Ivory Coast-born menswear designer Laurence Chauvin Buthaud is one of the bright sparks of African fashion. She tells Wonderland about her label LaurenceAirline.
Based in Paris (albeit with a factory operating out of her hometown) LaurenceAirline is a menswear label that avoids the predictable cliches associated with African-inspired fashion. No embarrassing ‘tribal’ references or mistaking one ‘ethnic’ print for another – LaurenceAirline is authentic and modern in a way that many European labels can only hope to be. It’s little wonder she’s been hailed as one of the most promising African designers and been spotlighted as part of Diesel x Edun’s Studio Africa campaign.
What’s the story behind your name, LaurenceAirline?
I named my label LaurenceAirline as an hint to my own itinerant, almost nomadic, lifestyle. Indeed, I was born in Cote d’Ivoire with a double culture: European and African. And now with my brand, I am always travelling back and forth between my headquarters in Abidjan and Paris. I spend half the year in Côte d’Ivoire designing and producing the collections and half year in Paris to promote and sell the collection.
You’ll sometimes see European designers cite ‘African’ influences in their collections. As an African designer, how do you feel about that?
I find interesting when companies who take Africa as an inspiration have a true respect for its culture with all that implies. Especially on conscious and sustainable matters. More than a trend, I see it like a great opportunity to put the spotlight on African cultures scope, which subsequently can arouse the public interest to African potentialities.
Your use of fabric and print is exceptional. Where do you source these prints?
I source the printed fabrics that I use in my collections directly in Africa.
Why is it important to you to make all your clothes in an Abidjan atelier?
To me, the main goal of LaurenceAirline is to produce high quality garments produced In Ivory Coast so that local people can be trained and can learn from work exchanges in a positive and conscious process. We’re building Africa’s modern reality for the international fashion scene in terms of high quality production and bold contemporary design made in Africa. I want to make Ivorians proud of their achievements in the fashion industry and personal self-esteem.
Describe the LaurenceAirline man.
An expressive authentic man keen on equally going in search of himself and others. A modern dandy and explorer who chooses anywhere he feels like embarking himself. A traveller, literally or figuratively.
Is there a difference between the way African and Western designers create garments?
I think creativity is universal and that there are as many ways to design garments as there are designers. In my case, with LaurenceAirline as an international label, I want to tell a story of West Africa meeting other continents through the fashion medium.
Can you describe the first garment you ever made?
It was a flared skirt, with wide lapels in a beige canvas fabric silkscreened with white tribal designs.
What’s your signature piece?
The total look in colorful print and how I mix different origin fabrics on geometric yokes.
You initially started out in womenswear, so why did you switch to menswear?
While showcasing my women’s line, men constantly expressed to me their desire to design them clothes so they could express their own creative taste. With menswear, I love to explore the minimal structure of the masculine wardrobe as a base to introduce unexpected colors and patterns as well as material associations. Some of the men’s clothes I design can actually be worn by both sexes.
How has your design aesthetic changed over the years?
Through the years, I have come to think that I like the idea of a functional creative ageless fashion. Like a simple and beautiful particular piece that one has pleasure wearing through time.
Who are some other African designers that you rate?
Words: Zing Tsjeng