If beautiful memories and marriage proposals could be weaved into a wedding gown, Fanny Liautard would have done that. But she knows the next best technique to do so and tries to present the bride with a gown that will always be a reminder of that lovely day...
By: Veronique Poles, Luxury & Fashion consultant
Posted on: October 10, 2011
The wedding is probably one of the most beautiful experiences in a woman’s life. And the bridal dress is something which will be a reminder of this most special day. Therefore, it has to be glamourous, as well as, weaved with emotions and sentiments. Ms Fanny Liautard, a well-known, sophisticated, haute couturist, creates made-to-measure wedding gowns, by mixing the new couture spirit with traditional know-how. Her expertise lies in creating a sleek flattering, body-skimming look which is sensual and elegant (through the bias cut), giving the bride an impression of floating freely…
Her creations are about women in a world of luxury. From the first ball dress to the ultimate White Wedding Gown, she weaves womanly stories in her designs through her experience and encounters with the fairer sex. “A woman can be beautiful in a dress, but she becomes outstanding when there is a genuine connection between her and her gown,” says Ms Liautard quite correctly.
A person creating such an emotional garment has to be a beautiful person and extremely talented of course. “I have always preferred pencil to pen,” said Ms Liautard. “It’s a natural writing instrument for me. It extends my hand and my imagination. I used to draw the characters of the novels I read and remake the world in my own way, with my own colours and according to my mood.”
Ms Liautard’s career started when, at the age of 13, she was attending private art courses in addition to her academic courses. Her teacher also taught at The Chambre Syndicale of Haute Couture. “He noticed my skills and my destiny was set. I discovered that my drawings in 2D could be achieved in 3D as well!” remembers Ms Liautard.
At the age of 16, she began her apprenticeship as a seamstress (as ‘petites mains’) and was trained by the much revered Hubert de Givenchy. At the same time, she was admitted at the prestigious school of La Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture where Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and many have studied. Gradually from ‘petites mains’, she became ‘1ere main’ and very soon started designing beautiful dresses worn by prestigious clients, billionaires, Queens and Princesses of the world, and movie stars. She collaborated with famous fashion houses like Balenciaga, Ted Lapidus Cerruti and others as well.
After several years of working in varied workshops, studios and fashion houses, she started her own label ‘Fanny Liautard’ in 1985. Success was immediate! “My creations were about ‘chic prêt a porter’ - shirts, trousers, suits, dresses - and ‘fine lingerie’ (evening lingerie),” Ms Liautard said. Her apparel was distributed by Victoria’s Secrets, Barney’s, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and many other retail stores.
“I remember, when I presented my first collection, one white evening dress got such success that it was selected and exhibited at the Museum Georges Pompidou. Then when I launched my second collection, the famous international singer Diane Dufrene asked me to design her dresses for her show at L’Olympia (our most famous theatre in Paris) and for one of her shows on the TV,” reminisces Ms Liautard.
Then came the loop of awards. Among other prestigious honours, she was crowned the ‘Lace Woman of the Year’ in 1990 by the Federation of Lace and Embroidery, succeeding two great ladies in the arena of fashion: Chantal Thomass and Helene Rochas.
She has also worked in conjunction with the film and television industry to design outfits for actresses and singers. “Since 2008, I have been representing the French excellence in made-to-measure wedding gowns and evening dresses, as I am a part of The Grands Ateliers de France,” says an extremely proud Ms Liautard. While we had a long conversation with Ms Liautard (it can’t be small since she has such a long heritage), following are some excerpts of it as we explore her craft and designs.
Veronique Poles: What triggered you to create wedding dresses?
Fanny Liautard: When I started designing my evening dresses, clients were very quick to start demanding the white gowns as well. Thus were born my first wedding dresses, expressing dreams, romance, poetry and luxury.
VP: Where do you get your inspiration from?
FL: Each creation is like a blank page. And when I create, it’s like writing a novel in which you are the Heroine. Sometimes, seeing the breath of wind rippling the veil of a curtain will give me an idea for a new style of drape. With us designers, ideas pre-exist. A simple movement awakens them. This is what we call ‘inspiration’.
VP: What is the step-by-step process of making a bespoke wedding gown? How much time does it take to make one?
