Lockdown catch-up

Boramy Viguier: the Paris menswear designer remixing tradition around mystical symbols
By Jake Hall | Fashion | 24 April 2020
Photography Rafael Dubus

Backstage at Boramy Viguier SS20, Photography Rafael Dubus

Top image: Boramy Viguier SS20, Photography Rafael Dubus

It’s early afternoon in Paris, where lockdown conditions are among the tightest in Europe. Yet despite the chaos, designer Boramy Viguier is in good spirits. Not only has he spent the last few weeks pragmatically adapting his business to survive the pandemic, he’s even found time to film MMXX, a short, stylised video of his daily routine during lockdown.

There’s a distinctly sci-fi vibe to the clip, which mixes archival footage – the opening minute is a montage of 1950s students sharing their predictions for the future – with phone-shot snippets of everyday activities, like Viguier silkscreening in his atelier, or cooking a frozen pizza for dinner. It’s a brilliant mixture of eeriness and banality, which encapsulates the daily struggle of seeking a new normal against a backdrop of global fear.

Aesthetically, it’s an extension of the visual world Viguier has built around his brand, which recently saw him advance to the finals of the prestigious LVMH Prize competition. Mystical symbols and religious iconography permeate his collections, which infuse traditionally formal garments – hooded cloaks, military uniforms – with technical fabrics and utilitarian detailing. It’s a unique vision: one rooted in melodrama and baroque maximalism, yet unapologetically rooted in wearability. Over the course of an animated Zoom call, Boramy reveals the inspirations behind this blueprint, as well as his feelings on life under lockdown.

Video: Boramy Viguier – MMXX

Jake Hall: How’s your day been?
Boramy Viguier: Pretty good. I usually wake up early and then start working. I live on the second floor with my studio downstairs, so I’m able to work every day – I have technicians and assistants around Paris, so I’m delivering fabric and needles by car so they can work from home. We don’t touch each other, I just deliver the boxes. It’s a new system, but it’s working.

JH: How else has lockdown changed the way you work?
BV: I can’t buy anything new, so I have to work with exactly what I have in my home and studio. It’s by necessity, but it’s way more interesting. I feel like my friends in New York and LA have the same taste as me, the same way of living. Fifteen years ago, a bagel was exotic to me – now, I can buy it in the vegan store here. Really, this is a blessing for culture because local is the ultimate – things are valuable when they’re local, but it never seems that way anymore. That has to stay.

JH: Born and raised in Paris, was fashion something you wanted to do from a young age?
BV: Yes, but in the suburbs. It’s very different – more grey! I don’t know when I became interested in fashion, probably it was through looks in movies and my first trips to Japan. Before this, I worked in an art gallery in Paris. A guy I used to work with dated a girl that worked with Balenciaga. He explained what it was, and I said: “This is what I want to do.” So I searched for the best fashion school on the planet, and up popped Central Saint Martins.

“There is censorship sometimes, so you start to say, “if that was me, I would have done it like this.” When you say that to yourself too much, you have to go.”

JH: How did you find moving to London and studying?
BV: I don’t want to judge anything, because it’s more about me as a person. But to be honest, the moment I stepped foot inside, I wanted to leave. Some teachers were really good and I met amazing people like Craig Green, who I still love, but I just wanted to work and earn a living from fashion. It was really useful for me to go to London though, that helped me more than education. It’s so big, it takes three buses to get to a good house party! So I stayed at home a lot, sewing and working. Then I met Lucas Ossendrivjer from Lanvin.

JH: You trained under him for four years, right? Tell me more about that.
BV: Maybe four and a half years, although it felt like 45! I wanted to work with him and he said yes, then after the internship he told me I could finish my studies or come straight away, so I dropped out. That was a really good education. Lucas is so underrated, and I’m sure everyone that worked for him would say the same. He’s really into the garment, no hype or anything. It’s a blessing as a designer to be able to work for three days on a parka, just gathering references.

