Interning at Chanel

Lucas Leclere

  Lucas is the recent graduate from Fashion Design Womenswear at Central Saint Martins. He has successfully presented his graduate collection at the internal Final Show on Monday and has secured a slot at the Press Show, which will take place on the “Street” coming Tuesday, 29th of May.

Lucas stands out in the crowd not only because of his brilliant talent, good looks and french joliesse, but also, because he has got two years of priceless experience at the house of Chanel in Paris, where he has worked for the last two years, creating fabric samples and textiles in an attempt to impress and inspire Mr. Karl Lagerfeld to create collections using the fabrics that he’d worked on…imagine attempting to impress Karl, not speaking of inspiring him!

Lucas was very kind and generous in sharing in an interview with his experience at Chanel and working beside Mr. Genius K Lagerfeld. 1Granary would like to thank Lucas Leclere for his time and splendid interview he gave for readers to enjoy. Also, we would like to congratulate him on graduating with a beautiful collection (we will post it soon!!) and joining the impressive ranks of Central Saint Martins’ fashion alumni.

1Granary: How did you get into Chanel?

Lucas Leclere: They had a show in London. It was the Paris-London show, the show they do for the “Satellite” collection with all the couture ateliers involved. When I saw that Chanel will do this Paris-London show, I immediately thought that it has to be my show and that I have to go! So, I did everything to go there, I was not invited, and I was just a fashion student. When I got there, I sneaked my way in and got some sort of backstage pass, and I was there before everyone even got there. Only Andre Leon Tally and Mr. Karl Lagerfeld were there, and I just took polaroid shots of them, and I was freaking out whilst they were really chilled. Then I just sat somewhere free during the show, and I remember even waiving at a girl, thinking that it was a girl I knew, but in fact, it was Sharleene Spitery, the singer from the band Texas. (Laughs)

So, that was my first Chanel show I ever attended. Then, I went to the after party at the Bungalow Eight, where a friend of mine was modeling for the show, so we went together. There I met with people, who worked at the Chanel studio and got in contact with them as soon as I got my year out, I really wanted to do an internship there. So, I just harassed them with emails for ages and ages, until I got a reply, had an interview and got in as an intern. During my first year at Chanel, my internship contract was renewed every three months, and eventually, I got a paid position there during the second year.

 1G.: Did you do any internships in London?

LL.: While I was waiting for their reply, I also did Gareth Pugh and helped backstage at Marios Shwab, but that is it, I didn’t do a lot.

 1G.: How did the interview go and what kind of questions did they ask you?

LL.: First, I saw my boss’s first two assistants, and they had viewed my portfolio and said that it was okay for my boss to see. Then I saw my boss and had an interview with her. Afterwards we went for drinks and they were sort of testing me in a gentle way, asking questions in Italian and see if and what I would answer. (Laughs)

But really, they were all very nice.

Before the interview, they asked me on which day I preferred to come in, and I thought “Any day”! It is that sort of a thing, you know, if you need to be a Tarzan and fight the jungle, you will do it. (Laughs) Also, they asked if I didn’t mind living in Paris, and I said, “ Well, if Chanel was in Nigeria, I would live in Nigeria. I don’t care about the spiders.”  It was the place where I really wanted to be, whether it was in Alaska or Paris. Of course, Paris is more convenient, but I didn’t really mind… I would move anywhere.

They were very curious about the London experience. London has this sort of buzzy image, and they really wanted to know how it was living here and how the school works. They were pretty much amazed on how much freedom we have got here at  Central Saint Martins because CSM students at are not really skilled, but we are still free in whatever we do and end up with really dirty hands and fun projects. So, they were really excited about that.

1G.: What advice would you give someone who wants to apply to Chanel?

LL.: Learn French.

1G.: Did you dress up for the interview?

LL: No.

1G.: What was your portfolio like?

LL.: A lot of paintings, sketches…like any portfolio really.

1G.: In which department did you work and what were your duties?

LL.: I was at the fabric department. There I was doing image research, meeting with suppliers, doing textile samples and development, painted fabrics, prints, embellishments, trimmings, coming up with fastening ideas and of course, assisting my boss.

1G.: Tell us about your overall experience during the two years you were there.

