In her tenure, Christelle Kocher has racked up an impressive résumé with stints at Bottega Veneta, Dries Van Noten, Chloé and Giorgio Armani (just to name a few). By blending streetwear with elements of Parisian couture, KOCHÉ skillfully crafts clothing that feels luxuriously feminine.
Since its inception in 2015, KOCHÉ has fought for more openness and representation in the fashion industry. From the models chosen to walk the runways, to the messages behind each collection, Kocher prides herself in designing for “women in real life.”
We recently chatted with the designer to get her take on staying creative in the wake of a global pandemic, the inspiration behind her exclusive collection with Rent the Runway and her hopes for the future of fashion.
Tell us about KOCHÉ and how it all began.
I created KOCHÉ in 2015 in Paris. After years working in the fashion industry for various prestigious houses, I wanted to create my own brand and speak my own fashion language with the idea to fight for more openness in the industry. KOCHÉ is for everyone, and I am proud of this.
Describe your brand in 5 words or less.
Openness, craftsmanship, freedom, creativity.
What have been some of the biggest challenges, greatest risks and most memorable moments?
There have been so many! One of the most epic moments was when we organized a KOCHÉ fashion show during Tokyo Fashion Week. It was supposed to take place in a Pachinko building where people play on arcade machines. One week before the show, they decided to cancel on us! We ultimately found an amazing alternative venue – the show took place on the rooftop of a building in the middle of Shibuya crossing. It was a sort of little miracle, and the show was magical.
Do you remember the first time you saw someone wearing KOCHÉ? What was that experience like?
When I see someone in the street wearing KOCHÉ, it moves me. I create clothing for real women, in real life. I am not creating clothes to be in magazines and museums.
Your aesthetic has been described as “global patchwork.” Tell us about your design process and aesthetic in your own words.
Patchwork is something that I love to work with. It creates a lot of opportunity in terms of design. When I start creating a collection, I often begin with a mini stockman and I cut and drape and then the shape arrives. Sometimes (not always), I draw. It is a very organic process. I find a lot of inspiration in art or books. At the moment, I read a lot of feminist authors. It is really meaningful for me and for the brand.
What has designing and creating in the midst of quarantine looked like for you and your business? What has brought you joy during this time?
Like a lot of people, I went through this lockdown period with a lot of thoughts in mind. I had the chance to spend it in my flat in Paris with a view on the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. It is a beautiful garden that I can see from my window. I decided to organize my fashion show in this park for Paris Fashion Week back in September! I was so happy to see my collections and the models walking in this amazing environment surrounded by nature.
The Black Lives Matter movement and continuous efforts of activists has called on the industry to take a drastic and necessary step towards equality, equity and a world where fashion is actively anti-racist. KOCHÉ has historically supported people of all demographics, genders, races and sizes. Talk us through this imperative step for the industry and why it’s important.
I come from a working class family background with no link at all with arts and fashion. At a very young age, I realized that fashion was the passion of my life. Since the very beginning of my brand, KOCHÉ fights for more openness and representation in fashion. Fashion must be for everybody, not reserved to a certain elite or category of people. Through our model castings and the messages of my collections, I fight for a more inclusive world. I hope that things are changing in the good direction with real actions, more than only words.
What is it about fashion and creativity that you can’t get enough of?
I love craftsmanship. This is maybe the number one reason why I chose and continue to enjoy my job. As I see it, the gesture of artisans and their know-how are a bit of magic: embroidery, embellishment, work with laces…each time, I am fascinated.
What are you inspired by right now? How have you been getting into the creative zone?
I read a lot. I am really into Simone de Beauvoir’s works at the moment.
You’ve partnered with us on an exclusive Designer Collective collection – why were you excited to work with Rent the Runway?
Openness and breaking the rules are drivers for me. I think Rent The Runway contributes to this approach. Rent the Runway customers can access designer fashion. I sincerely find it great!
Was there anything new you learned throughout the collaboration process?
Working with Rent The Runway is great because it gives the voice to customers very directly. The Rent the Runway community is very active and the comments and product reviews are precious! The KOCHÉ collective is a way to design and listen to the voice of real women – it is a very interesting and exciting approach.