Culture Trip meets Laura Gauthier Petit, founder and Creative Director of Fête Impériale, a Parisian brand that blends Belle Époque eroticism with the punk attitude of the 1980s, resulting in something sublime. She talks about the inspirations behind her latest collection, the meaning of style in 2017, and the importance of nature to a happy life and epic party.
What inspires you most about the 19th century and the 1980s?
I feel like [it is] the eccentricity of both époques, especially in terms of pure freedom of sensual and sexual expression. However, vulgarity is the opposite of sensuality.
The 19th century also came with a sense of drape [sic], structure and fragility that appeals to me both in terms of liberal consciousness and aesthetic.
What do you think people can learn from these two periods?
Freedom, romance and independence. Most importantly, the freedom to invent and express your emotions through dress and allowing the wildness of imagination and values to have no limits.
If the 19th century was culturally rich and the 1980s recklessly casual, how would you describe the spirit of Paris in 2017?
I think we have gone beyond that at the moment. People don’t have to live in financial, social, sexual or racial limits in terms of accessibility.
Paris is great for this. It’s a city that accepts everything if you have the right attitude. Today, we live in a time of post-fashion, it’s less dictatorial and more independent. People project their own style, images, personal values as “brands” now through social media. Everybody is their own personal brand living in one very big and open world. Everything is accessible. It’s not a matter of being casual or culturally rich, we have so much information at our disposal that we are almost becoming curators of information, so style has become a mix of everything. It’s a kind of democratic style that is based less on wealth and exclusivity and more on attitude and the manner in which you project it.
Can you tell us more about your new collection? And how does it compare to those from the previous two years?
I am becoming more in tune with accepting sensuality as power. I am more comfortable with accepting fantasies without having to follow these norm-core or “real” trends while embracing venerability as a strength.
It is OK to live in your own little safe place and feel a sense of the bygone era through your clothes without feeling like you are in a costume. Silk is silk and softness is softness. Imperial fabrics are sublime.
In terms of surface attitude, you can be street or minimal or this or that, but for me it’s about offering women a sense of luxury that is uncompromising in terms of feeling precious and delicate. All my collections are a process of growth, they are neither better nor worse, it’s all an unwritten path that I’m writing.
Do you think people are more or less liberated now than they were during the Belle Époque and the 1980s? And how can clothing liberate us today?
In a way I do. I feel people are a little too concerned with popularity over creation. Liberty is something you have to fight for and not project. In the past, expression was something you did in reality, not something you did with your iPhone in your living room. On a more positive note, yes we are more liberated in terms of the obvious changes, like marriage equality, the increase of female rights etc..
If you wanted to party in Paris like it was the 19th century or the 1980s, where would you go?
Any garden. Gardens are very important to me because there is nothing like the sky. I come from a history of ancestors who were working in botanicals and agriculture, so it’s really a part of my DNA to be connected to nature. I feel that society has lost touch with free space. Paris works for me because we have not lost a sense of nature and the environment, especially as a global political leader in issues surrounding earth preservation. Gardens are eternal.