Eli Epperson: Hi Louis, how are you? Nice to see you again.
Louis Gabriel Nouchi: Same to you, everything is good for now.
EE: It was great to come back and open a show for you especially after so long. After about a year right?
LGN: Yes, it was really intense, to have a show in real life again. It felt like a life time ago, you know what I mean?
EE: It was quite a shock. Yea I had completely forgotten how it felt to walk a runway. So next question, where are you from?
LGN: I'm from Paris, I’m French.
EE: You’ve lived here your whole life?
LGN: Exactly, born and raised here and trained in Belgium. I graduated from La Conte in Brussels, which is like a big school, it’s like the Antwerp Academy. After that I used to work for Raf Simons on the design team.
EE: So that must have been crazy, as your first job out of school?
LGN: It was a recruitment period, but it was fun.
EE: How long after did you start your brand?
LGN: I started this brand only 3 and a half years ago.
EE: Only 3 and a half years? Wow, it’s pretty big for a young brand.
LGN: Yep, it’s quite new but not at the same time, because we’ve had such a quick expansion you know in terms of we have our own shops which is quite insane, and really good results from our retailers and website. It’s very step by step though, we are spending the money we earn, you know what I mean? It’s not like craziness, but it’s already a fast expansion.
EE: Of course its all going fast, I mean after 3 and a half years you already have a show at Palais de Tokyo!
LGN: It’s actually our second show there, we did a video shoot there earlier in January this year.
EE: Ok, interesting I didn’t know you had already had one there. So how do the shows come about at such a big venue, if you say you don’t have a huge budget?
LGN: I got a venue like that because I’m also an art director of Joeone which is a Chinese brand.
EE: Ah, that’s the show we walked a few minutes right before yours?
LGN: Yes. So they wanted to also do a show in Paris at the time, so I organized everything for them to present their clothes in the best way. So as I already had a slot on the show calendar during Paris Fashion week, I wanted to have some attention on Joeone because we had a good slot. I wanted to have the first of the day so Joeone can be just a bit before the show calendar, and that way I can invite all the people I invited to see my show to see Joeone and vice versa.
EE: So next subject, as a model, I’d like to understand the process of choosing models. What makes you choose the models that you choose?
LGN: Ah good question!
EE: Yeah, it would be interesting to hear. I have always thought it as simple as saying “I like that, he has a pretty face” or “No, I don’t like their walk.”
LGN: No, it’s not like that at all, I’m doing a lot of street casting, especially since I was working with Raf Simons. We used to do a lot of street casting in Belgium, because there are a lot of tall, interesting faces there, so for guys it’s easier to do street casting than girls. That’s also why I’m doing menswear because it has a more relaxed atmosphere during casting and working with really, really cool guys, it’s not the same tension as when you’re working with girls.
EE: And why is that do you think?
LGN: I don’t know, for girls it’s terrible I think.
EE: In my experience, fashion seems more intense for women.
LGN: Intense isn’t a good word, it’s like… I think it’s one of the only jobs in the world where girls are paid more than guys.
EE: Yes, and they have way stricter working conditions.
LGN: Exactly! And it’s not like in menswear either where guys are there for one season or two and they don’t really care, they say “I’m doing this for one or two years, and I’m going to make all the money I can, then go back to my regular life.”, so there’s isn’t many men that are doing this as a proper job. The difference between men and women in modeling is that there’s less competition in modeling, it’s more friendly. So these are the first things that made me get into menswear, also because of the garments, because as a guy, even if I don’t want to wear what I’ve designed, I can try and say “This is technically correct, the sizing is good, the fabric is soft, the composition is great, it’s functional,” and for me, it would have been difficult to do womenswear garments because of that. Even if I say “Ok it’s pretty” I am not a woman, so I can’t feel if I would really want to wear this if I was a woman. But we actually have a lot of clients that are women which is cool, but not intentional at all.
EE: So back to my question about casting.
LGN: Yes! So for the casting, it’s really like when you are designing a collection or working for a brand, you have this idealistic customer. So in my head, I’m doing a collection about books, each collection is based on a book. The concept all falls into chapters of a book, so when I am doing casting I want to fit the character that I have in mind when I’m reading the book, or fit what I’m trying to express into the garments. So it’s not all about a pretty face, but more about the character. It’s more descriptive: the hair to be a bit square, wide eyes and strong faces, faces that are unusual. It’s also about attitude, you know? It’s “is this a good guy, and a good garment?” If it’s just the clothes and you really like someone, you change the outfit. For instance, in our show we just did, we created an outfit for a model, Sacha, originally, he didn’t fit in my characters in this season’s book but since he was such great guy, we had to have him. Also for me, I like to have a bit of diversity in body types.
EE: Do you like to have really strong gym boys, mixed in with guys like me who are very skinny.
LGN: Yes exactly, to show that different type of people can fit the brand, I think that’s very important. There’s always friends in my shows, like Etienne, I like to have continuity with guys doing my shows, I think there’s something nice about seeing the same faces in shows.
