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JULIEN FOURNIÉ:  Inevitable Rise 

January 11, 2017

Portrait Julien Fournié by Rasmus Mogensen

Additional photography by Gilles-Marie Zimmermann 

Paris, France – Year’s ago this writer became one of the first to do an extensive piece of the designer Julien Fournié. At that time he had just recently become the newly appointed artistic director of the legendary house of Torrente Haute Couture. He was young, a bit brash, and extremely optimistic about the future of haute couture and the role that he would one day be called upon to play.

In that aforementioned article written more than a dozen years ago and titled,  “The Three Tigers of Haute Couture”, I did interviews with Fournié and two others. The second is Pascal Millet, who had just left Givenchy to become the artistic director at Carven. And the third is the independent couturier, Eymeric François, who was a former pupil of Thierry Mugler. Since that time each of these persons has evolved in very different ways. Though he continues to do well-received work, François has fallen from official recognition by the haute couture establishment. And Pascal Millet has found great success as a ready-to-wear designer at his own eponymously named fashion house. Of them, only Julien Fournié reached the coveted holy grail of haute couture.

Earlier this month, the Federation Française de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture announced that its members has convened on December 16, 2016 and elected two new members to full status of haute couture. The legendary house Schiaparelli, which was founded in the 1930s by Elsa Schiaparelli and Julien Fournié are those two. They now sit in fashion’s pantheon of haute couture along with Adeline André, Alexandre Vauthier, Alexis Mabille, Chanel, Christian Dior, Franck Sorbier, Giambattista Valli, Givenchy, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Maison Margiela, Maurizio Galante, Schiaparelli, Stéphane Rolland and Yiqing Yin.


JULIEN FOURNIÉ – Première Lumière

Jean-Paul Cauvin is President at the house of Julien Fournié. When asked about his immediate sentiments upon learning of Fournié’s ascension to the title of grand couturier, he commented:

My first feelings looking over the 15 prestigious names to which Julien Fournié is now associated were historical in a certain way… I mean when you consider things from the beginnings of Haute Couture in the second half of the 19th Century, there are actually very few names on the list. Julien Fournié is part of the ninth generation of grand couturiers. This is a real honor, but it also implies a great responsibility for the future.”

Cauvin went on to rhetorically ask and then state, “What will we give to the next generations ? Looking back to the history of haute Couture gave me a sense of involvement into the future, because Haute Couture has always been and should always strike the right balance between the excellence of the heritage and the endeavours of innovation. This is the path that previous generations of couturiers have opened . It is now our task to find a new expression for Haute Couture today and humbly dare contribute to this goal.”

The look of Julien Fournié is axed in modernity. Over the years his work has been characterized by fluidity, softness and emotion. This is achieved through the communion that seems to exist between not only the couturier and his teams, but also between him and the elements with which he elects to works such as the fabrics, the forms, the embroideries, etc. All conjugated into one force, it oftens results in a compelling sense of liberty.

Fournié is a graduate of the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. Since leaving Torrente, he embarked on various creative adventures with other companies. Among the more surprising is his collaboration with the European multinational software company Dassault, which develops 3D design, 3D digital mock-up, etc. With them he created the FashionLab, through which he continues to bring modern innovations into his work.

He officially established his fashion house in 2009. In 2010 he received the prestigious Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris award!  This eventually led to the Chambre Syndicale officially recognizing his couture in 2011 by extension of an invitation for him to show his collections on the official haute couture calendar. Since that time and through his boldness for taking chances and by occassionally causing an eyebrow or two to raise high, he has quietly gained a faithful clientel of wealthy women from the United States, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc. And among the most famous fans of his works, he counts Lady Gaga and Beyoncé among the celebrity set that wear his creations.

Of course over the years there have been other designers to appear on the official haute couture calendar as invited members. Some of them actually have been granted the title of grand couturier and the recognition of “haute couture” status for their work. However many of them have simply vanished into the night as if by magic. Julien Fournié is their contemporary. However he gained an understanding along the way that helped to make the real difference. This has kept his busy afloat in the couture business whereas some of his contemporaries have clearly failed.

“The most important thing I have learnt as a designer in this venture is to use my energy in the most positive manner,” said the newly minted grand couturier in exclusive comments with “I mean simply by paying more and more attention to the people who appreciate my work, who support our house, who love my style … and leave less and less room (In my mind of course) to the kind who are negative. Accepting that you cannot be appreciated by everybody is at the core of this process and has given me more freedom.”

In an interview that this journalists did with a foreign television about two years ago, I accurately predicted that Julien Fournié would soon receive the haute couture status. Time has proven my instincts to be once again correct. However, it would simply be remiss of Fournié to attribute his rise to this coveted honor based solely on sheer talent or luck or even to being well-surrounded by a talented team.

If one is careful to examine his career, and particularly since his Torrente days, one must note that he possesses something that many designers clearly do not. While developing and honing his artistic skills, he has also acquired a true knowledge of the business concepts behind the couture.  And thanks to this his real understanding, he has a true ease in speaking the language of business. He can comfortably lecture on the evolution in business models, technical innovations, the supply chain, distribution and the ever-evolving relationships that exist between brands and multibrand department stores. This has allowed him to not only impose his work as haute couture, but to also launch successful lines including ready-to-wear, shoes, and accessories. — THIS IS A LESSON THAT ALL CONTEMPORARY DESIGNERS WOULD DO VERY WELL LEARN AND TO MASTER!!!