If a house designed by Le Corbusier is a car to live in, a suit of André Courrèges it’s a car to move in. Pupil of Cristóbal Balenciaga, with engineering studies behind him, Courrèges created clothes that freed the body from the fashion of the squeezed waistline in vogue before him: dresses that dropped from the shoulders, often worn without a bra, and that made the pince an obsolete detail; miniskirts and, of course, his famous go-go boots. Courrèges’ futuristic and “space” fashion is immediately appreciated by jet set characters such as Jackie Kennedy, her sister Lee Radziwill, the heir of the L’Oréal empire Liliane Bettencourt and the singer-songwriter Françoise Hardy.
And today, 60 years after the birth of Courrèges in Paris, Nicolas Di Felice makes his debut as artistic director of the maison. The Belgian designer has worked, on two occasions, with Nicolas Ghesquière, first at Balenciaga and then at Louis Vuitton – passing from junior to senior designer – and in between for a short period also at Dior with Raf Simons. Before the announcement of his appointment in September, and since Courrèges was relaunched around 2015, the creative baton passed from the Coperni duo Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyera Yolanda Zobel. Di Felice describes the Fall Winter 2021 collection as “a tribute to the Courrèges atelier and archives, with a little more of ‘Belgium’. As if I had been transported from a Brussels club to the 6th arrondissement in Paris ”.
While waiting to see the show on March 3 at Paris Fashion Week – which will be pre-recorded a few hours before going live in streaming – we spoke to the 37-year-old designer on Zoom to learn more about the new artistic director today at the reins of Courrèges.
Di Felice was born and raised in a place very far from the 4 fashion capitals
“I’m from Charleroi, Belgium, known for being ‘the ugliest city in the world’, but I don’t see it that way. The city was born around coal mines and steel mills, both of my grandparents emigrated here from Italy to work in the mines, so it’s an intense, post-industrial place. The wind covers the buildings with coal dust, hence the nickname ‘black earth’, or the terre noire. For me it is poetic and beautiful ”.
Her interest in fashion was born from music
“My window on fashion was MTV. Each group had their own style because of the sound, but also because of the way they created their look. I grew up with dance music on TV, Belgian New Beat was super popular and I listened to Confetti’s, Speedy J, LA Style, while my older sister was a fan of rock and metal bands (The Doors, Nirvana, Korn). If you think about it it’s crazy, all these worlds on the wall of a house in the Belgian countryside: my sister’s posters hanging next to mine ”.
… And he also dabbled in music
“When I was 12 I started making electronic music. I begged my dad to buy me the software. I really like techno and dance, and before moving to Paris at 23 I was making music all the time, every moment after school ”.
Di Felice studied at the La Cambre school of visual arts in Brussels before gaining experience with Nicolas Ghesquière
“Each season, with Nicolas, we immersed ourselves completely in research, I learned a lot of new cultural references, from artists to furniture designers. But if I had to choose one of the many things I’ve learned, that is definitely precision. I remember the garments from the fashion show, everything was done so perfectly that it seemed to be photoshopped ”.
He did a “road trip” in America, sort of amuse-bouche creative after Louis Vuitton and before Courrèges
“I took the trip with my best friend, it was the first time we were just the two of us, usually my boyfriend or his girlfriend comes, other times we are a bigger group. The trip made me think a lot about Jim Jarmusch; we went to New Orleans and Texas and finally to Mexico City for the Material Art Fair. We were lucky, as soon as we returned to Paris we immediately ended up in lockdown ”.
He had no ambition to become creative director …
“I want to feel comfortable in my job, but my main goals are not to do with work, I want to be a happy man, a good person, and maybe someday have children.”
… But Courrèges seemed the perfect choice
“There weren’t many houses in which I could have taken over. André has created an entire universe, an aesthetic, a mood that is perceived in the furniture and interior design, it is not just a beautiful dress, and this thing has always fascinated me. Courrèges goes straight to the point: it’s a shade, a shape, a geometric pattern, a fabric, it’s simple. And I find myself in a moment of my life where I really appreciate simplicity ”.
There will be more affordable prices with Di Felice da Courrèges
“One of my first goals is to appeal to a younger audience. There is no point in selling clothes that are too expensive for them. We have developed a new eco-friendly vinyl using 70% recycled bio polyurethane. This fabric was originally created by Courrèges in the 70s and we have lowered the price of vinyl jackets from 1,000 to 750 Euros ”.
He wants Courrèges dresses to be for a lifetime, not just for a season
“Courrèges didn’t change every season, some things stayed the same. I see so many people wearing Courrèges garments that belonged to their mother or grandmother: they never throw them away, and I think this is the best way to be eco-aware. I don’t care about the greenwashing or make ‘eco’ collections. We are in 2021, and it is normal to do our best to be sustainable. I am producing new clothes, but I try to create things that will never go out of style ”.
… And it is also creating a kind of Courrèges collective
“For Fall Winter 2021 we have enrolled a lot of new faces. We will continue to work with them next season. I am a loyal one, to my family and friends. I have worked with Bernard Dubois, an architect friend of mine from university days, for the project of 40 Rue François, the first shop; we will open a second in Paris this month. We covered everything – floors, walls, ceilings – with a white velvety fabric. And then there are the silver mirrors, the mood is that of a club “.