If the name Carven still conjures visions of Alexa Chung in a buttoned-up ’60s shift, creative directors Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud‘s latest creations are set to change everything.

See every look from the Carven Spring/Summer 2017 Runway show.

Since the Parisian pairing succeeded Guillaume Henri last year, the Carven silhouette has had a fun, fresh makeover without a Peter Pan collar in sight. An nowhere was that more evident that their on their Spring 2017 runway at Paris Fashion Week last Friday. Modern, feminine, edgy and in keeping with the houses’s French spirit, the collection has been met with universal rave reviews.

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The Carvan SS17 show finale at Paris Fashion Week
Credit: Getty Images

On their metaphorical unbuttoning of the brand, Adrien speaks candidly to GRAZIA with impish charm. “For us, when we first arrived at Carven, it was very important to keep the DNA but to add transparent layers of a more playful and electric feeling to the brand, to bring more colour and more power.” Crucially, thanks to Alexis and Adrien’s new vision, the Carven girl has been liberated from the confines of the tree-lined avenues of Paris. “Now she’s travelling,” continues Adrien. “She’s playing with fashion.”

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French design duo Adrien Caillaudaud and Alexis Martial
Credit: Instgram @carven_paris

This came to life in Carven’s SS16 collection. “We always like to tell stories,” explains Adrien. “And this story was about freedom.” Alexis elaborates. “The idea was to give a feeling of summer a girl living in the city, escaping to the coast, taking a boat and exploring the deep side of the sea. It’s as if she’s decided, ‘I’m leaving!’,” Adrien adds.

“It’s an escape from your own town. It’s fun, it’s summer, so get on your boat! OK, the boyfriend shirts look a bit more feminine where she wears it belted with little shorts or a miniskirt. For us, it’s important to give the feeling you can wear the clothes in your own way.”

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Carven SS17
Credit: Instagram @carven_paris

However, Adrien assures GRAZIA, “We do think it’s important for us to keep some elements from Madame Carven’s atelier. The haute couture feeling is more in the details, the finishing, as the developments of the fabrics.” Alexis agrees. “Using new technology is really important to us. Everything we do is expressed in a retro-futuristic way. A skirt which could’ve been hand sewn is laser cut because it’s really important for us to mix couture and future together.”

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Carven SS17
Credit: Getty Images

Alexis and Adrien’s appointment as joint creative directors at Carven seems a fait accompli. They met as teenagers on their first day at couture school. Alexis, now 31, recalls, “Atelier Chardon Savard is typical fashion school but it’s more where art and fashion meet together it’s all about creating your own world. During this period, we had the chance to go to Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga to learn the craft in the studio.” Little did they realise that one day they would both be helming a label as the design duo de jour. 

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From left: Alexis, Chinese actress and ballerina Liu Shishi and Adrien at a Carven event in Hong Kong
Credit: Instagram @carven_paris

“It was a dream that one day we would have the chance to propose the vision, but we didn’t know at the time it would become a reality,” Alexis acknowledges.

On their creative process, Alexis explains, “We decided when we started to share everything, so for us it’s important to do everything together, to evolve the collection together step by step. It’s true that we have our own preference in a way, but we are always share everything and first discuss it between us, and then with the team. We have two voices to communicate the direction we want to go with the brand.”

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Carven’s Cruise 2017 collection was an ode to lilac
Credit: Instagram @alexismartial

Given the relentless pace of the fashion schedule that forced Raf Simons to relinquish his position at Dior, could Carven’s concept of a creative partnership become the industry’s new normal? “It’s much more relaxing,” Adrien admits. “One can supervise when the other is tired. Being two is really important for us.” Although he’s quick to acknowledge, “Everybody is two. Every creative director has a second person. Everywhere we worked we’ve seen that there is a person behind the big name.”

Alexis explains further. “When you think of any really big designers, they all have a stylist or a right hand that’s not really famous, but in our case, we are both at the same level working together directly with the team.”

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During final preparations for their most recent PFW show
Credit: Instagram @carven_paris

So, not content with redesigning Carven, could Alexis and Adrien hold the blueprint that leads to the second French Revolution one that will bring about the reinvigoration of the fashion industry? “Paris Fashion Week is a moment to show a glimpse of the future. If the collection is on sale the day after, you don’t leave people the time to desire it,” observes Alexis. “For me, it’s sad. We need to find the right balance.” 

Liberté, égalité, fraternité, indeed.

Alison Tay is the Editor-in-Chief of GRAZIA Middle East and an International Woolmark Prize judge. Follow the British fashion journalist and celebrity stylist on Instagram and Twitter.

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