LL.: Do you have five hours? (Laughs)

Well, I think it was great to be in the house which is not that related to marketing and that is really based on creativity. We don’t have any marketing people telling us that we are spending too much money or whatever. But of course, between two fabrics that look the same and have the same components, we will get the cheaper one, but it doesn’t mean that we’ll get the one that is made in China. It means that we will get the one out of the two really good suppliers. I always used whatever fabric I wanted, to make whatever trimming, or fabric development I wanted to make. In the end, it really created stunning garments. I’m not saying, “I did stunning garments’’, but I’m just saying that having the freedom to put together any sort of fabrics, and then, having the suppliers do it, that really pushes the creativity to other limits. And then, of course, the stunning designs of Mr. Lagerfeld really put in perspective everything we did, and I think it was great working with Karl, obviously, because he is such a nice man. He is very exigent and generous, he teaches a lot without professing anything, without being a teacher, and he is kind of a father figure to many people there. It also taught me that being young is an incredible quality in fashion, being slim as well. (Laughs) And that they really look for young people because they are looking for what we like, especially, if you are from CSM and stuff. They are really in the search of what we are into.

1G.: Do your view changed a lot on how you see your studies at CSM? For example, what if you were not working at Chanel and were doing your graduate collection without that experience?

LL.: That would be absurd. Now, I am much more focused on everything that I am doing. Also, now I have got quite an incredible knowledge in fabrics, which you can not really invent or be self taught because you have got to meet suppliers and learn about who does what and who does it best. It really taught me to focus on what I really want to do, be able to experiment a lot and have the freedom to brake the rules, whilst not being afraid of doing mistakes. Even if you think, “Oh, this is going to be ugly’’, still try it because it might be interesting. If it is really ugly, don’t throw it out, keep it in the file because then it is always a good reminder of what it is, and maybe in five years, you will think that it is brilliant and you might like it then because fashion is a matter of timing as well. Often something you hate, you will love …in maybe five, six or ten years time…who knows. Unless it is really disgusting.(Laughs) It is always good to keep track of what you are doing.

1G.: How did it feel coming back to college after two years at Chanel?

LL.: Well, it felt really odd because the CSM students are really pretentious and bitchy, I had forgotten that sort of stupidity. Students think that by being rude, they are going to be…I don’t know how to put it exactly, but CSM fashion students are a bit Parisian in a way. (Laughs) They think that if they are rude, and pretentious, and loud, and they sort of ignore you, you will going to think that they are sort of amazing somehow. But, I was really happy to come back to school because there is such freedom and the building is so anti-student. I am really happy to be back, live in London meanwhile and have that diversity again, and have this freedom! But of course, my heart is still in Paris. This is why I go back so often. (Laughs)

1G.:What skills do you really need to work in Chanel?

LL.: None. It’s not about how good you are, it is about how good you want to be. Of course you have to have some sort of talent.

1G.: Did you attend fittings?

LL.: Alors, the fittings is like attending the court of King Louis the 14th! For a whole year I was an intern, therefore, I did not attend the fittings. Then, gradually I started to attend them after being presented to Karl. I was at the fittings only at the end of the second year there, and not before because it is like an honor to be there…you know, you have to play smooth. There was no point having a boy around because Karl surrounds himself with women during the fittings because in the end, it is the women who are going to wear it.  But it is incredible to be there; everybody requires Karl’s attention, you have people from press and everywhere, and you sort of get the feeling that Karl is not looking at what he is doing, but then, he will say to the fitting girls, “Oh, walk around”, and  the next second he sees what is wrong and sees what is different compared to his drawings. He remembers everything: the fabrics, the way it is cut and he has got the technical answer for everything. You would get the feeling – “He does not give a shit”, but, actually, after the girls walk and he’s given an interview or whatever, he would tell his first atelier,  “You have to change the shoulder for one centimeter, put such trimming at the knees, if you do it this way, it will stretch the fabric better, and you have to cut this on the bias”. Everything happens like in one second, and then, someone starts to pin everything in another second. It goes really, really fast! Also, it is always a very moving experience. I was attending a lot of fittings during the preparation of the Cannes collection, the Paris Cannes collection, and there were some stunning white dresses, extremely simple, but I remember the sun pouring through the windows at the Rue Cambon. It was a magical moment… Just the easiness of it, the chic of it all without being constricted, restrained or fake, and the sort of coolness of the King Karl. Yes, they were really great moments!