Creation as a new territory for Innovation, with Courrèges designers

9 min read

A few months ago, French Ready-to-Wear Federation organised its second edition of TRAFFIC, a fair dedicated to fashion services. During two days, the show gathered 80 exhibitors, 50 workshops and 10 forecasting conferences on the theme of Innovation.

The talk was moderated by Lydia Bacrie and featured Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer from Courrèges; Jérôme Bergeret FashionLab director at Dassault; Catherine Gorgé, luxury, art, design and architecture division director of Prodways; Audrey Bergenthal, founder of Euveka and Marlène Ramos-Augereau, business development fashion – luxury from CETI (the European Center for Textile Innovation).

To open the talk, Lydia Bacrie asked Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer about their vision of how innovation inspire them for their collections. Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer are the Artistic Directors of Courrèges. Prior to that, they launched their own brand, Coperni. When designing for Courrèges, Vaillant evokes the importance of finding an avant-garde expression, rather than just designing “new floral patterns”. In the previous years, the duo has been presenting their creations in keynote formats (inspired by Apple’s infamous ones), and sometimes integrating technology into clothing. As for their ads, the duo also found a way to communicate around their products, rather than around intangible stories (as shown below),


The “Jacket” Courrèges ad.

Later on, the duo unveiled a campaign around their patterns, which is quite unlikely in fashion advertising. The patterns were not just on the ad, they were downloadable for free on the brand’s website, illustrated by 3D animation videos showing how the pieces were to be assembled. As a press release, the brand sent out paper patterns to journalists, fashion historians and fashion school directors. As Vaillant shared during the panel talk, “For our campaigns, we like to tell different stories about our products, not just a beautiful model wearing it, but rather a striking message putting the product at its center. We decided to use our patterns, which is kind of the magic Coca-Cola recipe in fashion, we very much like the idea of open source.”


The Courrèges skirt pattern as shown on the ad, which was downloadable for free on the brand’s website, illustrated by a 3D animation video showing how the piece was to be assembled.

About innovation in fashion, Vaillant shared his envy of making innovative products yet not to be gimmicky. He also mentioned their warming coat, and working with companies like Prodways for 3D printing. On this point, Vaillant shared how they dream of a future where everyone would be able to print their own clothes: “even if the idea is still far away from today, it is now that we shall think and create the solutions that will make it possible tomorrow” he added.

On creativity, his fellow designer Sébastien Meyer underlined how passionating it is to witness the modernisation of the fashion designer’s creative process,

Our stylists are used to working around themes, but we realised it prevented us from making the garment evolve. For two years now, we have been trying to implement new systems, as for example working on product categories ‘for this season, a stylist will work only on skirts’, which allows us to make this product evolve by working fiercely and exclusively on it, rather than losing attention on other kind of garments at the same time. These are examples of ideas we have and try to innovate. Another time, we divided the garment types in three categories: easy, working and classic. Each stylist had a category and had to work around it, including the product’s pricing. Which is too expensive today, we want to democratise fashion while keeping the notion of luxury. For the working category, we wanted clothes that are more than just clothes: for example we had this jacket that could transform into a skirt and then a dress. We are interested by more alive pieces of clothing. And for classic we studied quality, because Courrèges comes from Couture, so there’s a patrimoine, there are techniques. How do you create a garment that lasts more than 30 years without one of its thread moving?

Courrèges' "keynote" style fashion show, Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant. Credit: BERTRAND GUAY / Getty Images.

Courrèges’ “keynote” style fashion show, Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant. Credit: BERTRAND GUAY / Getty Images.

“We are always in a research for wearability.” Vaillant added. “Digital and the idea of community is also something we are very interested about: for our last show, we hired no model, we only asked a few friends to come over. Inspiring girls that all have real jobs and are amazing. We asked them to come with their own clothes, adding only one piece of our Courrèges collection. Because we thought that they could associate their own old pair of Levi’s, their favorite shirt or whatever with our jacket or dress.

We wanted to speak for our first show, we think it is important – even if it is hard sometimes to speak in public – because we can tell a garment’s story. Which obliges us to design clothes that have a meaning for us, and make it evolve” Meyer concluded.

Their talk was followed by a presentation of the European Center for Textile Innovation (CETI). Marlène Ramos-Augereau told us how the center gathers multi-disciplinary teams working on inventing and producing new materials. The center was created to make the French Northern region’s fabulous textile industry “reborn” (as many of the factories were decentralised to lower costs countries in the last decades and were abandonned) and now works with brands on special projects, as for example with Courrèges or Paco Rabanne, being curious about exploring new grounds in fashion.

After Ramos-Augereau, Jérôme Bergeret from Dassault’s FashionLab told us about their work on 3D modeling and printing with freshly honored Haute Couture label Julien Fournié; Audrey Bergenthal, founder of Euveka – which tackles the model sizing adaptation issue for couture confection: it is a smart mannequin that reproduces the exact size and morphology, with a measuring system and the detection of the bien aller thanks to sensors.

To close the talk, Catherine Gorgé, luxury, art, design and architecture division director of Prodways, made a keynote on 3D printing and its possibilities for fashion and luxury. Showing us samples of previous projects, Gorgé underpinned the currently available materials and what can be done with it: nylon, polyamide, metal powders or more flexible materials like TPU. Working closely with feather makers, Gorgé shared intricate designs in her presentation. But 3D printing is not just that, it is the possibility to use biobased and biocompatible materials. It is also more and more used in jewelery making, as it is a great solution for prototyping.

While 3D printing is still quite expensive, with professional machines pricing going from 100K to 500K euros, we are working closely with big brands and luxury groups to democratise it for the future.

Catherine also mentioned 3D printing for sneakers, which has gotten pretty amazing lately :-)! A perfect way to close an inspiring talk, opening the imaginaries around new possibilities offered by innovation.

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