As guest designers for Pitti Uomo, Carven brought a slice France to Florence with an all-trumpeting, all-pedaling Franco extravaganza in the city’s velodrome.
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With the invitation promising a clash of Italian and French cultures no-one knew quite what to expect. Entering the arena on Thursday evening guests were greeted by a sea of banquet tables that within moments of arrival were groaning with Italian delicacies; mounds of mozerella, tonnes of tortes, and pile upon pile of fresh tomatoes, cherries and more. Once taste-buds were suitably satiated, out trouped the main event; Carven-clad cycling models encircled the velodrome, with a team of waiters in toe, many running the course carrying a tray topped with a glass and bottle (it was later explained to i-D that sprinting waiters is a Parisian tradition). Reminiscent of Louis Vuitton’s train-themed AW12 show, there was distinct contrast between the formality of the uniformed waiters and the casualness of the models. Technical textures and vivid colours dominated the collection, easy to spot as the pieces whizzed by in a flurry. Three seasons into defining the new Carven male, Creative Director, Guillaume Henry met with i-D online whilst in Florence to talk brands, bikes and the Carven boy.
Tell us about how this all began… The first time the boss of Pitti came to see us at Carven it was the day after the womenswear show and we were all super exhausted. At the end of the meeting he said that he would be very happy if we accepted the invitation to Pitti. We were super shocked. What I do for the menswear is super brand new, we have only been working for a year and a half in the men’s fashion industry and he only saw two collections. He asked us to do it and you can’t refuse.
And how did you decide how to present the SS13 collection? We really wanted to have a Carven moment and it had to be fresh, simple to understand and make a normal place cool. Forget about the palazzo, it’s beautiful but bourgeois in places. Just make it simple and great. Like you would improvise a party with your friends or in the countryside in France. This kind of typical event where, you would ask other people in the village to take their tables, beautiful plates and eat outside all together. That was the mood of it. The day before coming here and visiting a few different places, I said to myself “We have to find a way to present the collection without it being a catwalk.” For the catwalk, there is a fashion week. Pitti is not a fashion week. Pitti is a moment and you should be expressing what Carven is rather than the new collection. So, I was thinking “We’ve got models. The models are going to walk maybe they can run…” And so we had a race.
What’s the relationship between the clothes and the concept? You hadn’t started on the collection when they approached you… No, I hadn’t. We didn’t really focus on the fact that Pitti wanted us to design a collection. Not at all. I didn’t want Pitti to influence the collection. The connection is maybe only the freshness. The Carven wardrobe is an affordable wardrobe. It’s cool, fun, nothing conceptual. You should be able to play a lot with your clothes. The collection is huge. We did the styling two days ago in Firenze. Of course, I had in my mind what I kind of wanted to do but then I saw the models trying the clothes on and they were sweating so much. So I then said to the team, “Let’s do it simple, otherwise they are going to die.” I don’t want fashion to be a torture, it’s super warm outside so play it simple.
The clothes worked brilliantly in the setting it’s a very dynamic collection. Yeah, I shouldn’t say sporty because the Carven man is not sporty at all but it has an athletic mood, a fresh kind of guy. It would enjoy being outside but maybe it would never play.
He watches sport outside whilst he’s drinking champagne… Exactly.
Was the vision you had when you first visited the velodrome realised? It was even better than I was expecting because like everyone, I was surprised. The guys playing the trumpets, I’d never met them before. When they arrived in the stadium it was the first time I saw them in real life. I only saw them on YouTube. I saw them when they came to visit us two days ago but they were wearing their normal clothing. Here they all looked like all men. It was a real shock, I was like a kid in front of a Christmas tree.
Were you involved with the menu? Yeah, we thought “Ok it’s only people from the same village, we’ll do a menu based on a family specialties.” This woman is good for pies, this woman is good for pasta, this woman is good for mozzarella and actually the waiters will bring that to share.
Did you feel like you successfully brought that sense of French celebration to Pitti proceedings? I don’t know if it was a success but it was a Carven moment. I feel like I was surrounded by the Carven mood. That’s what I like.
Current season Carven menswear is available now from Matches in-store and online here.
Text: Sean Baker
Click here to see our SS13 Menswear coverage in full.