Afterhomework (Paris): A Brand Teaching Fashion a Lesson
At just fifteen, Pierre Kaczmarek had a hobby that rivaled most teens: he founded a fashion label, the aptly named Afterhomework (Paris). It was a hobby that would become a career, with his label bursting onto the Paris fashion scene with unabashed youth and quirk. We spoke with Pierre and girlfriend/co-owner Elena Mottola about the brand and their rapid rise to fashion fame.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 13th issue of ODDA Magazine.
Pierre and Elena, the name of your brand is a nod to its beginnings as an “after homework” project. Does the name feel ironic now that you are blowing up on the international fashion stage?
Yes at first I called the brand like that because my parents did not want fashion to pass before school. Today this name may seem ironic but in reality it is still topical, I (Pierre) am still in school. For me it is important to stay in school because it inspires me and brings me humanely. Elena is also still in school, we still work after classes so it’s always a project “after homework” I think it’s important because it’s the soul of the brand, we work like that, now we are used to.
You said that your S/S ‘17 was inspired by Louis Ferdinand Céline, “…when he said that to tell a story you have to have lived through it. To invent would be a lie.” Do you believe that only young people can know, what young people want? Will you only ever design for your peers?
This quote is universal. We all were young so we all know things about it even if the young people are better placed to know their generation I think that older people can also understand them and bring them. And then the youth is very subjective, we do not live our youth in the same way and it is therefore difficult to know if the young people know for them perfectly. What we know perfectly is that we must not decide for the youth. The youth must make itself.
The Afterhomework (Paris) show featured many of your friends as models, and pals Suzanne Lindon (daughter of French actors Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kimberlain) and Marin Baud (musician MMX Delta) created the music for the show. How important is this sense of community with your brand?
Yes! Afterhomework is not a collective or a community but let’s say we are surrounded by friends which help us make the brand what it is. We help each other and this is how we progress together we are stronger. It’s important to have friends who advise you and bring creatively. In addition, they have a point of view a little outside, which is necessary.
Pierre and Elena, you were a couple when the brand first begun. How do you manage the balance between romance and business? Or does it all combine into a single narrative?
It is sometimes very difficult but we got used to it. The important thing is to separate the moments, there are moments for our personal life and moments of work or we only think about it. This is important because at two we are stronger, we can support each other and bring each other. A young designer alone will really struggle it is very hard because all responsibility and on your shoulders alone.
Your clothes are largely unstructured, genderless, playing with the lines between shape and form. It’s almost wearable art, so where do you see your range being worn?
It’s true that it’s wearable art, but we strive to make it commercial and wearable. For ss18 we have anticipated two other lines easier and wearable so that people really wear our creations. It is important that the brand lives and is worn in the life of every day because it is this life, this reality, that inspires us. So the challenge is now to dress as much as create.
Afterhomework (Paris) is an independent brand. Do either of you have dreams to work for a big international label, or would you prefer to forge your own way through your career as an independent label?
We do not think too much about this. We work collection after collection, we will see well after. We could see ourselves at the head of a big brand, but for the moment we are independent and we continue to develop and progress. We will see but I do not necessarily think we need to remain independent at all costs. We are open. We will see what the life will suggest.
Europe is still rumbling with shock and anger following the terrorist attacks of previous years, France in particular. Has the social unrest resonated through to your art?
At the beginning yes but afterwards we thought about it and decided that this does not happen by chance that this is due to several societal parameters and this is what inspires me most. The attacks are the visible aspect of the very spectacular problem. What strikes me most is what we do not see and what are the causes of the current terrorism in Europe. After not only to be based on it, it must not at all become an obsession, is just a phenomenon interesting to study.
The shoot for S/S ‘17 on your website sees the clothes almost melt into the busy surrounds of the house it was shot in. Most brands shoot their items against a white backdrop for the ultimate focus, almost sterile. Do you choose to see your collections as more of a part of art and life itself, rather than individual items?
It is because we love the image and it is important to bring a vision with our clothes so the staging that goes with our pieces is important it is part of our DNA. We try to always put our parts in action, in situations that highlight them. Also I do not like what is static, that annoys me.
There were a lot of quirks in your recent show – double shoes attached at the toe, the use of agricultural materials, tops made from neckties – do you enjoy weaving in a narrative to your clothes?
For ss17 each piece, and outfit told a story. So we wanted to integrate elements, things that had marked us in the collection.
The theme of this issue is ‘Major’. What would be the most major thing that you both could imagine happening to you in the next decade of your career?
We hope to develop our brand and progress to reach the top level. What we need is to stabilize our business to go further. I think this is the major issue for the next two seasons.
Maggie Kelly is an Australian writer with a background in editorial, fashion, and lifestyle. See more of her work on her website www.maggiekellywriter.com
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