EE: That's very uncommon in fashion.
LGN: Yes it’s very Raf Simons, you know?
EE: Very true. He uses a lot of the same models from season to season.
LGN: And I really like this, you know, when you’re at a casting and the models are really surprised cause I remember all their names.
EE: It’s very surprising because like I said, that just doesn’t happen often because you meet 100 models or more for every casting.
LGN: For me, it’s normal, being polite and a part of the job. I was really happy this season about our casting and show. Everyone did great, it was so beautiful and good show for me.
EE: I agree, beautiful show, I was honored to be apart.
LGN: Back to how I choose models for the show which was your basic question, I have the same casting director for 4 seasons, and when it was not him, it was me doing the casting (laughs). I know very well the agencies too, because I was doing casting for the other brands I was working for before so I had the contacts.
EE: While you were doing your own brand, you were also helping out other brands too?
JE: Yeah, when I was working at the other companies, I learned some things. It’s important when you’re a designer to have an eye for the models. For the campaigns, for the lookbooks and e-commerce. So, you learned “OK, I can call this agency if I want this type of guy, I know they are good for this kind of guy, and I know this other agency is good for another type of guy.” Also, with covid I am doing a lot of casting on Instagram.
EE: So that’s like the next version of street casting.
EE: Do you just scroll the explore page and look for people you think could be models?
EE: My next question is, you said each season is based off a book, what’s the book for SS22?
LGN: Haha, so the collection is called Unauthorized, because I am not authorized by the son of the author to name the collection after the book because the art world is very protected in France. So as the book is not public domain, you have to ask permission. Which drives me crazy because it’s the title of the collection, it’s not like text from the book is on the clothes or any pictures or anything. Anyways, it’s a very famous French author that I really like, and it’s my first collection based on a book by a woman author which I think was important to do. The story is about a love affair between a young girl which is supposed to be her, and its like a fiction/autobiography.
EE: Anything else you want to talk about?
LGN: Hm… Yes! As a model, and I have a few friends that are also models, how’s your experience when you go to a casting? You spend so much time there! Is it exciting for you or is it just a part of the job? Is the most exciting part for you when you actually walk the show?
EE: That’s an interesting question, that I never really thought of…
JE: Do you find this part (the casting) annoying or do you like it because you are with the other guys and it’s cool? You have done so many shows and probably have been everywhere…
EE: It depends on the day. Sometimes I don’t mind waiting an hour or two at a casting especially if I’m with friends, I don’t care. But it also depends what time of the day it is!!
JE: Ah yes true, true!!!
EE: That’s a big one. And if I’m doing it for 10 hours, of course by the 10th hour I’m going to be tired, but otherwise I don’t mind castings. Those seconds of walking for the casting are a bit of added pressure but there’s nothing you can really do.
JE: Ah really?
EE: Yes, well, I always think “Now it’s out of my control” because, you know, I’m just walking and it’s either they like me or they don’t.
JE: It must be so difficult to focus, for example when you are tired or if you walked pass a model friend or someone that you like but you can’t smile…
EE: Yes! For sure.
LGN: See, that’s why I always like to do casting with 2 or 3 guys walking at the same time. So it’s less focus on this one person, so we are more objective. I love when it’s going really fast too. For example, this season it was very slow, because not a lot of people were here, we didn’t have the people from New York, London… and at the same time it was great, basically we did fittings and casting at the same time, as you saw, and it was nice because we didn’t have to do call backs at all.
EE: And when you see someone at the casting, do you know instantly that they’re going to walk the show?
JE: Yes! You are a part of the guys that I knew I wanted in my show. So I asked the casting director, I said OK I want him, him and him to see.
EE: Interesting. And how about people that you didn’t request?
JE: I love new faces or street casting, for me it’s a big part of the job and what we want to achieve. There are a lot of new faces that did our show, and it’s great, but I do think sometimes, ok, this guy is going to be a runway star, I will never be able to have him afterwards on my show again.
EE: Oh so you think like that? You know someone is going to be major.
LGN: Yes, for example Marius, he did our show once and now he’s doing all the Balenciaga campaigns. I’m from a generation of designer that knows that all the guys that do Prada in Milan, they will be everywhere. If you open for Prada, you’re the guy of the season or the next few years. I want people to have the same feeling about my brand: discovering new faces. For me it’s very cool to have people at your level for instance, but it’s not the same type of accomplishment. Having big people that have done a lot of other things before is important to bring the brand to a certain level. But at the same time, for campaigns, I always mix both my friends and some models. Obviously, there’s a need to have a meaning, for example, the friends that are in the show because they are writers, you know, they have to be a part of the message of my brand, it’s not just because they are my friends. But yes, the feeling of having someone that’s never been shown before, never done a show before, it’s so cool! For a lot of guys, this was their first show and they told me they were super happy, and I feel very proud.
EE: Well, that’s a good way to wrap this up. Louis it was a pleasure thanks for giving me this opportunity and I hope to see you at a show soon!
LGN: See you around!