Mosaert’s latest fashion line, capsule no. 2, has been very successful. Within three weeks of the collection’s debut, Colette.fr, the only point of sale shipping to North America, had limited availability, with some styles sold out in certain sizes. Now, less than six weeks after its release, the collection is completely sold out at Colette.
Will there be a third Mosaert fashion capsule? How often does Mosaert plan to release a new capsule? What are the inspirations for the collective’s designs? What is Stromae’s personal relationship with fashion? Last month, Stromae and the other members of the Mosaert creative label (stylist Coralie Barbier, artistic director Luc Junior Tam, graphic arts duo Boldatwork, and manager Dimitri Borrey) conducted several interviews with the francophone press at Colette, one of the trendiest boutiques in Paris, where they had chosen to release their second fashion capsule.
We’ve translated selections from three of the interviews into English so anglophones can be just as in-the-know as francophones. (Spoiler alert: yes, we can expect new products from Mosaert in 2015.) Click on the titles of the publications in each headline to read the original interviews in French.
What’s the history of the collective?
Stromae: We met two years ago in a purely professional setting. I knew the name of the graphic designers of the collective; we had already crossed paths because Brussels is tiny. They had already worked with my manager and my brother before, and I realized that it was necessary to have confidence in people whose job it was. Very selfishly I wanted to make clothes for myself, because I couldn’t find what I needed. I was leaning towards batik, and following my meeting with Coralie, who advised me about techniques for digital prints and other things I didn’t know about, I realized that I had to work with graphic designers. That‘s how we made my first pieces, which were also used in my song videos in correlation with the Stromae project, and we said why shouldn’t Mosaert exist completely separately? That’s also why it carries the name Mosaert. Whether in music, in video, we try to be as creative as possible.
Although the word “capsule” implies this idea, as far as the number of pieces, of different products, and the number of colors, the capsule is very limited. Why the decision to reduce the choice so much? Is this a strategy related to the exclusivity of the product, a desire to optimize your efficiency, or the result of an economic constraint?
A little for all the reasons you mention and especially because we are a very small team. We’re multitasking a little, we take care of creating motifs and styles, production monitoring, creation of visuals, management of points of sales and inventory, preparing and sending packages, and customer service. For us it’s a new project, that is why we are moving forward little by little. For each capsule we hope to offer a different article. For our capsule no. 2, for example, we added a pullover sweater and cardigans to the polo shirts and socks …
It also seems important for you to position your label in a up-market straitjacket, by manufacturing in Europe, the rather burdensome prices of products, and the exclusive distribution of your products (in only 3 shops). Why this choice?
Coralie Barbier: We don’t especially want to position ourselves in an upscale market, it’s just that we hold dear the idea of producing in Europe. That’s why our prices are higher than H&M or Zara, for example. Also we don’t have the same quantities. Our products are currently distributed in 3 boutiques because we’re starting out, but we hope to have other points of sale in the future.
What’s changed from the first collection?
Coralie Barbier: Before there were only polos and socks. Here we’ve added cardigans and pullovers.
Stromae: The collars have also changed a little bit, they’re more rounded. That’s what’s called Peter Pan collars.
Is the collection completely unisex?
Coralie Barbier: Yes, each style of clothing has one and the same cut. That’s why we work with stretchy materials like jersey and knit which adapt easily to body types. Paul often says “It bugs me that they’d make this for girls and not for boys.” That’s how the three-quarter sleeves came about. So that establishes an original and interesting approach for me.
Stromae: Yes, for example, for women, the short sleeves are pretty basic, but for men I’ve never seen that. We have to roll up our sleeves. This is a risk.
And the print?
The graphic artists: We’re very inspired by the drawings of the Dutch artist Escher which have allowed us to breathe modernity and originality into the fabrics.
Stromae: In the end, taking up batik patterns (African fabrics) as such isn’t new. I’ve seen my aunts wearing this fabric since the 80’s.
Coralie Barbier: The batik printing technique is super interesting. For us it’s a digital print.
Where do you manufacture?
Coralie Barbier: We’re trying to manufacture in Europe. The knit is knitted in Belgium and the polos are also printed in Belgium. And the socks are completely made in France.
What are the sales outcomes?
Stromae: Quite good! At first I wasn’t thinking that was could break even, but we have. Everything or almost everything is sold. And then, I was happy that we separated Stromae from Mosaert and didn’t fall into merchandising.
Coralie Barbier: Yes, because Mosaert isn’t a marketing tool. We’re not making t-shirts with Paul’s image on them.
Will there be other collections?
Stromae: In principal, two per year, but nothing’s stopping us from waiting a little longer and bringing out a bigger collection in a year. That’s the advantage of the capsule.
Paul, rumor has it that you’re going to stop doing music for awhile. Will this pause serve as a time for you to develop something else?
Stromae: I’m not stopping at all! I’ll only stop when the tour finishes, in October 2015. If I stop after a tour, which everyone in music does, it’s just to experience normal things, to get inspired and maybe do this too. To be honest, Coralie carries the project along more than I do, in the sense that she’s the one who’s in regular contact with everyone. Later I know what’s going on but I’m not there all the time.
When you look at the class photo, you have the impression that the collection is only for those at the top of the class?
Stromae: No, no! It’s not just the top students here. There are also rebels, playboys, girls who spend the day in front of the mirror, even if they all look quite neat and tidy. I’m like that myself too. That’s my polite, diplomatic side.
