The Kooples founder and Creative Director of Menswear Alexandre Elicha chats to Yeong Sassall about legends, love stories and working with family
You know that brand you always see in fashion mags, the one that uses improbably chic and well turned out couples as their campaign stars? That's The Kooples. Thanks to the mystique of said ad campaigns and the strength of their trend-less, androgynous clothes-for-couples collections, the French contemporary label has cultivated a loyal following after just nine years of operation. Straddling that sweet spot between high street and high end, The Kooples trades in affordable luxury and aspirational love stories -even you don't have a piece of The Kooples hanging in your closet, you definitely want the insouciant air of cool that it represents.
After finally arriving in Australia in June last year, the brand has two boutiques in Melbourne's Collins St Lane and Chadstone and an e-commerce site (thekooples.com.au). Touching down in Australia with his brother and business partner Nicolas Dreyfus, Alexandre is at VAMFF his week opening the brand's travelling photographic exhibition Latitudes, Attitudes - a eight photographer project featuring duos from India to Morocco, Mongolia and California, tied themtically together by featuring the same leather jacket.
Your parents ran a fashion label - and you three are brothers. Did you always know that you'd produce a label together?
We can say that fashion runs in my family. Our parents founded Comptoir des Cotonniers in 1995. We launched The Kooples in 2008 because the three of us (my brothers Laurent, Alexandre and I) wanted to create something together and we have seen that is it possible to succeed working [with] family. We were sure that working together would be the key to our success.
Do you all play your own role in the company - who does which jobs?
I work on menswear, Laurent does womenswear, and Raphaël handles the brand image. We are very close to one another; our two passions are really our brand and our family but we have distinctive roles.
What are the advantages with working with family? What about disadvantages?
We are fortunate and thankful to be a very close and true team. Beyond being brothers, we are each other's closest friends. We live in the same building, our wives are all friends and our children are always together. Outside of work, we often go out and even vacation together.
Of course, moments of tension can arrive sometimes at work, when we have different opinions on some topics. But any small disagreement allows us to find better solutions. Perhaps the best part of working with your brothers is being able to say anything and everything. There is nothing that we can't share.
You receive a lot of attention for your distinctive ad campaigns featuring real-life couples. I've read that this idea of couples even feeds into your name - The Kooples?
Yes, my brothers and I have always been into British subcultures so we wanted to play with the English word "couples" that in French sounds like "kooples." We wanted a place you could shop with your boyfriend. We really believe that somebody wearing The Kooples will not stay single for long. We dress them to help them find the one who is going to undress them.
How do you find the couples in your campaign - they're always so cool and attractive...
Since the beginning, our vision of The Kooples was around couples and even more about love. At the beginning, we cast real couples on the streets, our friends, friends of friends. For our F/W '16 collection we went a step further working on other kinds of love stories but still about duos: it can be a couple, it can be twin sister or even an artistic duo. This season we went back to a couple love story, but instead of a real life couple we wanted to focus on the first date, the romantic encounter and thus the beginning of a love story.
We dress them to help them find the one who is going to undress them
Who are some of your favourite couples (real or fictional) of all time?
When first launching our brand image, we were heavily influenced by vintage photos of couples such as Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Jackie Kennedy and Aristote Onassis. We would also love to dress Jason Statham and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley - they are so cool.
When we create our collections we always think of the guy and the girl who are dressing to empower themselves and also to catch the eye of the one that they want. We want our clothing to make people feel confident, strong and seductive - to go after what they want or even bring together couples. « Dress to undress »
Your designs aren't exactly trend driven and some are almost unisex. Who or what inspires you?
For our spring summer collection my brothers and I have been inspired by Japan and India, we are usually very much inspired by travel and people we meet. In a more global approach culture and for instance music and cinema inspire me a lot. As you know for The Kooples music is a deep source of inspiration and you will understand more of that with our next FW collection 'After The Show'.
Even though your brand is relatively new to Australia you have a lot of fans here. Why did it take so long to reach our shores?
Setting up in a new country takes time and requires leaving nothing to chance. We connected with a great partner, Aesthetics Group, and through them we understood the broader opportunity for our brand in the market and the importance Australia and NZ plays in developing a brand following across the Asia region. The decision to enter the market came naturally thereafter.
What's one thing about your brand that might surprise us?
Every day the three of us go to the office with smiles on our faces! We don't even feel like going to work sometimes!
Latitudes, Attitudes is free and open to the public on Friday, March 17 from 11am-6pm and Saturday, March 18 from 1pm-5pm at Murray White Room, Sargood Lane, Melbourne (off Exhibition Street). thekooples.com.au