"The modern luxury buyer will inherently and increasingly venture into the world of couture" – Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris' Lisa Michelle Boyd
" The name Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris, is a homage to the legacy of a great furrier, Jean Pierre's Great Grandfather, the man at the helm of the furrier who supplies Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris today. He started the furrier in the year 1917 in Paris," explains Lisa Michelle Boyd, the Creative Director behind the luxury label.
In June 2014, shortly after relocating to Paris, from Los Angeles, where Boyd had worked as a stylist, she conceptualised Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris. Here she talks to Buro 24/7 Middle East's columnist Farouk Chekoufi about her emerging brand, prêt-a-couture and why fast fashion is growing like a virus.
How would you describe the Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris woman?
Her taste lends itself left of arcane, she is interested in being, not just having. Her luxury purchases reflect her luxury lifestyle. She is not purchasing for status but for her own desire. She regards absolute luxury as an art, and is well versed in true luxuy ideals; that of heritage, origin, rarity and craftsmanship. She is a sophisticated collector, and understands, and appreciates the exceptional. She is the new modern buyer of absolute luxury.
Couture is a part of her lifestyle, not just to wear on occasion. She is building a wardrobe, not one to be jettisoned but one that will tell a future story. She purchases for her wardrobe needs. Not for the season. She is a fashion collector. She is a muse to many. I am inspired by her strong femininity, which effortlessly allows for masculine elements in her wardrobe. If she does not yet have a signature scent, she is working on it. She is decadent, somewhat aloof, passionate, captivating, beautifully alluring. Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris speaks to this woman, with a defined minimalist modern point of view towards luxury and design, it is decadent by nature of its fabrications and construction, but has a functionality that is timeless, the collection is not a novelty, it is not superficial, it is not for everyone.
What is the DNA of Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris?
The roots of Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris lie in the 100-year-old exacting techniques of the artisanal, meter d'art craftsman we collaborate with, Jean Pierre Terzakou — a French fourth generation furrier. Our furrier holds the highest accreditations in fur, with the prestigious "entreprise du patrimoine vivant", which celebrates the relentless pursuit of excellence through the continued use of highly skilled handcrafting techniques that have shaped the history of French couture. Our fur also garners the EPY, and origin assured credentials, confirming the ethical practices of dyeing techniques and the important assurance of the fur's origin, documenting the ethical sourcing of our fur and exotics. The proportions and silhouettes are refined, timeless and reverent. Edition one is more a case study in the exploration of these techniques in modern luxury fur. It is a beautiful passage into couture. It is a curated collection of the infectious passion of the heritage in fur.
How did you first get involved in the fashion industry?
My first entry into the fashion industry was through fashion and celebrity styling. I have been fortunate to have had a beautiful career as a celebrity stylist working closely with A-list celebrities, fashion brands, and the most influential photographers and publications globally. Creating my own collection was a natural extension of my work as a stylist.
What makes Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris unique as a luxury brand?
I think its evolution is unique, in that every piece in the collection is special, that the entire collection is absolute modern luxury, that, it is entirely made of fur and exotics. It is entirely made in France, it is entirely hand cut and hand constructed. It has a focused sincere optimism for true luxury, born in a time of design where the word luxury is misused, where the line "made in France" is misrepresented, where if you pull apart the exterior you are saddened by what lies beneath.
Many brands use high luxury to introduce their products into new markets. Can you tell us more about Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris' approach to Prêt-a-couture?
I think our approach to pret-a couture is quite simply what the words imply. We want to extend couture and luxury into your day-to-day dress. Couture purchases should not be limited to a special gown you wear once to a particular event. That, of course, is a beautiful moment in your wardrobe, but why limit this special feeling to an event. I see Dix Neuf Dix Sept Oaris as apart of your dress in your daily luxury lifestyle. Luxuy purchases need not seem so extraordinary that you question where you will wear them. True luxury must fit seamlessly into ones lifestyle. It should be experienced, lived. Our approach is unique in that the entire collection is exotic. Our use of mink and broadtail is decadent but the silhouettes are fundamentally modern in proportion and silhouette. Men wear made to measure suits everyday. In fact bespoke is almost second nature in the modern man's luxury lifestyle, why not the same feeling be extended to a women's wardrobe. Women desire custom fit, selection of exquisite fabrications, custom dyed colour and personal attention in their daily wardrobe as well. There is no comparison to bespoke. It can become an addiction. If you have the aptitude to discover, why would you not?
What does your typical day look like?
