With his mop of unruly silver curls, sparkling blue eyes and laid-back attitude, Thierry Gillier, founder of the French fashion line Zadig and Voltaire, would probably be more at home in Big Sur than the Côte d’Azur.
His laid-back surfer approach to French fashion is evident in his insistence on showing the latest Zadig and Voltaire collection in a hotel suite rather than on the runway. Here, models roam around the space, changing outfits frequently, mingling with guests, nibbling on grilled scallops, minitarts and fruit skewers and sipping champagne. Buyers and journalists chat and network, admiring the clothes strewn about the room. It feels more like a house party than a major Fashion Week show, and that’s exactly how Gillier wants it.
His approach to design is just as casual. When I asked how Erin Wasson ended up designing a capsule collection for the brand, which features 1970s-inspired silhouettes and textiles mixed with a 1980s grunge vibe, he laughs and replies: “Every time I see her, I go into her closet and say, ‘I love this! Let’s use this,’ so she was perfect for us. We get a lot of ideas from what she wears.” Of his many other muses, including Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince of the Kills, as well as Sean Lennon, he says, “We are like one big family. When we have a party, Sean brings his guitar and plays something. It’s very casual, very relaxed.” When I asked him how he meets such a variety of talented people, he says with a shrug, “People who like the brand just seem to come to us.”
One such person is the Italian jewelry designer Gaia Repossi, who approached him some time ago about designing an accessory line. Her creations were perfect for the brand, and this season Repossi has created simply stunning arabesque-inspired cuffs and medieval rings that cover the entire finger. Other highly covetable pieces include blazers in lizard-skin print or tiny silver sequins, pinhole knit jumpers and black waxed jeans. ‘The whole team who created this season’s collection were really incredible, really inspired,” says the owner of the brand.
Another subject Mr. Gillier is very passionate about is art. He studied it at university and says that it influences almost every aspect of his work. Excitedly, he whipped out his Blackberry to proudly show me the two pieces of pop art he recently bought in Brussels. He’s an avid collector, especially of modern pieces, and draws from the art world much of the inspiration for his own work. Was it his idea to emblazon Zadig’s sweaters and T-shirts with skulls and angel wings, then? “No, I’m afraid not. For that, you’ll have to ask my wife.” So I did.
Hyperenergetic, elegantly thin and superfocused, Madame Gillier is the perfect complement to her laid-back, charming husband. She said, “When I met him, Thierry had the brand, the business, and he knew about textiles. I added, shall we say, a woman’s touch.” By this, she modestly means that she gave the brand its distinctive rock-and-roll flavor and androgynous design. Since she began to influence the designs in 2006, Zadig and Voltaire’s success has been phenomenal. The company is constantly expanding around the globe, and its latest menswear boutique was just launched in Galeries Lafayette in the Dubai Mall. When she tells me that she hopes the brand evokes a dichotomy of Los Angeles coastal cool with Parisian chic, it suddenly hits me: she’s the chic, he’s the cool. Maybe the Gilliers will need homes in both the Côte d’Azur and Big Sur after all.