never overtaking a woman’s personality, just emphasizing it. I also like looking at what contemporary women are wearing in the streets. Tradition plays a role in the making of the garments. It’s important to preserve the handcrafts that bring so much spirit and depth to the designs.
STIL: How do you envisage a woman should feel wearing Thierry Colson?
TC: I listen a lot to my girlfriends and customers – I learn a lot from them which helps improve each collection. They may feel like they are inhabiting a character from a film and infuse some attitude when dressing the pieces up (or down) depending on what accessories they use. I try to incorporate dreams and poetry into my designs. Some friends keep dresses from previous seasons and want the same ones made in other fabrics, etc. I suppose I include “soul & spirit” in my designs: they become favourite pieces for my customers. The life of the garment speaks for itself.
STIL: What type of woman wears Thierry Colson?
TC: A lot of British and American women – of all ages – who enjoy wearing beautiful clothes in everyday life. They travel, sail, love gardens and picnics – and holiday in Greece and Italy.
STIL: Do you have a favourite era for design for both fashion and architecturally?
TC: I am obsessed with period costumes, especially the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. With respect to architecture, I love a simple Roman church or contemporary architecture. I’m still impressed by how Chanel created modernity in fashion by designing timeless pieces – humble but so refined in every detail. The clothes never overtake the woman wearing them, they simply accompany her.
STIL: Do you see and feel a progression in your designs as the years go by?
TC: The brand at the beginning was more famous for “resort” designs, light cover-ups, neoclassical cotton chiffon dresses embroidered with white on white, mostly made in India. I’m very pleased that the brand has evolved in recent seasons to include important pieces women can easily wear in the city and to work.
STIL: How does sustainability feature in the creation of a collection?
TC: The quality of the fabrics is important, and there is no labour exploitation within the workshops I work with in Jaipur. Also, most of the women tell me they keep my pieces for years, so...
STIL: Do you have a mentor?
TC: I worked for 17 years with a wonderful woman, Marie Rucki, who is the headmistress of the fashion school I attended, Studio Bercot. She taught me a lot.
STIL: Who would you most like to dress?
TC: I love Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett. Sofia Coppola did buy a dress called Antoinette a long time ago when she was pregnant, and before her film Marie-Antoinette came out.
STIL: What motivates and inspires you?
TC: My obsessions and so many things... “La peinture mondaine”, children’s portraits, interiors, a silhouette in the street, a conversation with a lady. Sometimes, I plan a look-book photoshoot at the same time I start to do all the research for the next collections, so the collection becomes almost like a wardrobe for a kind of movie. My last look-book was shot in my darling Patmos and all my models were cool English girls spending their holidays there.
STIL: What are your happiest childhood memories?
TC: My happiest childhood memories included going across France to visit castles. I remember collecting postcards of the kings’ mistresses of every period. I also remember well going to London with my grandparents. I really looked like a Brit and they purchased me tartan trousers at Harrod’s! I was so proud of them and wore them at my little theatre room at my grandmother’s place where my cousins and I played for hours with costumes.
STIL: Can you share with us your perfect holiday?
TC: I like lasting journeys actually. I’m in love with Greece. I am learning the language intensively at the moment. Patmos is 8 hours sailing on a ferry. I love to do the journey by day, leaving the port evokes a feeling of freedom. The beautiful light and tones of blue around the islands is an inspiration. I love the charm of the interiors of the Greek houses, the colours, the furniture. The geographic situation is ideal: Italian influence, the Middle East is so close, and you feel the Balkans and the Slavic orthodox touch. The sea is wonderful and you feel almost like a demigod “immortal” because the “essential is there”. Growing older I know I need really very little to be happy: beautiful light, the sea, good wines, my cats and good books. Most of the Greek people I know are really good people and very helpful. Patmos is a holy island and there is a lot of spirituality there. I felt really uncomfortable once travelling to Las Vegas when I was a fashion editor, it made me feel so depressed.
STIL: Thierry what are you reading at the moment and do you have an all-time favourite book?
TC: I love reading different kinds of books ….& I think my customer reads a lot too :-) As a child I absolutely adored Jane Eyre, both the book & the 40’s movie. I love Daphne du Maurier novels too. Right now I am reading Aharon Appelfeld : Le garçon qui voulait dormir ( The boy who wanted to sleep ). And Hollywood Babylone’s by Kenneth Anger. Marcel Proust : A la recherche du temps perdu of course. When I read it I can imagine everything & he speaks fantastically of women - their looks & the way they dresse & I relate very well to the period he is talking about. Most of the classic French writers speak so well of women styles & all , Balzac is fantastic too, he wrote actually for fashion magazines in his time, & Balzac is soooo modern. It reminds me, I have an exhibition catalogue at home called : des mots et des modes ( Words & fashions ) With words of writers talking about styles & fashion... I think I will re-visit it.
Thierry Colson’s use of colour, Indian block-prints and romantic rendering of ‘times gone by’ is as unique as it is subtle and exquisite. The dreaminess of his creations enable the wearer to reimagine her own multifaceted nature. Colson’s timeless pieces should form part of the collection of any woman who embraces classic investment dressing.
Editing Fritha Wolsak