This Parisian surface designer made the leap from the high end fashion houses of Paris to study textile futures at Central Saint Martins. Now, while setting up a business in France, Solenne is expanding her repertoire of surfaces from etched mirrors to a fascinating collaboration with a scientist.
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How would you compare studying in Paris to your time studying at Central Saint Martins?
In both places, the studies themselves were very creative. But in England there is a group spirit. People share their ideas, and are less individualist than in Paris. Also in Central Saint Martins, we are pushed to go far beyond our capabilities, and to challenge ourselves.They also prepare students much more to the business world than in France, by introducing them to former students and share experiences.
Are there any designers or art styles that have influenced your work?
I admire the artist Peter Callesen for his beautifully handmade paper work, Tokujin Yoshoka for the spiritual aspect of his work, Shinwei Rhoda Yen for the sad poetry of her dying table “Mushroom ate my furniture”, “ Limited funghi” by Katharina Mischer, “The tree trunk bench” by Jurgen Bey… I like the idea of playing with the life cycle of our objects and materials, questioning their durability and giving them a new life through a poetic process. I am also very inspired by decorative artistic movements, such as Art Nouveau.
What made you take the transition from the Parisian fashion world to the craft world of London?
First, the challenge: What could be more inspiring for a designer to try an experience abroad? Then the specialization: Although I studied both fashion and textile in France, I found myself solely working in the fashion industry. So the diversity that a textile designer should have was very restricted. I wanted to extend my skills, because I strongly believe in being multidisciplinary.
You've worked for some high end fashion houses including Christian Dior and Christian Lacroix what were your roles there and how did you obtain these jobs?
I was a textile embroiderer. I was working directly on the garments that were shown on the Haute-Couture catwalk. An amazing experience that taught me many skills and develop a very good eye!
The textile world in Paris is quite small. If you are studying textile and do some work placements, you start to create your own network. This network creates opportunities. Experience and a good portfolio are what every company is looking for when you come to present your work. I just tried my chance, and it worked!
How do your etchings and cuts reflect your fashion and accessory design background? Does this background impact the techniques you employ or the overall style?
I think I have indeed an embroiderer way of working in design. For my project “Smoke and Mirrors”, I was looking at the material “mirror” exactly like a piece of fabric. How would I dress it up? How would I ornament it? Also, a fashion designer has to check how his garment fits, how the cut is. He needs to have an overall view of his creation to see whether there is a detail that works or not. A leftover from my fashion experience… I definitely cannot deny (and do not want to) my fashion background.
You're a textiles designer that works with mirror and glass- does this place you in textiles field or interiors?
I am a surface designer, which means that I am working with every type of material, depending on the commission. For my last project, I was working with glass and mirror, and my aim was to work for interior design. But does that mean I am an interior designer? I do not think so. I could also have created jewellery from my samples. The textile area has a much wider range than working only with fabrics. It is applicable to any kind of material you can imagine, that is what makes it so inspiring!
Where did the inspiration for the Smoke and Mirrors project come from? And what process did you go through to create one of these mirror or glass designs?
The inspiration comes from old divination: Ink stains, clouds, shadows and smoke trails – coincidental patterns that create an unforeseen imagery. My aim when I was sampling was to create a magical and unexpected effect. I did hundreds of samples before finding the desired result!
What are you working on at the moment?
I am setting up my own company in France. So a lot of administration! Meanwhile I am working on a project called “Nobelini”. It is a contest in which a designer and a scientist are paired to work together on the creation of a new product. I am working with Marta Archanco, a scientist specialised in endocrinology. She studied two appetite-related hormones called leptin and adiponectin and its relation with reproduction, and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London working to identify the complex interactions by which a hormone called thyroid hormone takes part in our body during growth and development. More details here and here
What would be your ideal job/ collaboration?
Sourcing old unwanted objects of the every day to give them a new life! I want to give objects longevity by creating an emotional attachment between our possessions and us.
Do you have any other projects or exhibitions coming up?
I will be exhibiting at the London Design Festival. At Tent, with the collective “Is this textiles?” and Mint shop.
More details of Solenne's shows on her website
See more of Solenne's work here