When Charles de Vilmorin launched his first collection after graduating from design school last year, no less a French fashion legend than Jean-Charles de Castelbajac was singing his praises: “Charles designs his dreams, paints his creations on the skin as on paper—and these silhouettes transform his muses into psychedelic conquerors…. His future is passionate.”
That was in June. By late November the American rapper Tierra Whack was wearing one of De Vilmorin’s psychedelic creations in Apple’s holiday commercial. In December, Jean Paul Gaultier sponsored the young designer’s guest appearance on the Paris haute couture calendar. Today’s debut was virtual—the pandemic has prevented any IRL shows with audiences this week—but there’s no arguing that De Vilmorin is enjoying a charmed rise.
The exuberantly patchworked puffer jackets of his first collection evoked Niki de Saint Phalle’s iconic Nanas. He must feel a connection with the artist. In the video he made this season with Studio L’Etiquette, De Vilmorin operates a paint gun, an obvious reference to the shooting paintings of the early 1960s with which De Saint Phalle made her name. The late artist attached buckets of paint to her canvases, then invited people to shoot at them; the paint would splatter all over her work when the bullets hit.
De Vilmorin’s technique is more controlled—he says he enjoys working by himself—but his Instagram account reveals that he did paint his textiles by hand before they were assembled into the 11 looks in this collection. Flowers, butterflies, and psychedelic nudes are his chosen motifs, and the silhouettes, which are worn by all genders in the video, are playful. He likes a puffed sleeve and a full skirt and sprays of feathers at the hem of a dress.
The short film stars De Vilmorin’s friends, and he says he keeps them in his mind when he’s designing. “You don’t need a special occasion to wear something extra,” he insisted. That’s especially so for people of his generation, but after nearly a year in lockdown, zany is trending. When the post-COVID coming out parties start happening, De Vilmorin will be ready.