New boss of hatmaker Maison Michel on French suffocation and finding freedom in London

What is the overall direction you have planned for Maison Michel? “I want to focus on personalities, and on men and women of different ages with different backgrounds instead of just trying to redefine the Maison Michel woman. Hats are about creating your own character and knowing how to style it. It’s a general approach to the hats, more than trying to find the right angle.”

Did you always want to work in fashion? “Photography was my first love. I started dabbling in it at 14 years old until I was 19. I had a whole laboratory set up, and was always carrying my camera just in case there was some­thing great to capture on film.

Most of my work was in street photography because I was very interested in reality. My focus was on catching the right moment without being caught. I eventually realised that capturing beauty wasn’t enough. I needed to be closer to materials, to colours, to mixing things together. I needed to get more hands on. So I moved on to fashion.”

From 2006 to 2011, you lived in London. How did that experience shape you? “London was a whirlwind obsession. It felt right for me to move to London, even though I didn’t know much about the city before. When I arrived, I discovered a city that had nothing to do with Paris, where I was studying previously. It liberated me from a kind of French suffocation that I was experiencing at the time.

It was during my time in London that I worked for Vivienne Westwood, the iconic British label. Working there was great because there were no limits. The crazier you would go, the better it was. And there’s always something good that comes from that! Total freedom. We were like a family, working in our own bubble. I met great people over there and have so many good memories. It didn’t feel like work in the end.”

What do you do to relax? “I’m one of those people who needs to be around green space. So, when I moved back to Paris, I realised that was really missing from my life. Part of the reason is because, before studying in Paris, I lived with my family in Champagne, where my dad is a farmer. If I don’t find shelter in that, I do find shelter in my own imagination. But outside of that, since I am the voice of Maison Michel, work never really leaves my mind. There’s always some part of me that’s thinking about the next steps or what I can do for the next collection.”

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