PARIS, France — Christelle Kocher is at a pivotal moment in her career. When Paris Fashion Week kicks off on September 29, the designer of French label Koché will stage her first ever runway show — on the same day as Jacquemus and Anthony Vaccarello — no small feat for a brand with only two seasons under its belt. “I hope it’s going to look like a big birthday party,” Kocher says.
Koché’s urban, easy-wearing separates are made from embellished fabrics more commonly associated with luxury, executed using techniques traditionally applied to haute couture. “This was the starting point and essence of Koché. I’m bringing together special craftsmanship with really urban, practical sportswear,” says Kocher.
Kocher's unique vision has attracted much attention for her one-year-old label. This year, Koché earned a spot as one of 26 semi-finalists for the second annual LVMH prize, amongst Faustine Steinmetz, Huishan Zhang and eventual winners Marques D’Almeida. The brand has also attracted orders from influential retailers across the world, including Maxfield in Los Angeles, Ikram in Chicago, Montaigne Market in Paris, and Maria Luisa in Paris, Beijing and Qatar. “When you’re young, you’re independent — you need support,” says Kocher.
I’m bringing together special craftsmanship with really urban, practical sportswear.
Before launching Koché in September 2014, the Strasbourg-born Central Saint Martins graduate spent a decade working for established luxury houses like Chloé, Sonia Rykiel, Bottega Veneta and Dries Van Noten. In 2003, Martine Sitbon hired Kocher to work on several unique showpieces. Within six months, she became Sitbon’s right-hand woman, running the atelier and managing the development of each collection, from concept to final creation.
Alongside her own label, Kocher currently works at Maison Lemarié, where she has been artistic director for the past five years. Supported by Virginie Viard, Chanel’s studio director (Chanel subsidiary Paraffection owns Maison Lemarié), Kocher was charged with breathing new life into the atelier, which specialises in providing plumasserie — the craft of preparing feathers and flowers for their use in the making of a dress — for some of the biggest names in haute couture, including Chanel, Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent. She tries to ensure the same standards of craftsmanship for her own designs, she says.
Koché's Autumn/Winter 2015 collection features a fluorescent pink suit, patchwork knits, wide culottes and a multi-coloured fuzzy Maison Lemarié-feathered parka (Kocher often taps Lemarié and other traditional Paris maisons such as Lesage and Montex for embroideries and embellishments). The bold colours and voluminous feathers [of the parka] may seem unwieldy at first glance, but it is lined in jersey and is “really comfy and warm,” she says. “It’s a contemporary way of interpreting couture. I think it’s really modern and [reflects] how people actually dress today.”
For this month’s Spotlight, Kocher has designed a custom BoF logo that represents "the clash between two aesthetic worlds — the worlds of streetwear with that of ready-to-wear and couture," both of which are intrinsic to Koché's aesthetic.
As the brand gains initial traction, Kocher says the biggest challenge has been all the multi-tasking required of her. She is intimately involved in the “crucial commercial aspect” of her self-funded brand, including budgeting, production and delivery. “You can be creative in the business, but you also have to be a businessperson, a manager and a communicator,” she says.
Kocher remains tight-lipped what to expect from her Paris Fashion Week debut, but reveals that the show will include her first foray into jewellery, produced in collaboration with couture jewellery house Goossens. Kocher predicts that “the unique pieces, those most involving craft” will attract the most attention. “That’s because they’re not found elsewhere — that’s what I can provide.”