Conversation with Fanny Karst, young designer but old lady at heartPublié par Marie-Eve Rochon le 6 mai 2014
Born in France, Fanny Karst spent most of her life in London. After graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2007, she apprenticed in Savile Row. While she was learning traditional bespoke tailoring techniques for men, she had her mind set on the old ladies she knew. Thus, she founded her own brand in 2009, audaciously titled “Old Ladies Rebellion”. In an age when growing old is a dirty little secret, when media outlets seem to celebrate only one type of body (young, thin, white), this one-of-a-kind designer is a breath of fresh air into the vastly standardized world of fashion.
Photo by That’s Not My Age, reproduced with permission
With the population growing older, your brand is particularly relevant. Does the concept come from a business decision, from identifying a gap in the market?
Not at all. I didn’t study marketing or anything like that. I simply come from a family where the oldest generations where the most respected. There was also a time when I felt guilty of the career path I had chosen. Creating garments for old ladies allowed me to make peace with fashion.
You create bespoke garments. Is it a design choice or is it because of the volume of clothing you produce?
With this type of production, I learn to know my clients. I admire them greatly. There’s more substance when you know the people that you dress. I think of them when I create the collections. I want to give them the desire to grow old without having to conform to the codes of what it means to be senior citizen.
Would you eventually like to create in bigger quantities?
I’ve always had a kind of vertigo regarding mass production. Making a dress and not knowing who will wear it feels very strange. For the environment it’s also better to do bespoke because there aren’t hundreds of dresses rotting away in a warehouse.
I prefer bespoke because there’s a story attached to it: when a client comes to see me, she tells me what she wants, she comes back for the fittings. The garment is unique, the lady is the only one who has it. It has an undeniable pull. I even spoke to a client who told me she didn’t answer when friends asked where her dress (a design of mine) came from, because she didn’t want them to have something similar.
With the name of your brand and the models that you feature, it’s clear that the collections are first and foremost aimed towards old ladies. But do you also have younger clients?
I have a few. What usually happens is that I’ll create a jacket for a lady, who will then share it with her daughter and even her grand-daughter. But in the grand scheme of things, most of my clients are still fairly young. They’re usually around 60 years old, they’re active, they work. They come to me because they like the style of the clothes, not because it’s what they “should” be wearing. The ladies who inspire me are sometimes a little bit older, maybe around 80. I want to enhance their beauty, put them on a pedestal.
What design rules do you follow according to your clients’ age?
The length of dress, the length of sleeves, some shoulder pads so the garment falls beautifully in the front, a straight dress in silk so that it moves freely, prints that are flattering, usually with vertical lines. All that is the base, I don’t even have to think about it anymore. Afterwards, when I create the prints, I forget all the rules and I have fun.
Yes, your prints bring a certain dark humor to your collections, for example the jacket that reads “See you next year, perhaps”.
A client asked me to change the wording of this jacket to say “See you next year, for sure”! At first, I wasn’t pleased, but in the end I loved the result.
There is a part of risk in what I do. I often wonder: “who will wear this?”, but it turns out that people like it. My clients have a good sense of humor and they don’t have anything to prove anymore. It’s an age of liberty, so they’re ready to take risks.
Still, it’s not every woman who’s as comfortable with these risks, is it?
In the United Kingdom and the United States, what I do is well liked. But in France, there seems to be a categorical refusal to admit that one can grow old and at the same time be young and cool. Parisian ladies of a certain age all dress the same way. I prefer the eccentricity of British ladies. And in the US, women believe, and they’re right, that they are stars. They dress extravagantly, with lavish fur coats for example.
You recently moved to New York. Why?
Last year, I spent 2 months in New York. The energy and speed of the city really inspired me. I love my clients in Europe, but in the US, they usually have more opportunities to dress up, and they like to get noticed.
I’m currently working on a small collection for spring. There will be new prints, mostly abstract and inspired by New York City, I’m planning an artistic performance in lieu of a classic runway show. To be continued.