Christine Lombard - Guylaine Tilleau
From Press to Brand creation
Nowadays, more and more fashion editors or journalists become designers; some work as consultants in the shadows, others only take part in a specific project while some others shift to designing a whole new brand. Yet, how do they shift from photo styling to designing? Guylaine Tilleau and Christine Lombard are both fashion editors, and each one of them has launched her very own brand. Christine Lombard has begun a range of scarves - limited editions - made 100% in Lyon while Guylaine revisits vintage sarees and turns them into unique pieces with her HAND.SØ.ON brand.
Please tell us about your careers, how did you become fashion editors?
Guylaine: I began as an intern for Depeche Mode, an influencial magazine back in the 90s. Christine: I have loved fashion since early childhood: when I was 6, I asked my parents for a book on the history of costume and a box of 40 pencils. I'd spend my time drawing whole wardrobes, according to their era, on cardboard characters I made myself. When I arrived in Paris, I began practicing theatre with Jérôme Savary's company Le Grand Magic Circus through a chance meeting. It was a university of life, a life of shared moments, of colours, and glitters. Then I decided to make my dream come true and knocked at every magazine's door. I was lucky: Alice Morgaine, then director of Jardin des Modes, hired me as an intern. Then Marie Claire magazine was looking for an assistant and then things came one after another.
What about your greatest professional encounter?
G: Catherine Alain-Bernard, chief editor at ELLE, back in the great era of the 80s/90s. Her input on my work confirmed the path I had chosen. She taught me the most important elements to work as a fashion editor. I have made sure to follow her precious pieces of advice through my career. C: Mako Yamazaki, editor at Marie Claire and a great fashion lady, whose assistant I became. Learning from her and working with her were pure bliss! She has then kept an eye on me throughout my career, always ready to advise me or to support my application, especially when I began as editor at Cosmopolitan. Loyalty is a great quality in the fashion world - not always easy though.
How do you explain your wish to design a new brand?
G: I wanted to make a personal project come true. I had been looking for a while for an idea that would suit me and that I would love. C: I designed my scarf brand to enjoy drawing again, to work with colours and to keep telling stories with photos - something magazines don't really allow for anymore these days.
How did you dive in?
G: I came upon a bunch of vintage sarees made from delicate silks and with sublime and fascinating patterns. I was very keen to give them a second life as contemporary pieces. This meant perpetuating the traditional know-how from India, Mauritania, and Indonesia, associated with the finery of traditional hand-made Moroccan embroidery, a kind of worldwide product respecting the materials' original beauty. C: As far as I am concerned, diving in has much to do with pure madness.
Are these two jobs compatible?
G: They complement one another. A creative glance cast at two passions. C: They are compatible indeed. With my journalistic eye, I remain filled with wonder when I look at designers' talent.
Your worst professional blunders?
G: The day I met a famous designer and called him by another famous designer's name. More recently, as a “designer”, when a client put on one of my silk items. I told her it fitted her perfectly well but that it shouldn't be worn with lace panties. Well, she was not wearing any lace panties! C: While working as an assistant, I remember burning a piece of clothing when I ironed it, I felt so embarrassed!
Knowing the world of the press from the inside as you do, what do you expect from it concerning your brands?
G: The press and its recognition are an incredible springboard to launch a brand and to make it well known. This results in immediate and -above all- long reaching effects bringing a major visibility. Press agents are a great help as they relentlessly honour journalists' request while putting up with the pressure from their ever more demanding clients. C: When I started my brand, I had press reviews I would never have had had I not been working in this world for 30 years. Yet I could see how less of an impact printed words have compared with online contents. To me, the digital revolution regarding fashion can be compared to the shift from silent to talking films. All the communication roles have changed!
Practically speaking, how do you advertise your brands?
G: I organise private sales along with other designers, this enables me to enlarge my target and to make new contacts. I rely mostly on this, on creating a word-of-mouth effect. Social networks are also very important to widen my target.C: Instagram and Facebook are my two major means of communication. However, nothing compares to a real contact afterwards, to real encounters and to girlfriend networks. Humanely speaking, it is really rewarding. For instance, I only knew Guylaine from press officers' open days and only really met her thanks to us starting our own brands. Lucille Renié, the designer of L'épingle du Je is also one of such great encounters.
Have you considered hiring a press agent?
G: For the time being, my product is unique, I guess it is too soon and I cannot afford it yet. C: I have, of course, but I can't afford it yet.
How could you advise a young brand ready to start?
G: Follow your instinct. Passion is what guides us and propels us towards new moves. This requires dedication and involvement. C: Dare!
What major problems were you not expecting when you began?
G: The amount of work! Dealing with everything from A to Z: sourcing the fabrics, permanetly following up the tailoring of each piece with the workshop; both are extremely time-consuming. Choosing to design unique models from unique fabrics implies that each fabric should be created individually so as to overimpose the pattern the best possible way in order to emphasize the fabrics' patterns. The commercial, admnistrative and web-oriented commmunication sides I had never experienced as a fashion editor.C: I had no idea how much the commercial side took over the creative one.
Could you tell us more about your artistic worlds as designers?
G: The concept of HAND.SØ.ON is a unique piece of clothing originated from ancestral traditions and recycled through another country's design process. It is meant for informed clients keen on precious fabrics and manual know-how.
Credits: Eric Matheron-BalaÃ¿, Natacha Sénéchal, Magali Pilloux.C: My scarves blend two different worlds: that of drawing and photography. It is quite the same approach as laying out a fashion photo series in a magazine except here we are working on fabric. Yet I do not merely edit photos on a white silk scarf! I pay huge importance to colours, and preferably to halftones and toneless colours. Colours are like a trip coming along with the photo.
Your projects: which side is going to take over? Fashion editor or designer?
G: I love working as a fashion editor. I love making up fashion stories and making sure the stories turn out well, with my team, while respecting the obligations that today's magazines impose upon us. My “capsule” collection is a new adventure bringing me a lot of satisfaction and a different kind of creativity. I hope this balance will continue even though I know how uncertain the future of the press is in today's context. C: Right now, I would like to develop scarves from other fabrics, and more particularly cashmere. Then, we'll see. But the ideas are here.
Who do you nominate for Pressday's next interview?
G: Charla Carter, my chief editor at Gala. She is such a professional woman, with incredible energy. Her expertise has given her a great open-mindedness towards my subject proposals and she allows me to express my sensitivity on the fashion style I like. C: Lucille Renié, who has successfully begun working in relooking and styling advice with her new brand L'épingle du Je. As a former fashion editor she worked for different newspapers for 25 years, and was in charge of fashion at Femme Actuelle for quite a long time.
“The press and its recognition are an incredible springboard to launch a brand and to make it well known.”