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Article Image - Back to the Future
Feb / Mar 2015
Back to the Future

WRITER: Sara White Wilson

Originally known for its bespoke suits in the 1950s, it moved to prêt-à-porter in the 1960s and now, Façonnable is witnessing yet another shift in visual identity, one that is as much about the future as it is a nod to the past.


It is a typical grey and rainy Parisian morning. To enter into the bright and airy showroom of Façonnable however, is like a dip into the clear air, delicate blue hues and southern sunshine of the French Riviera.

Façonnable’s design studio is located in Nice, ever since the brand was founded by tailor Jean Goldberg in 1950. And it is still in Nice today, that the devilishly handsome Irishman, Daniel Kearns executes his sketches as artistic director. Working with Façonnable since 2013, with just two collections and one capsule collection under his belt, he is already redefining the brand’s profile from collar to cuff.

For his first collection, Autumn/Winter 2014-15, Kearns revisited the cuts and basic structure of the Façonnable garment. For this Spring/Summer 2015 collection though, he goes deeper into a consideration of colour and material. But what is the story behind this new design grammar he is establishing? That’s what I seek to find out, in the 20 minutes I’m given to chat with Kearns before he hops on the next flight to Nice.



“First and foremost, the French Riviera isn’t made up of big, international cities; it’s a resort area essentially, and one of the first ever resorts,” he says. I imagine something out of a Fitzgerald novel – glamorous couples from the 1920s and 1930s, the men often outshining the women in easy, understated glamour, arriving with a sun-kissed glow, for an evening cocktail on a balustrade overlooking the Mediterranean.

Snapping me out of the tricks my mind is playing, Kearns gets straight down to reality. “You have to picture yourself in the south of France or in other places around the world with this type of temperate climate. You don’t necessarily need big, hot pieces. You can have one warm overcoat but underneath, you’ll have light layers. It is an approach that’s different to a lot of other brands, also in terms of colour. And it’s not just the south of France, it’s that French gentleman and his approach to dressing in that environment.” He pauses, perhaps thinking about his eminent travel, perhaps aiming to tease my evident jealousy. “In the French Riviera, you have 300 days of sunshine a year, you know.”

True to its roots, menswear represents over 80 per cent of Façonnable’s business. And Kearns is in charge of creating the brand’s new silhouettes, usually with a strong touch of European resort elegance. He seems most suited for the job - after a Masters in menswear from the Royal College of Art in London and starting the menswear line for John Galliano, he worked in the Outwear department at Louis Vuitton as well as the commercial lines for Yves Saint Laurent. But it was with the late Lee McQueen that his talent matured further, when he was design director of menswear at Alexander McQueen. “That was an important experience for me, creating the commercial collection and working with him on the tailoring, we created the silhouettes together.”

Despite all this focus on menswear, a female customer can still find her place in Façonnable, especially if she is looking for a well-tailored jacket, famously known as ‘Le Smoking.’  For men, Kearns says he is defining the masculine wardrobe beyond the metropolitan climes and cultures of Paris, London and New York. “I incorporated evening wear so that there were tuxedos and after-six cocktail suits, in order to try and create a full wardrobe for the entire week, typical to this kind of lifestyle,” he reflects.

His story continues with how he came to adopt a French cultural icon. “I spent two summers in the South investigating the region, and I started to put Jean Cocteau images on the mood board because he had this sort of relaxed, casual attitude in the way he wore his suits; he would roll his cuffs. He would wear the suits almost like contemporary sportswear. Then, we discovered in our archives that he actually wore Façonnable shirts at one time.” And that’s how this season’s capsule collection began, with the collaboration of Pierre Bergé, president of the Jean Cocteau Committee. Cocteau, like countless other artists, favoured the French Riviera for its unique light, which has a softness and brilliance, all at once.

We dig further into the suit. “We have the full range of classic suits: the constructed shoulder, drop 8, drop 7, drop 6, if you like. But the idea is to also make something that is completely deconstructed – very light – where you see there’s basically no construction inside. You can roll it up, put it in the suitcase - a key piece every season is a jersey jacket. You have stretch, movability and lightness. You feel smart but you can travel, you can move. It is very much this feeling that I think Cocteau symbolises in his dress sense.”

In addition to cut and construction, colour expresses this unweighted ease. The colour palette of Façonnable’s winter collection resembles that of other brands’ summer collections. “For us, colour is essential,” explains Kearns. “In the French Riviera, you want to wear colour: azure blue, and then its variations in between, from navy to sky blue. For summer, colour was obviously very light but then we added indigos and denims to balance out the collection.”

It is primarily through the use of its own materials though, that Façonnable will likely win devotees and stage a return to its heritage. The founder’s son, Albert Goldberg, had pioneered the use of a flannel fabric with a waterproof membrane beneath, maintaining global exclusivity for years. Kearns too, is forging innovation. With his persistence, Façonnable works closely with mills to develop new fabrics; eighty per cent of its materials are exclusively Façonnable. “In summer, linen is important, but not 100 per cent linen,” explains Kearns, “it is much more interesting to have something like this, which is a blend of linen, mohair and cotton so it has the roundness and spring, the drape and lustre of linen but the spring of cotton and mohair.”

Across the room, I spot a very fine example of seersucker. “This is the idea,” chimes in Kearns, “to take summer elements and refocus them, to modernise them a bit – not very large stripes but something more subtle, more discreet.” With fabric that’s as divine to touch as, I imagine, to wear, and that includes signature tressage details, such as the abstract palm print appearing in the latest summer collection, Façonnable assumes its role of bringing back a certain kind of easy glamour through its seamless marriage of sun and sartorial.

Façonnable’s new Artistic Director, Daniel Kearns, has a dazzling résumé that includes working at John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Ermenegildo Zegna.

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