I was never destined to be a designer and artist. If anything, I showed an early talent for science.
Though nowadays I would be graciously described as curvy or voluptuous, where I grew up in Southern France in the mid nineties I was, without a doubt, in the “fat” category.
I wasn’t even that big, I just wasn’t the desired size 38 (8UK) all French women are expected to maintain from their early teenage years.
On top of that, like most women, I’m not a standard size all over. I have big boobs, narrow hips and muscular legs from years of gymnastics. From the age of 12, unlike many of my friends, I couldn’t just go into a shop and buy some clothes.
When clothes shopping, you are searching for the holy trinity - do I fit into it? do I look good in it? and does it make me look like ME? Very rarely would I get all three.
Then, when I was 13, my mother suggested we do a sewing project together. A pair of trousers. It was made from this incredible but hideous blue fabric that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a swimming pool themed renovation on Changing Rooms.
We dug out my Grandma’s antique Singer sewing machine and every weekend we ploughed away at the sewing pattern to finally complete this pair of trousers.
My mum hated every minute of it (she’s really not a fan of sewing) but I was hooked.
I loved the trousers. I loved that they were unique, they were weird (by rural France standards at least!), they were fun to make and they fit perfectly. I then made a top with the scraps of fabric. And a bag. Then another pair of trousers (15 year me, 1st row 5th from the right, is proudly wearing them for the class photo...)
Wearing them felt like freedom. I could look exactly how I wanted to. I might have still been “fat”, but at least I was fat in some amazing trousers… And during lunch at school, whilst my friends headed to the shops to look at jeans I headed to the haberdashery to look at buttons and clothing patterns.
I doodled fashion drawings in my maths homework, started selling handmade trousers to other teenagers who couldn’t buy clothes easily and raised money for my school by putting on a fashion show when I was 16.
Finally, to the great horror of all my teachers, I announced I would be taking a year out then going to Art School to be a fashion designer. I went to Central Saint Martins and during my degree discovered my love for print design (see my graduate collection above). After finishing my degree, briefly worked in Australia and Beijing then landed a phenomenal job working for a brilliant print studio, Design Union, before setting out on my own.
Oh dear, so good memories from teenage years with you !!
The fashion show !!
And how disappointed our maths teacher (classe de 1ere) was when you announced fashion would be your path…
And the picture of our class… Haha.
I enjoyed very much reading your text !