Most designers today begin developing their collections by gathering images of clothes from decades past; few designers, however, are willing to admit it. Thankfully, Marie-Ève Lecavalier is perfectly open about rehashing the fashion of her childhood. The French Canadian designer—whose namesake label Lecavalier is inspired by the trippy style codes of the ’60s and ’70s—is all about bringing throwback style moments into the present, thanks to her firm emphasis on upcycling. “I was really, really bored,” Lecavalier says of growing up in the suburbs of Montreal, Quebec. She would often imagine living in alternate realities or eras, and picture herself as the characters populating the eccentric music that her parents, both musicians, were listening to (such as Walter Wanderley, an organist in the late 1960s). This quirky upbringing informs the consciously retro aesthetic she channels today. “I always felt like the weirdo and the outcast,” she said. “Still as an adult, I’m always living between reality and fiction. I’m always connected with this child that I was, weirdly.”
Lecavalier launched the label in 2016, but her first official collection for Spring 2019 was swiftly picked up by the Montreal retailer Ssense. It included contemporary twists on the groovy spirit she grew up obsessed with, such as crocheted knitwear, wide-leg denim with leather edging, and oversized, masculine shirts covered in hypnotic, warped pinstripes (this wavy print is now a recurring motif in her work). The pieces were based on prototypes Lecavalier made while completing her master’s degree at the HEAD Geneva School of Art and Design in Switzerland, during which she interned with Raf Simons. (“Raf has a straight-to-the-point way of working with forms and shapes,” she says of what she learned from him.) Last year, buzz around Lecavalier grew after she won the Chloé Prize at the Festival d’Hyères in France, becoming even more feverish when, in 2019, when she was shortlisted for the LVMH Prize.
Lecavalier’s latest Spring 2020 collection only reiterates her joy in throwing it back. The new line is inspired by ’60s cabaret movies and their glamorous leading ladies, with Catherine Deneuve in The April Fools serving as one of the collection’s primary references. Much like the dreamer mentality that underpins her broader creative outlook, the designer said these films provided her with a necessary sense of escapism as a child. “I love the stories of the adults [in cabaret movies], because they’re always leaving this stuck-up life to live their truth in the moment,” Lecavalier said. “When I was a kid, I was really shy. I couldn’t really express myself. The first way I started expressing myself was through dance.”
The Spring offering is heavy on the mod-inspired charm that made the costumes of her chosen decade for inspiration so unique, reworking her signature swirly prints onto everything from oversized T-shirt dresses and turtlenecks to jersey tank dresses with matching gloves. Lecavalier also experimented with more structured shapes this season, whether adding a thick bustier belt to a pair of tailored white trousers, or slipping a corset overtop a slinky gown. Most importantly, perhaps, she also ramped up her use of upcycled fabrics, something the brand has focused on from the start—her new “Cabaret” dress, for instance, is made from circular leather scraps that were discarded by luxury fashion houses due to defects.
Eventually, the designer hopes to make her brand fully sustainable, but for now, she is implementing as many upcycled fabrics into the line as possible. “As the new generation of designers, we need to find new ways to produce and create,” Lecavalier said of her growing focus on the brand’s environmental footprint. “Especially with leather, there’s so much rejected within the industry that you can buy it for really, really cheap prices. I like the idea of creating something unique, precious, and expensive with stuff that people didn’t bother to use.” You’ll definitely want to bother, however, with keeping your eye on Lecavalier—and her quiet conviction that what’s old can always be new again.
Originally Appeared on Vogue