After graduating from Belgium’s Institute Saint Luc de Tournal, Matthieu Mouton and Nicolas Collet moved to Paris to embark on a creative journey in the name of fashion. Working with labels like Kenzo, Hervé Léger and Maison Martin Margiela exposed the young duo to the demands and rewards of the industry, while honing their craft until they were able to branch out with their own label, MoutonCollet, in 2005. Mouton and Collet have managed to build distinctive collections based on everything from gardening implements and insects (Mademoiselle Nature) to sumptuous and eccentric head dressage in their most recent collection, Bords de Mer. During Paris Fashion Week, we learned about the label’s nature-based inspirations, the lessons they learned from fashion’s heavy-weights and what it was like to see a MoutonCollet piece in a Lady Gaga video.
JC Report: What made you choose to study in Belgium rather than attending the usual Paris institutes?
MoutonCollet: Belgium has our heart, but also we believe Belgium is not under the weight of the past. In France, fashion is taught under the guise of plenty of taboos, with too much respect for predecessors. For us, that was too much restraint to learn under. We prefer to work on what we are and where we are with complete freedom. We have to be clear about what it is to be a designer today: it’s not about being an artist, it’s more about being a craftsman.
JCR: Who and what has inspired the label over time?
MC: Most of our influences are linked with the Belgian countryside, a world of silence in the middle of nature. We focus on farm animals, gardens, meadows and forest jewelry—the nature of taxidermy laboratory and hunters of insects also fascinates us. We are influenced by Jacques Tati, Marcel Duchamp and Matthew Barney. MoutonCollet is a game of contrast and opposition.
JCR: What did you learn while working with major designers in Paris?
MC: After we got our diplomas, we went straight to Paris to learn about fashion and the industry of this city. We wanted to be in the reality of fashion and to be a part of it. From there we had some of the most amazing experiences and the chance to work for many big names in international fashion. We were introduced to the Japanese philosophy of fashion thanks to Mr. Kenzo Takada. We worked in the vision of Yves Saint Laurent with Loulou de la Falaise. We grew to understand the different signatures of two Belgium designers with Martin Margiela and Olivier Theyskens for Nina Ricci. And we were able to admire the spirit of haute couture with Hervé Léger. Working with all these greats was the best way to learn. Paris is always Paris.
JCR: How do you feel about what Lady Gaga has done for fashion?
MC: She’s amazing, avant-garde, creative and glamourous. She is a paradox! We are very happy and honored to be in part of her wardrobe and be part of “Alejandro” by Steven Klein. We couldn’t have asked for a better combination of forces such as this. It’s always very interesting to work with an artist such as Lady Gaga, because she has created her own world, with its magic and its particular way of seeing things. This is a great asset for us because we must always be on top of the creative! We share an exciting adventure with her.