It changes depending on what phase of the design process I'm in. But typically my mornings in Paris are spent absorbing inspiration. I live in a quarter of Paris that is full of wonderful galleries of art, sculptor and furnishings so I like to discover and study the pieces I love in person. Then I usually read and respond to emails — my least favourite thing to do.
By early afternoon, my meetings start at the studio. I meet with the workshop to go over something we are testing or exploring. Watching it take shape is one of my favourite parts of the process. We go over skins that have been dyed; this is quite difficult at times. Fur reacts to colour very particularly, as each pelt is unique. It often takes numerous dye tests to achieve the closest idea of the colour you want. It can be quite costly, as dyeing is not an exact science. Each dye bath is a new possibility and potentially a new colour. And you have to dye many skins at a time, so you often play a very expensive game of roulette, and it does not help that I am a perfectionist!
There are always meetings with pattern makers, toile fittings with a fit model, meetings with our jewellery collaborator — this is another extraordinary part of the collection. In each edition of Dix Neuf Dix Sept Paris, I want to use gemstones, both semi-precious and precious. In edition one we used citrine quartz. We made beautiful pins with our collaborator Goossens Paris, the long time collaborator of Yves Saint Laurent. Then I usually end the day with a written re-cap and after midnight I continue the creative work researching, sketching and storyboarding. Usually sleep begins for me at around 2am.
Talk us through your artisanal process...
Each piece has its own process, and artisanal techniques. However, with all of the pieces in the collection, we begin with a selection of skins, which have the same texture and thickness according to the pattern. In the case of our velvet mink (it's sheared and plucked female mink), which we dye paying attention to the variations in hair, colour, and size. We then stretch the skins to gain length or width, after the skin is allowed to dry naturally. The skin is then cut by hand according to the pattern, with a blade. The piece is then sewn and finished by hand according to the toile. Lastly, the finishing, lining, pockets, padding and hooks are added by hand. The hours involved depend on the piece but the embroidery mink catsuit, for example, totals 1,950 hours to construct.
What does luxury mean to you?
True luxury is beautifully quiet, yet holds your attention. It is special in a way that is decadent but not frivolous, it is timeless, it is refined, it is reverent, it is rare. Often arcane it is desirous, but never superficial. Luxury has integrity and authenticity. Luxury is a beautifully made product, crafted to last, with laborious attention to detail. It is an extension of the artisan who crafted it, made with pride and passion.
You tend to keep your life on the private side. So what role does social media play in your life and how does it effect your work?
It is true I am very private. I am not a social media documenter but I do respect those who are. I respect its relevance, and at times there is a curiosity, but my curiosity to engage is fleeting. This may change, but for the moment the collection and the experience I want surrounding the brand is very intimate and vastly inaccessible, intentionally.
What significant changes have you witnessed in the industry recently?
I think the vast amount of commercial choices has increased substantially, the fashion buying seasons are shorter, the calendar cycle is in hyper mode, it seems creatively exhausting. Because of this, the customer's attention span is shorter as well. I used to feel like brands spoke directly in design, marketing and communication with a specific woman, with a specific lifestyle. Now it's like a free for all, the distinguishing lines are unclear. But I look at this phenomenon as a huge opportunity for couture, prêt-a-couture and, of course, sustainability in products made with integrity, ethically.
Fast fashion is growing like a virus
What do you think is the future of prêt-a-couture?
Ironically, all the aspects of commercial fashion are increasing fervor towards the prêt-a-couture culture. There are those who have the ability to experience the very best of fashion and see how far reaching the impact of couture has on the quality of life, environment and the planet. The modern luxury buyer will inherently and increasingly venture into the world of couture. It is a fact that fast fashion has a severe negative impact on human lives, and the planet. It produces an inordinate amount of waste and pollution as well as promotes and supports unsavory working conditions for those that produce the goods. Couture inherently supports craftsmanship.
I also need to mention an interesting point: faux fur. Faux fur is one of the worst products for the environment. It is chemically processed and made from non-renewable petroleum-based products. It uses three times the amount of energy to produce it too. And more often than not faux fur ends up in landfills after one season, along with most fast fashion. I recently read that it takes up to 1000 years to decompose; it's literally an extra large plastic bag. Additionally, the unethical working practice of manufacturing this product creates a riskier health environment due to the carcinogenic omissions. Ethically sourced, origin assured skins are the soundest sustainable modern options. I am optimistic about the power and impact the new modern luxury buyer has on the world.
How do you keep your ideas and creative dialogue fresh?
By constantly exploring...