At 19-years-old Christelle Kocher applied to study fashion design for womenswear at Central Saint Martins in London. Howard Tanguy, who was John Galliano's teacher, interviewed the aspiring student as part of her application into the program. She was stern with him, and told him that she would not be taking prerequisite courses—she said she already had enough technical experience to enter as a second year student. She showed him her portfolio, sketches, and clothes she had already crafted. He liked her gumption and dedication to art as a virtue, and accepted her into the program on her terms.
So, as a teenager, Kocher knew what she wanted and went for it. She valued her own technical skills enough to find an educational program that would match her and be supportive of her as a young designer. She says the school was a great push for her “to really be different and peculiar in my work, art, and vision.”
After school, Kocher went on to work at some of the most prestigious fashion houses, including Chloé, Bottega Veneta, Sonia Rykiel, and Dries Van Noten, to name just a few. She's even serves as artistic director for Maison Lemariéthe, the artisan house known for engineering Chanel’s architectural ornaments in fabric. Recently, she launched her own brand, Koché, a careful mix of crafted French couture with street wear. Think: Chanel flourished on some APC basics. Kocher calls it a “powerful feminine contrast.”
As a child, Kocher was passionate about contemporary art. She remembers delving into biographies about artists' lives, like Monet and Picasso, early on, using her hands to make macramé and to crochet. “It became concrete at adolescence. As soon as I could imagine something tangible I wanted to be involved in it. Fashion was there somewhere. I guess you can call that a vocation. I guess I am persistent,” she says.
That persistence continues to pay off. Earlier this year, Koché was nominated as one of 26 candidates for the prestigious LVMH Prize. She is currently working on a Paris Fashion Week installation for her brand. The Creators Project posed three art school questions to her:
The Creators Project: You say that you are inspired by couture and contemporary art equally, please name a few.
Christelle Kocher: Lists are contemporary addictions so I will be parsimonious. Cristobal Balenciaga for the amazing cuts. Marlene Dumas for the poetic and sharp souls of her paintings. Ryan Trecartin because the future is now. But also Madame Vionnet, Madame Grès, Isa Genzken and Sheila Hicks.
You say that "being different was your strength." What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
Dream the night, work the day. Switch when you're tired.
Would you recommend school for other fashion designers?
Maybe. Central Saint Martins because I know. Bunka Fashion College because I guess. Above all never ending curioisity is the best school ever.
Check out Koché by clicking here.