JH: How did your time training under Lucas influence your own design process?
BV: It became much more precise. You had to be respectful of the garments and the fabric, you couldn’t just pick any… I would go on buying trips with Lucas which felt like visiting the best wineries with a really good wine guy. Everything had to be done with care, too. He’s such a good technician, half my wardrobe is filled with his clothes. There was an artistic value too, but he was so respectful of tradition, and with tailoring too, he loved it. It’s rare to see a guy like this in fashion, which is why I’m really grateful.

Polaroid Diary: Backstage at Boramy Viguier SS20


JH: Was leaving to start your own label always the ultimate goal?
BV: At one point, you want to be responsible for the full process. When you’re working in a fashion house, you end up being a designer. With your own company, you’re responsible for the whole thing from A-Z, so you can really transform the garments within the system. You always want to do something when you’re working for someone, but it has to be validated and you can’t be too pushy. There is censorship sometimes, so you start to say, “If that was me, I would have done it like this.” When you say that to yourself too much, you have to go.

JH: You pretty quickly developed an aesthetic around mysticism and symbolism, how did that come about?
BV: I just grew up being drawn to sacred spaces. The most impactful thing that happened to my childhood was going with my mum to these churches that were super Baroque. You see Jesus bleeding as a kid, and you’re like “What the hell?” Visually, it’s really impactful. It’s not even about being religious or not, it’s just about the impact of that aesthetic created by the mysticism of those codes.

JH: There’s a kind of hybridity to your work, this idea of mixing formal clothes with sportswear details. Is that something you think speaks to what people want today?
BV: This is something that Lucas taught me: it’s not that the garment has to be accessible, but it does have to be technically wearable. We talked about religion, but the main love really is for the garments, all of them. If you look at my last collection, there’s sportswear, military, a banker’s outfit – I’m drawn to any of that. But the idea is to mix those references in a way that makes you forget about their initial reference. To me, that creates something that’s more enigmatic or interesting, at least I hope.

Photography Rafael Dubus

JH: You talked earlier this year about the importance of a runway show. Given everything that’s going on, do you still feel that way or do you see the format adapting?
BV: It’s especially important now. It’s inevitable we’ll go into a more digital world, but it’s impacting the outcome, too. I don’t agree with that. The market is dominated by streetwear and printed tees because it’s mainly sold online. If a guy shops online, he has to go for a shape and a fabric that he knows – a t-shirt, a sweatshirt – because he can’t try it on or touch it and if the visual is crazy then it’s okay, because he has a picture. With this culture of digital shopping and Instagram, it doesn’t help to have a very enigmatic product at the end.

JH: And that ties into the importance of maintaining the show format.
BV: It’s because we’re going into a digital world that we have to keep analogue resources, like a fashion show or a physical presentation. Even with fashion shows, sometimes it’s not enough. When I see the guys at Chanel, they’re 200 metres away from girls walking in a room filled with maybe 800 people. I think the ultimate value today is in the proximity you have to the product. I like that the fashion show is part of tradition, too. I’m not the guy that’s going to say, “Fuck all the rules.” There have to be some rules, that way you can play with them.

“I know everyone is saying the future of fashion is VR and you can watch it on your toilet, but I’m not really excited by this future to be honest.”

Photography Rafael Dubus

JH: So you believe in twisting the format rather than overturning it completely?
BV: Yes. I was looking at archive footage of post-war fashion shows in the 1950s, where the girls walked super slowly with notices stating their look numbers. It’s funny to see how the fashion show has evolved, but it’s still a fashion show – that’s the kind of evolution that works. I know everyone is saying the future of the fashion is VR and you can watch it on your toilet, but I’m not really excited by this future to be honest.

JH: Is that your mission going forward – to maintain those traditional codes but continue to put your own spin on them?
BV: I hope so. You can watch a play on your MacBook in bed, but it’s much better to see it in real life, the same with a concert, it’s better to see a guy dancing and sweating than to watch it on your phone. So yes, I do hope to show the garments in reality and I do think that’s still valuable, because life is unreal enough as it is.

Read Next