Parisian fashion has dominated the worldâ€™s haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion industries for decades, but what about the streets? With no official trademark style, Coltesse is a mishmash of unique and slightly whimsical graphics, with only one consistent and underlying theme: French creativity. A brand based on collective artistry and inspirations offers a very limited Spring/Summer 2008 collection, titled SS08 collection offering only six t-shirts for purchase. Florent Biard, owner and lead hustler of Coltesse, tries to articulate his efforts in building a fresh streetwear brand from the ground up.
â€œWhen a work pleases us, we do not look at the artistâ€™s nationality. However, our choices are influenced by our own culture, and this is how we remain a French brand.â€
Format: Please state who you are and your role at Coltesse.
Florent Biard: I am Florent Biard, the owner of Coltesse. I am the one that gets in touch with the artists we collaborate with, then we chose artwork together, and I spend weeks talking to the factories to print the exact t-shirt we want! That’s kind of artistic too, I guess.
Format: Coltesse began in 2006. How did the line come about, and how have you evolved since your inception?
Florent Biard: Iâ€™ve always kept the same state of mind; the idea has always been the same. But if we were talking purely about the products, I would say that it took me a few attempts to find the cut I wanted for my t-shirts. Actually, I never found it, that’s why I decided to design them myself.
The people I work with also have a huge importance. Early on in this adventure, I linked up with Tom (tomontherock), an artist who had already designed a few pieces for the brand. We started working together on the artistic direction. The two of us can talk about anything together and this is what really helped Coltesse evolve. We sort of â€œfound each other.â€ He was like a key to this projectâ€™s lock! And in this adventure we always maintain the same philosophy: never plan, just work with people we like—graphic designers, illustrators, and others! We are always looking for new artists.
Format: How does the Parisian streetwear scene differ from every other streetwear scene in the world?
Florent Biard: The french streetwear is growing up every day, and it tries to get his own way, even if it is really influenced by the american and the asian street culture.
We are probably working more on the lenght, if we compare some of our brands to some american ones. I think we try more and more to get closer to the asian cuts, which appears sometimes more like high fashion. We, Parisians, are really influenced by high fashion and the clothing we could call “high streetwear”. Just hanging out in the streets, we can discover the news from the worlwide streetwear scene.
And concerning the designers, I don’t think we can speak of the parisian scene. It is more like composed of individualities you know. Everybody makes his own thing, on his own side, but there are pretty interesting projects that comes out following this way. Things are starting to change, and probably in a few years, there will be a real parisian scene which will be attractive for everyone, from Tokyo to New York City.
We can also say that Paris is really interesting for the stores that always grow up, from Colette to Aimecube. Our brand is currently sold at Aimecube, a store that trusts us from the begining. We are really proud of being one of the brand they carry.
Format: With a long European history in architecture and art in general, how do these factors contribute to your artists today?
Florent Biard: To tell the truth, youâ€™d have to ask them directly, but at the moment they are all on vacation. We work with European graphic designers, but also with Americans (Spaceknukle) and I think they are all influenced in a different way. They do not limit themselves to a geographical zone necessarily, even if itâ€™s the environment theyâ€™ve known since they were children.
Format: Tell us a little about the collaborations for Spring/Summer 08.
Florent Biard: Tomontherock is a big part of the collection and is joined Guillaumit, Spaceknuckle, and Ndeur.
Spaceknuckle is a member of the KDU (Keystone Design Union) and works from visual documents that are patiently collected. For Coltesse he has designed a drawing, which honors B series movies from the last century.
Tomontherock likes to play with double meanings: “loop the loop” is a wink at the first roller coaster of history and at modern techniques of musical creations. He is obsessed with pipes, multiplies lines, and details to disorient the viewer with his “velo” design.
Ndeur has realized a visual that is full of energy in contrast with a gradation in matching tones. It takes us back to the artistâ€™s crazy graphical universe, an outline on his custom sneakers and high heel shoes.
Guillaumit is a graphic artist and member of Gangpol Und Mit (concert that takes part in Japan, Germany, France, and other countries) and offers a character holding a candle. His castle is a playground, always designed from primary colors and simple geometrical forms.
Format: Have you collaborated with international artists? If so, which ones?
Florent Biard: We have worked with Alex Trochut, from Barcelona, the Italian Fidia Falaschetti, and the American Spaceknuckle. These are three different spaces, three different minds. I’m sure you’ve already heard of at least one of them, maybe on formatmag.com!
Format: How important is it to support your “homegrown” Parisian artists?
Florent Biard: We donâ€™t want to tell ourselves that we are obliged to do it, even if the majority of our artists are French. Of course, it is always great to be able to work with a French artist because, very simply, we can meet and talk more easily. Also, we are proud to support our French touch.
That being said, we do not constrain ourselves to this. When a work pleases us, we do not look at the artistâ€™s nationality. However, our choices are influenced by our own culture, and this is how we remain a French brand.
Format: Which t-shirt was your favorite piece from your S/S08 collection and why?
Florent Biard: Who do you love more, your father or your mother? I guess I could chooseâ€¦But you know what I mean, we are proud of the entire collection and the people that worked on it. Personally, itâ€™s been six months since I began working on the line and have had much time to reflect. Therefore, it would probably be the visual impacts of Spaceknuckle that speak to me on a certain level.
Format: Please name the strongest artist to ever come out of France.
Florent Biard: Goya, Chantal. Most important songs: “Isabelle, c’est la fille de Babar” & “Un lapin”. Or maybe Paul CÃ©zanne.
Format: Where can we find your products internationally?
Florent Biard: In a lot of cool, new places very soon. We are currently coordinating the logistics. Right now, you can find us in Paris, of course at Aimecube and OFR Bookshop, and in Sydney, Australia, at Disrupt.
Format: When will you move into cut and sew?
Florent Biard: We are working on this already. We started on the cut of our t-shirts first; we started from scratch to get our own true style. We want to take the time to do things right. The reactions on our quality has been really good; we want to come out with something that is irreproachable.
Format: For your Fall 2008 collection, you draw inspiration from comic books. Can you tell us about this imagery?
Florent Biard : Ah hah! Not yet, there will be some surprises.
Format: What else can we expect for Fall 2008?
Florent Biard: Some new artists with different visions, different pasts… Just wait and see! There will be more t-shirts and more retailers.
Format: What is next for Coltesse?
Florent Biard: We have so many things in mind! More collaborations, always more encounters. We will stay fresh with open minds, open hearts, open eyes. Some sweatshirts. An exhibition would be really cool. Weâ€™ll continue to work hard!