FL: After selecting the model/style and materials, we mould a mannequin based on the shape and measurements of the client. We create a copy of her body on which we work. I tend to drape material on the client’s body to get the exact situation and to approach as close as possible to reality.
Every time I start to create a new dress, I first make a drawing. Drawing the sketch is like the continuation of the model selected. Then we start preparing the canvas to make the prototype. Then after a few weeks, trials/fittings on the client take place, which confirm the development of the dress. Completion time with several fittings may take three to six months.
VP: Is there a specific Fanny Liautard style?
FL: Fanny Liautard’s signature is a style defined primarily by a subtle refinement of softness, femininity, romance, poetry, translucency, materials and forms which sublime and highlight curves of the woman body: the beauty of simplicity. It’s also about dresses that tell a story, reveal the woman who wears them.
I discovered very late in my career that my signature style refers to the haute couture of the 1930s with Paul Poiret and, in particular, Madeleine Vionnet, who set haute couture trends in that era, making an impact as she created a stir by introducing the bias cut (bias cut is a technique for cutting cloth diagonal to the grain of fabric, enabling it to cling to the body, while moving with the wearer. It accentuates elegance and the fluidity of motion, movement). I love clean and fluid lines. My work is also a tribute to Mr Christian Dior and Coco Chanel.
VP: What are your usually preferred materials which help you make such dreamy gowns?
FL: My favourite fabrics are silk, linen, cashmere, alpaca; exclusive laces like Calais laces, Chantilly laces; iridescent threads and Swarovski stones, feathers, flowers… I have a special attraction for crepes as well. I feel that nothing else can better reveal the beauty and feminity of a woman’s body than muslin, crepe fabrics.
VP: What do you think is your USP over other luxury/bespoke wedding gown designers?
FL: First of all, I like creating unique pieces, made-to-measure, being dedicated to one person and designing only for her. My key strength is my listening skills and the attention paid to my client. My approach is to observe and identify the personality of my clients to offer them a creation that will add magic to an exceptional event. I need to reach a stage of affinity and confidence with my client.
It’s also about my experience, expertise and the know-how of my seamstresses. It’s also the thrill I manage to give birth to when I approach the sense and sensibility of my client adding beautiful materials, knowledge and a lot of technical work.
VP: How do you feel creating for personalities?
FL: I like to create for cinema or plays for the Opera. I once had the great honour of designing a dress for the play Manon Scheldt for the Washington Opera. I love creating for movie stars, actresses and singers. It’s like dressing their mind and body.
I designed in particular for our French movie stars Sophie Marceau, Isabelle Adjani, Catherine Frot, Audrey Tautou (The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain - 2001) and many others, but also for American TV series like Dallas.
I have also designed for many prestigious national and international events like Presidential parties (at the White House), for Princely parties in Europe or Asia, for the Film Festival at Cannes, and for galas at Principality of Monaco.
VP: Do your clients only include French women? Or do you get brides from other countries as well?
FL: Apart from France, I have clients in USA and Middle East. For them, I design the wedding gown and the trousseau as well – that is all the evening dresses for the various parties.
For foreign clients, the dream of having a white wedding dress made in France is very strong. Thus, they are delighted. They often come to my studio on appointment, but I travel to their places too.
I also have a new wave of clients from Russia. In fact, the Government of Russia invited me two years back at an exclusive wedding gowns show to display my creations. Since then, I have been a part of this event in Russia every year.
VP: What is your most unforgettable experience?
FL: Two years back I designed a white wedding gown for a young Indian princess who had a marriage celebration in France. I designed her evening dresses too. The parents insisted that I should attend the wedding. It was just outstanding with so many crowned people from Europe and Middle East…I will never forget it.
VP: What does luxury mean to you?
FL: To be able to live my passion to create and design as long as I can. My luxury is to be always able to create elegant outfits and to design for people who know the real meaning and value of being refined. I hope it will last - so many people nowadays don’t care about the way they dress…
Véronique Polès is a freelance fashion and luxury consultant based in Mumbai, with more than 15 years of extensive experience with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Givenchy and Waterman/Gillette Pen Company just to mention a few. Bespoke creations, however, are her first love. For LuxuryFacts, she unveils some of the best-kept secrets in the sphere of ‘word of mouth landmarks’ for connoisseurs of products with substance. They are greatest creations, made by artisans of excellence and guardians of tradition, who work with passion for details and quality to make your dreams come true.