Les Inrocks interview
Mosaert’s clothing first became known through the public character of Stromae, who uses them for his costumes. What led the collective to produce commercial collections?
Luc Junior Tam: Stromae’s world is powerful: the visuals were already extremely well-thought-out for the shows. Paul wanted this to be transimitted also through the clothes, and that’s how it started. It quickly became obvious that we wanted to go beyond the stage.
Paul Van Haver/Stromae: And that also evolved through the support. This isn’t just a copy-and-paste of Stromae’s world that we’ve put in place. It’s really something that evolves with the other creative arenas, the live show, the videos.
Classic cuts and flashy prints, the mixing of African batik and English gentleman, upbeat rhythms and serious lyrics…for you, is creation born out of paradox?
Vincent Losson (graphics): There is effectively an equilibrium between two worlds in the songs [of Stromae], and we try to translate this flexibly. For example, if we have soft colors, we’re going to add some flashier colors to contrast with that.
Coralie Barbier: Contrast is very important, and mixing too, in the end. Things that at first glance wouldn’t go together…I think that English style and African batik style aren’t things that are predestined to get together. But we find it interesting to induce this meeting, from which comes this idea of contrast, something that comes along to turn the accepted ideas upside-down a little bit.
Stromae: And then there’s a third element–because otherwise it’s too simple– in addition to batik and the gentleman style, we’re also inspired by the mathematical aspect. We have these three inspirations, and sometimes that goes a little far in one direction, sometimes too far in the other, and when you’re more or less in the middle then you’re good.
The album is called Square Root, your visuals revisit the isometric perspectives of Escher…Where does this obsession with the aesthetic of the mathematical disciplines come from?
Coralie Barbier: The mathematical side is our interpretation of modernity. We wanted to come back to our time.
Stromae: It’s not very sexy but we interpreted it in our way. A kind of geometric surrealism. We’re off in Escher delirium but it’s true that geometry already basically exists in the batik. But it’s more uncertain, and we’re really trying to find a logic there each time.
Stromae, onstage, you change your outfit at every title track to “stick” to the world of the song video. You started by dressing your character: is it important for you to endorse that costume?
Stromae: Inevitably that’s necessary. Because each time it’s a new pretext for creating another universe. If it were possible to change outfits at each song I would do it.
But the biggest part of the show is, however, done in a white shirt?
Stromae: You can’t push the thing super far, because you can soon get into the ridiculous. It has to stay natural, human. So I spend two thirds of the show in a white shirt, bow tie, black pants. I thought it was important not to do too much–otherwise you’re going to see Lady Gaga. And even if I was trying to do Lady Gaga, I could never get there. For me, it’s just about changing a little bit to give new life to the thing. All the pieces don’t have an assigned outfit either–you risk getting yourself lost quick if you play that game. You must absolutely never find a concept, that quickly goes into exaggeration. You can have recurrences that aren’t necessarily good, in my opinion.
You often play with masculine/feminine norms. Is the representation of gender something that interests you?
Stromae: To death. Playing with masculine/feminine norms is a driving force creatively for me.
Coralie Barbier: We realized that the unisex side is very important in the conception of Mosaert capsules. If nothing else, at the level of the sizes, which go from size 1 to size 4 (sic–maybe we’re nitpicking, but the size range is actually 2 to 5–editor) because we didn’t want to associate them with a precise sex. The styles are exactly the same, whether they’re worn by a man or a woman. The unisex aspect of the new line was especially led by Paul, who has a sort of jealousy towards the diversity of feminine clothing. The basic desire was to get out of the the habitual men’s mold: it’s unisex, but the man remains the point of departure, while drawing on the richness of feminine wardrobes where we are going to borrow certain precise norms. The line is guided by very basic cuts, but with little touches that are going to let us go from one wardrobe to the other.
Stromae: Like the Peter Pan collar, the three-quarter sleeves…things that among women have become completely out-of-date. We haven’t seen that for decades. And for men, once when I was looking around in a consignment shop I happened upon a cardigan of the style, but it was second-hand, otherwise you can’t find it. It’s a little bit too bad that the norms for the masculine wardrobe are so rigid.
What’s your personal relationship with fashion? Do you have favorite designers?
Stromae: At the level of designers, it’s complicated–I don’t know a lot of them in fashion. In my style, there’s a little of everything: second hand, mass market–Topman, H&M, Zara, all that–and then at the same time it has happened that I put a little money into a piece that’s worth it, and so on. Because in the end I find that the real pleasure is in the relationship between the price you pay and the enjoyment, this kind of singularity of this object that you find. The more it’s unique and the less you paid, the more comfortable you feel, I find. To go pay a thousand bucks for a sweater, OK if that’s the most beautiful sweater you’ve ever seen in your life. But in the end your sweater’s not so great anymore: the fact of putting a big price on it isn’t going to add value, on the contrary, it’s almost as if it wasn’t even really worth it. The real worth is in finding THE insane piece that you paid fifteen bucks for, second hand, a crazy thing–that’s how I see fashion.
The Mosaert capsules are available from just three points of sale. Why this choice?
Stromae: The idea is not to have a maximum number of boutiques. These remain capsule collections. But definitely, there will be a capsule three–we’re having fun, so we’re continuing.
Cover photo by Michael Ferire