Don’t miss the exclusive video of Gilles’ bridal launch here
“Every little stitch that I do, every pleat that I make…I am always thinking of ways to make someone’s dream dress…”
– Gilles Montezin
Today we have couture designer Gilles Montezin. In this new phase to his career, he leaves behind a trail of couture clothing from movies Sex and the City & Confessions of a Shopaholic to design couture bridal for Kleinfeld. His trademark ‘Le Cinch’ corset helps brides take up to 4″ off of their waistline for the happy day. Let’s bring him on the line to find out how it all started.
When did you first get the idea you wanted to be a designer?
I asked my mother when I was a teenager to do a jacket for me. She started, and I finished it. She was very, very proud of me, and I felt it was very rewarding. I thought it was fun, so I started doing clothes for my friends, and they liked it.
You had no prior training at all?
I have a technical mind, and I guess I have the facility to understand what to do, so it was kind of easy.
So then as time progressed, you obviously decided to go to school for this. What helped you select where you going to go?
I get bored easily, let’s say, so I started to do fashion designing, and I worked a lot with fashion industry and theatre and opera. After a while I wanted to do more, and I moved to Paris to study haute couture, which is the highest level of craftsmanship for making clothes. I started working for Christian Lacroix, who is a very, very nice man, and that was it. I was ready to do whatever I wanted to do; I had all the tools that I wanted.
Did it seem like this was it? It just all clicked. It was going to happen?
It was kind of a dream, you know? The school I went to, they only take 10 students a year, and they’re coming from all over, from everywhere around the planet. It is extremely hard to get in. So it is kind of a dream that you are moving closer and closer, and after a while you are there, and it just happens. But it still is a dreamy experience all the way through.
During your time training there, I’m sure they had really creative and fantastic projects to keep you stimulated. Was there one thing in particular that had an impact for you?
One thing I always wanted to do was achieve three-dimensional projects on a mannequin. I was trained to do more designing and more ready-to-wear, which you create with pattern, paper flat on a table. In haute couture I was trained to do clothes on a mannequin, so you have the results right there on the spot, and you can correct it and you can create all of that volume that you cannot do just by doing a pattern. That, to me, was a big, big, big achievement. I was finally able to do something other than everyday clothes – and that was very, very exciting.
When I was in school I was working for the opera, Opera de Bastille, and it was fantastic working on all of those costumes, and learning the techniques of previous centuries that you still apply in doing the costumes for the singers. After, when I finished school, I was hoping to go and work for some haute couture houses, whether it was Dior or Gaultier or Lacroix. Lacroix was my favorite, so I was really, really aiming to get to that, the chance to work with him.
What are your feelings on the state of the industry today? It seems many of the houses, there are few that are true couture houses, the number is very small, I think five. But with the economy the way it is, if they are not closing up they certainly have to change business model. You were in at a great time to experience it.
Haute couture, I am very sorry to say this, and I hope I am wrong, but haute couture will probably die the same way as it was born. That is, slowly and slowly, and growing up and it will die just the same way. It is an extremely high level to make clothes. It is very experimental, it is very, very demanding work and craftsmanship and the creation of a dress/coat/suit, whatever it is, is extremely demanding. Not everyone can afford to work, and not everybody can afford to buy haute couture, of course. So it’s the state of art, of making clothes, that is probably very temporary. I wish I am wrong, I wish it is going to last, because it is a very exuberant way of making clothes, very experimental. And you don’t see that anywhere else. You don’t see that in shops, or a regular store, that quality of clothing. It is always enjoyable to look and feel the haute couture clothing.
The skills you acquired then, going back to your life track, at what point did you decide to branch off on your own?
Once again it was when I felt I had tools that I can work with, and in Paris I thought it was time to see if I can start something on my own, and that was it.
You just jumped. You moved to New York. Sometimes that’s the best way to do it or it doesn’t happen.
Yes, I think you’re right (laughs).
So you did move to New York, and were discovered in a sense. Pat Field had seen your creations and pulled pieces for Sex and the City and Confessions of a Shopaholic movies. That’s pretty huge. What was it like to be involved in that process?
Oh it is fantastic, another dream come true. Pat Field has tremendous talent in styling and creating looks for the girls and even the crew. It is a fantastic experience – a big machine, and people were very professional. They are appreciative and it was very rewarding to see how they put clothes together – where they use it, and for who. It’s really a big surprise and a big game and fun.
It actually seems perfect for you because of these beautiful, grand designs that you make. How did that come about?
I think you are right, it is perfect for me because I like to create volume, and I like to keep clothes at a beauty level as much as I can. I think it suites me perfectly, I adore doing it very much. Apparently it is pleasing too, so let’s go for it.
Just a little background, Kleinfeld Bridal is a very famous shop in New York City. People come from all over the world to shop here, designers come from all over the world to design for Kleinfeld, to try and get in. This is the shop featured on Say Yes to the Dress show on TLC. Had you done bridal prior to Kleinfeld?
