>> In the course of four days, Guillaume Henry has made a whirlwind tour of personal appearances at Barneys in three different cities — San Francisco, Chicago, and then finally, New York yesterday — marking his first personal appearances in the United States since joining Carven as creative director in 2009. A former assistant to Riccardo Tisci, Henry is heading into his fourth collection for the brand — which for the first time, he will show during Paris Fashion Week in March. In between toasts from trunk show host Alexa Chung and chats with supporters like Sally Singer and new Barneys fashion director Amanda Brooks, we caught up with Henry to pick his brain.
Heard you just made your first trip to California! How was it?
I loved it there. It was super quick, so I definitely have to come back. The weather was amazing, the people were super friendly and supportive. San Francisco is a city with the good vibrations of a village. It’s fresh.
How long are you here in New York?
I arrived about three hours ago, and I’m leaving tomorrow morning. Quickest trip ever.
What's the first thing you plan to do when you get back home to Paris?
I have to go to the fabric fair. It started yesterday, and I’m going to be there for only one day, so I have one day to choose fabrics for next Summer’s collection. That’s something I’m going to have to do quick.
Any hints on the Fall 2011 collection?
I’m kind of superstitious, so I don’t talk about the Fall collection until it’s finished. I’m still working on it, and we’re going to show it in Paris in the beginning of March. We’re going to do a show — it’s the first time we’re going to put on a show. It’s not a proper show — you won’t expect girls on the catwalk, walking fast, but we’re definitely going do to it during fashion week. [It will be] a presentation — intimate, it’s all about intimacy. For me, we have to be close to the people, definitely.
What do you think is the next step for the brand, aside from a show?
We’re going to up our shoe line and our bag line — slowly, because it’s a real business. And I hope we’re going to relaunch perfumes, because Carven in the ‘50s was super famous for the perfumes. That’s something I would love to do, because it’s the smell of a collection, the smell of a house. I hope maybe in one year [we will relaunch perfumes]. And for next winter [Fall 2011] we will have lots of new shoes and bags — it’s going to be a proper line. And we’re going to be doing some of the shoes in collaboration with Robert Clergerie, the French shoemaker — it’s going to be a nice marriage.
Do you ever speak with Carven’s founder, Carmen de Tommaso?
Yeah! She’s 102 years old today, but I met her twice. The first time it was eight years ago. I did a contest, and actually the funny thing is I got the first prize. At the end of the day, when she offered me the prize, she said to me, ‘You have to understand now that I am your grandmother in the business.’ I couldn’t expect at that time that a few years later I would design [her] collection. And I met her two years ago at her 100th birthday, and she was super nice — an old lady, but super nice.
Does she like the collection?
I have no idea. I hope that if she looks at it, she would find the DNA of the brand, because I really respect what she did with it.
What other shows are you looking forward to this season?
I’m looking at everything; I’m super interested in the job that I do, so I do have to look at everybody’s work and consider what’s happening. Commercially, I do have to consider what’s the reality in the streets, so I’m a real observer.
Who embodies the Carven woman for you?
I guess I hope Carven is a super democratic brand, so anybody would feel herself in our clothes. We’ve got girls like Rihanna wearing our clothes, girls like Emma Watson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore . . . older actresses, as well. I really believe that there’s no real small market about Carven. I would love to dress Natalie Portman, and I would love to dress older actresses as well — like Susan Sarandon — so it’s not a question of age.