Julien Fournié Talks Haute Couture, Modesty And Women Empowerment

Modesty and Haute Couture are very much intertwined ! Julien Fournié proves it with every collection. His designs are endless sources of inspiration for modest women.

We were lucky enough to meet the Couturier in the friendly atmosphere of his showroom in Paris where he told us about his own definition of modest fashion and how he likes to translate it into Haute Couture collections.

Julien Fournié is not so keen using the word “modest” which, according to him, can be interpreted as “unassuming”, “simple” or “ordinary”, especially in French. The vision of modest fashion he supports is creative, rich, bright and exhilarating.

This is not surprising, coming from a designer who is undeniably always ahead of the fashion world!

Julien Fournié’s Own Definition Of Modesty

We love spotting modest inspirations in Julien Fournié’s collections as they head down the catwalk. Trompe l’oeils, draped fabrics, long-sleeved dresses, headscarves… Every collection is filled with references to the modest lifestyle. Remember? We even mentioned his latest collection, dubbed “First Bliss” (or “Première Plénitude” in French), in our dedicated article about Modesty in Spring/ Summer 2019 Couture Collections.

Photos: Julien Fournié SS19 (source: nowfashion)

With elegant and clever designs, Julien Fournié truly encapsulates the spirit of Couture. But it is also striking how Modest his collections are!  When asked if Julien Fournié is indeed a Modest house, the designer answered: “We could say Julien Fournié is a Modest house because Haute Couture is actually Modest by essence.

I work a lot on women empowerment and, to me, it does not include nudity. Julien Fournié’s muses are real stars, with a mysterious aura. I cannot draw inspiration from the “big breast / big mouth” stereotype that we glorify on social media. I truly believe we should stop turning those women and their vision of femininity into cultural icons, especially as long as it influences a younger generation that desperately needs valuable references. This is actually very toxic.

Although we share a similar point of view at Almaze, we also want to believe this trend is not so much about promoting nudity but really about promoting women’s freedom to choose what they want to do with their own bodies.

But could this all be a wrong yet functional attempt at a smokescreen?
According to Julien Fournié, the real problem here is not about women choosing to show part of their naked bodies, it is about their way of life being considered superior to the modest lifestyle and, above all, about the fact that this was all originally implemented by men to serve marketing purposes:

“If you look closer, those women were drawn to public attention by men for the sake of communication. In the end, they’re still sexually objectified!

Modesty is not a new thing in Haute Couture. I draw inspiration from Couture designers Jacques Fath, Charles James, Claude Montana who focused on covering the skin and revealing the silhouette, Jean Paul Gaultier (whose “second skin” and draped dresses were once very modest)…I believe our clients enjoy a bit of Modesty. In the end, they contact me because Julien fournié is a discreet House. That is the real essence of prestige.

Left: Jacques Fath, spring 1951 (source: pinterest) ; Right: a model wearing a floor-sweeping silk column designed by Charles James an captured by photographer Nina Leen (source: InStyle)

Left: Yasmeen Ghauri/Lanvin by Claude Montana, 1993 (source: pinterest) ; Right: Jean Paul Gaultier SS98 RTW (source: Vogue)

Glamour, Sensuality, And Modesty

Julien Fournié’s collections often display modest elements but that does not mean they are not sexy too! Julien Fournié developed a creative style which valorises the woman’s body by highlighting its silhouette. He sums it all up saying:

“I reveal the body by emphasising its silhouette and its shape, not by showing it naked.”

Julien Fournié simply refuses to produce naked fashion. We were thus curious to know whether he willingly implemented a rule that all of his collections should include modest pieces. He explains:

“Modesty is not the reason why I design clothes that cover the body in the first place. I do because I love clothes!

I love the idea of garments caressing the body, I love carefully thought-through designs, I love clothes which do not reveal everything at first glance. From my personal experience, I know that a garment which covers the body is much more exciting and sensual. It leaves room for imagination, to imagine what the body underneath is like. In the end, modesty is a form of teasing, a strategy of seduction.”

In the eye of Julien Fournié, modesty, extra metres of draped fabric, sleeves and scarves are creative tools adding more fun in the whole fashion designing process.

Covered And Empowered

Julien Fournié proves it is possible to be sexy, sensual but also mysterious and modest at the same time!

According to the designer, modesty is nothing but a form of freedom. Women need to be free to decide whether they want to display their bodies, how they want to display them and what part of them they want to display.

Modesty in fashion should not be regarded as another means for women to please the appetite of men and their need for domination.

“Religion is not the reason why I cover bodies.

There were headscarves in my latest collections but they did not intend to please Middle-Eastern clients. The collections of Azzedine Alaïa, Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler featured many headscarves. But no one talked about Middle-Eastern women or Islam at the time.

Headscarves are incredibly fun to play with. They provide a lot of creative possibilities. It looks very Grace Kelly! Not everything is about religion when it comes to covering hair and bodies. That is way too much of a simplistic vision.”

Left: Thierry Mugler FW84 (source: pinterest) ; Right: Thierry Mugler SS79 (source: pinterest)

Left: Alaïa FW92 (source: Vogue) ; Right Alaïa SS92 (source: Vogue)

It is pretty clear: the woman Julien Fournié designs for is everything but sexually objectified! Here in his showroom, she is free to choose what she wants, ask for what she needs and dress in something that truly represents who she is, without pressure or oppressive stares:

“Typically, the woman I design for has a destiny. She chooses her life and cannot be instrumentalised. It can be seen in the whole shopping experience we provide at Julien Fournié. Here, she is not expected to pick up a dress from a rack. She actually visits me with an idea of what she wants, an outfit that matched her lifestyle and her life goals. Here, no one tells her what she has to wear.

The Importance Of Creative Freedom

Modesty in Julien Fournié’s collections is not artificial. It results from his love for women, their bodies his passion for fashion.

Surprisingly enough, it is not connected to market expectations.

Julien Fournié designs clothes that adapt to each individual client. There is no rack in his showroom, no hangers, no dress you can try on and go home with. Each and every single dress is created and designed around the client’s body. Should she need to cover her body, the designer will provide her with a solution to her request. This is why Modesty is not a binding constraint in Julien Fournié’s creative process. It is not featured on catwalks just to make us happy. It is truly natural!

In the end, why would he try to satisfy clients on the runway while they can just visit him and ask for what they want?

Julien Fournié won’t give up on his creative freedom and he is proud of his inspirations and cultural references:

“I do not try to meet trends.

I draw a lot of inspiration from the cinema. I do not know whether it is modern but I am not trying to be modern either.

Anyway, here at Julien Fournié, we do not try to reflect reality. We are making art. We do not do fashion, we create characters.”

Julien Fournié’s version of modesty is authentic, creative and incredibly cheerful, just like himself.

The designer transmits his positive spirit to those who approach him and his “work family” as he calls it, including Head Seamstress Madame Jacqueline, his team of dressmakers and his business partner Jean Paul Cauvin.

The title of his latest collection, “First Bliss” encapsulates all the freedom and the enthusiasm of a Couturier who creates things that he loves, without any type of pressure or rules. And it sure works! Julien Fournié is an endless source of inspiration for modest women on how to dress in a more creative and fun way but also on how to question and rethink the whole concept of modesty according to one’s specific needs and wants.

Author : Renaud Petit