No, what happened, my open door to them, was they came to my workshop one time and selected gowns for their evening department. After a while I said, “Listen, I would like to explore the possibility of doing wedding gowns.” Mara Urshel, owner, took me into her office, and we had a very long conversation. She is the most adorable person on earth, she is fantastic. She gave me all of the ropes of the trade. She told me everything to do and everything not to do, what the brides are expecting, what they don’t like. I felt like I was taught the whole world of bridal at that very special moment. I went back to my workshop and started drawing dresses, and they selected (three). So that is how it started. They are responsible for me doing bridal now.
It seems like such a natural transition.
Well I was brought up to that point, and I was really well cared for. She really wanted me to have all the best information on bridal gowns. She was very, very generous on her knowledge.
They’ve selected three. Discuss the initial designs. Were these the three you would have picked?
You know, I was more interested on getting the “why” of the styles they picked, because they selected thinking of what the bride would look like in them.
The photos are beautiful of the gowns. Can you describe them?
One is in taffeta with a voluminous skirt. It has pleating that creates long lines on the body that goes down to the skirt. Another has pleated lace, which is a little bit see-through, reminiscent of lingerie. You can see a bit of a bustier, and it is very flattering, very sexy too, but it remains elegant. The third one is more Grecian. It is flowing chiffon, falling from one shoulder to the hip.
Let’s discuss Le Cinch. Is this built into every dress? This is something new you are introducing.
Yes, that is the result, once again, of the interview I had with Mara Urshel. We came up with the idea of cinching the waist a little more in bridal gowns so the silhouette is more define. Since I worked with Lacroix and I was doing all of the bustiers under the dresses and I was working at the Opera in Paris, and I made all of those fantastic corsets. I’m very knowledgeable about making them. So I came up with the idea of making a very mini-corset that you can put under the dresses. It would remain very comfortable, and it would help to cinch the waist, giving it a little oomph, that a bridal gown needs to take it to the next level.
Yes, that’s what the girls like!
Yes, that’s what the girls like, that is what I was told! That is what Mara told me. When she realized what I was doing she was, “I think you are onto something now.” That was very, very rewarding for me.
It is built into the dress. Is that removable at all?
It is removable. You can wear it or decide not to wear it or remove it to wear with your favorite dress after.
That’s another bonus. A very unique concept.
It is. And it remains very comfortable because it is a short bustier, it doesn’t compress the ribcage, which makes you very uncomfortable. Unable to breath, you have all of those bad feelings when your ribcage is compressed. Le Cinch, the corset I put in, does not do that. It is very localized on the waist, and for most of the people, the waist is very flexible. You just put your hands on the waist, on each side, push in and it is just like you are wearing my corset.
I want to talk about sizing, because Le Cinch is a boon for skinny girls as well as larger sizes, because everyone wants to look as thin as they can on their wedding day. At a time when other designers are pulling out from plus sizing, you are offering up to size 18.
It goes to size 18, and for larger sizes we just need to make sure we have the figure down, to make sure we build up the dress accordingly.
Is that standard in the shop to accommodate?
I just feel confident this is something flattering and adaptable to every silhouette, every size. Corsets have been around for 400 years, it is not a novelty. It is just a question of how to build it, and once you know how to build it, it can be adapted to everybody.
Women will be thrilled with that.
I hope so.
What about materials? Can you give us a little insight into fabrics you are using?
I’m very lucky I have found fantastic fabrics. I do work with very traditional fabrics; silk taffeta and silk satin. But I found fantastic organza and silk chiffon that has a satin face. They are just so generous; you want to bite in it. It is like whipped cream. It is fantastic to work with. I count myself very lucky.
I think you’ve touched the very core of my questioning doing wedding gowns. I think it is almost an obsession, every little stitch that I do, every little pleat that I make, I am asking myself, “Is this going to be somebody’s bridal dress? Is this going to be a dress that someone will say – ‘This is my dream dress’?” I am always thinking of ways to make someone’s dream dress, and it is very exciting and very nerve-wracking at the same time. You want to do something that is beautiful, but since you personally don’t know the customers it is a little bit hard to touch right in the middle of the target. It is a very fun game of making things that are going to please and guessing what is going to please at the same time.
When & where can we see the line?
We are negotiating possibility of showing in a professional showroom. The deal is pretty much done but we are finalizing the contract. Also we are showing at my workshop, by appointment only, of course. I also hope Kleinfeld will come and want to work with the rest of the collection. We also have the collection online at www.gillesmontezin.com (please use contact page on website for inquiries).
How many dresses total will you showing?
We expect to be showing between 15-18 designs.
Have you stopped your ready to wear?
The Gilles Montezin Bridal collection can be found at:
Kleinfeld (appointment only)
110 West 20th Street
New York, New York 10011
Gilles Montezin Showroom (appointment only)
325 W 38th Street #510
New York, New York 10018
Contact form also on website
If you live outside of New York, you may order dresses through your local bridal shop or forward your measurements to have the dress shipped to you.
~ Hillary Fry / solessenceRead More